The problem with mouse and keyboard on console

From the ability to flick to an overall enhanced sense of control, mouse and keyboard is undoubtedly the most efficient way to play shooters. And although relegated to PC in the past, the growth of shooters has helped the input bleed into the console space.

The result?

The slow but steady transition has turned what was once an even playing ground into endless mess of frustration, paranoia, and second guessing.

Hopefully, mouse and keyboard will eventually offer players seamless customization and choice, but for the time being its inclusion on the PS4 and Xbox One is nothing more than a nuisance.

Why it’s a problem

The main issue with mouse and keyboard use on the Xbox One and PS4 relates mostly to its haphazard implementation. In fact, the most common way to utilize the superior input method is through a third party adapter (XIM being the go to manufacturer).

Very few games make the use of mouse and keyboard seamless, and the only way to use what you already own is to invest a nice chunk of change.

Modern Warfare 2019 is the first game to really make headway with native implementation and, more importantly, will siphon players into matchmaking pools based on input method.

Some of the most popular shooters on the market right now are games where this is not possible. Standout examples on the Xbox One and PS4 include:

  • Apex Legends
  • Rainbow Six Siege
  • Overwatch

The issue is only escalated when you realize that detecting the most popular adapter for mouse and keyboard on consoles is incredibly difficult.

  • The most popular mouse and keyboard adapter, XIM Apex, is nearly half of the cost of a new Xbox One or PS4

In other words, how do you properly segregate users when all are seemingly using a controller despite the contrary?

One possible solution is to open the floodgates – make the input method official on consoles and push for the inclusion in first person shooters. From there, it’s a matter of creating opt-in based matchmaking pools as Infinity Ward is doing with Modern Warfare.

Doing so will only help to break down the barrier to entry that currently exists, and enhance the amount of customization and choice that many console players have become more comfortable with this generation.

Thankfully, just as with cross play, this newfound choice could become the norm by the time the PS5 and next Xbox begin to mature. In addition to Infinity Ward’s push, Microsoft has made it clear that it’s open to allowing native keyboard and mouse support on the Xbox One.

How to tell if someone is using mouse and keyboard on console

If you’re constantly getting dropped in games like Apex Legends, Overwatch, and Rainbow Six Siege, it’s hard not to automatically assume a mouse and keyboard nerd is at the other end. Which begs the question – how can you tell one way or the other?

The unfortunate truth is that in most cases parsing the coin toss is a shot in the dark. Not all games support kill cams and millions playing online are just really damn good. The fact that there is no visible UI element associated with the input in essentially all major shooters is only more salt to the wound.

There are, however, some signs to look out for if the game you play supports kill cams, and it will be easier to spot them if you’re someone who has experience playing on PC.

These include:

  • A lot of flicking
  • Fast rotation
  • Smooth crosshair control

The first is a tell tale sign – flicking consistently to a target is something that is much easier to do with a mouse. You can do it with a controller, but snapping to someone’s head is far and away better suited with the fine control of PC.

Quick turn arounds or 180-ing on someone is more common these days on console thanks to many opting for a higher sensitivity, but again, it’s much easier to perform more elegantly and precisely with a mouse.

What will generally be the most obvious red flag of a mouse and keyboard user is general crosshair/reticle control. If you’ve spent any time comparing console to PC gameplay for shooters, you’ll probably notice that console players, no matter how skilled, implement a more jagged mode of navigating their surroundings.

Where PC offers many finite points of dexterity and navigation, console aiming is comparatively restricted to varying interconnected paths of input.

From Halo to Battlefield, I’ve spent nearly all of my life playing the FPS genre with a controller, but I’ll be the first to admit that there is always a factor of compensation when playing on consoles. You never quite feel like you’re totally in control and it’s the reason aim assist exists in most shooters.

After gaining in the slightest sense of confidence on PC, it’s immediately clear that the platform offers a much smoother, dialed in, and precise way to play.

Is mouse and keyboard on console cheating?

In my eyes, with the current implementation (or lack thereof) of mouse and keyboard on console, using the input is absolutely cheating in the majority of cases.

It’s not technically a hack, you’re not manipulating game data, and the networking of others isn’t being compromised, but it is bypassing the fundamentals of playing on consoles in a couple important ways.

For one, it’s absurd to require players to spend upwards of $100 on an unofficial peripheral in order to stay competitive. To say that all players have the option to use mouse and keyboard is a bit silly considering most go with the PS4 and Xbox One in order to save money. Far and away, most console players are accustomed to a controller, and it’s what every unit ships with.

As more games go the route of Modern Warfare, and native support spreads, the playing field will level out. As of now, it’s a way to gain an advantage over others.

A competent PC player will always beat someone skilled with a controller, and to think otherwise is simply playing into the notion that everyone technically has the ability to jump ship to the superior input method.

And this is the crux of the second biggest reason it’s cheating – in it’s current state, mouse and keyboard on console isn’t even a 1:1 mapping of the input. The most popular adapter works by allowing to emulate the input of a DualShock 4 or Xbox One controller.

It’s what makes detecting players who use the adapter so difficult for developers and it’s the reason that input based ques are out of reach in most cases.

Devil’s advocate: what about Elite and Scuf controllers?

One possible argument as to why mouse and keyboard isn’t cheating is the existence of Elite controllers.

The problem with looking to upgraded controllers is the fact that, for all of the extra buttons, they still rely on the analog sticks for aiming. Adjusting the height and grip of the right analog stick may improve aiming, but it still won’t match up to the mouse.

They do cost significantly more than regular controllers, offer a competitive edge, and will hopefully ship with next-gen consoles, but at the end of the day it’s more of a pivot than an upgrade.

The only alteration to the controller that fundamentally changes the style of play is gyro aiming. Once mastered, it allows for fine adjustments in a way that a pure reliance on the sticks don’t.

The good news about gyro aiming is that, while not widely adopted, never requires a player to go out and purchase an expensive peripheral. Games like Splatoon 2 currently implement the feature and the upcoming Overwatch port will do the same.

With Sony and Microsoft opening their respective platforms in some ways this generation (notably cross save, cross play, and performance options), we can only hope mouse and keyboard follows this trend of change and sheds its current sketchy implementation.

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