Convinced Valve’s Steam Controller revolutionizes gamepads as we know them? Me neither. But the video above goes some distance toward making me a believer (or Steamlieber). That, or the guy playing’s some kind of ninja touchpad wizard.
That guy would be Valve engineer Jeff Bellinghausen, giving us a look at what it’s like today to play several different types of PC games on a prototype version of the Steam Controller (the same version, says Valve, that it’ll ship to 300 lucky Steam users before year’s end).
First up, Portal 2, the company’s space-bending puzzler, which seems to control like a dream in Bellinghausen’s hands (I’m assuming those are Bellinghausen’s anyway and not a hand model). Notice how precisely and quickly he’s able to turn and stop precisely when finessing the view, acing 180-degree turns while jumping and dropping objects right where he wants them or hurling them onto platforms just so. If you clipped out the picture-in-picture controller view, you might mistake that precision and speed for someone playing with a keyboard and mouse.
Civilization V (1:35), I’m a little less impressed with, because note Bellinghausen has to drag his thumb across the touchpad repeatedly just to move the mouse across the screen — perhaps more accurately than with a thumbstick, but without the sort of continuous point-to-point movement you’d get with a mouse. Yep, you could just make the touchpad more sensitive, but then you risk compromising accuracy, your thumb’s tiniest movements sending the pointer skittering across the screen. That said, for a game as conventionally interface fiddly as Civilization 5, I’d rather drive it like this than with a stick-based gamepad.
But man, look at Bellinghausen go in that Counter-Strike demo (2:49), leaping from distant headshot to headshot like the auto-target feature in Grand Theft Auto V.