What do you think is the best method to critiquing controls?
That’s complicated. I think criticizing controls sits somewhere between User Experience and Game Feel. Also controls can mean a number of things. It can mean the actual buttons that each action is bound to, and it can mean the way the game responds to input. It’s a matter of figuring out what feels good in terms of how the animation responds tightly to your input (like nero’s shuffle or calibur). And it’s a matter of figuring out how to make it easy and understandable to input the actions the player is trying to input.
Here’s something recent for binds: Nero’s controls in DMC4 are just fucked. There’s 3 buttons you want to be holding like, all the time, Lock-on, Gun, and Devil Buster. Holding onto an enemy with Devil Buster is optional, it’s not the most useful feature in the world, but the other two you want to be doing rather frequently. In the default control scheme, charging the gun is ridiculous. Everyone I know rebinds the gun to a trigger. Even with the gun bound to a trigger, it’s a pain in the ass to hold the trigger and also pump the shoulder button to get EX-ACT. Maybe a better configuration might be having the exceed bound to the button gun used to be on, but devil buster is just completely fucked. It gets worse when you want to juggle an enemy, summon swords or stay in the air longer by shooting the gun repeatedly. That’s difficult on a trigger.
I hold that Starcraft would be way better if they bound all the various keyboard functions to the numpad, so you could scroll the screen on arrows, then have all the functions easy to navigate on numpad, which lines up visually with the grid used on the menu. Easier to understand and faster to press.
Something more input/response oriented might be Nioh’s weapon switch. When you get faster at it, you might hit both buttons at the same time, which ends up in you doing an attack instead of switching weapons. Fighting games solve this problem with Kara-cancels. The idea is you make a tiny cancel window at the start of each attack animation that cancels to the weapon switch animation instead, so if you press both buttons at once and the attack button comes out slightly sooner, you cancel it to the weapon swap. This can have unintended consequences much like kara cancels do in fighting games, but as long as you make sure the canceled states aren’t doing much, or have what they did during that brief period reversed, you’ll be fine.
The best way to discuss controls is to explain what’s going on, how it might not match basic expectations, or be unnecessarily difficult for the player. Comparing how something works to your expectations of how it should work may be good. I have an example of this in the second to last paragraph of this review.
I also did a description of the feeling of controls in this article: