The Steam Deck has loads of buttons. There’s a D-pad, all the standard face buttons, two management sticks that additionally reply to capacitive contact and will be pushed down like buttons, two trackpads with haptic suggestions which can be additionally pressure-sensitive buttons, two shoulder bumpers, two analog shoulder triggers, and 4 buttons on the again of the system behind the grips.
Somehow, all of them really feel like they’re precisely in the correct place whilst you’re holding the system, and in writing the most recent in our long-running Button of the Month collection, you would possibly assume that I’d wax poetic about simply certainly one of them. But for me, the true magic of the Steam Deck is that any button will be the superior button, due to the system’s wonderful software.
Take my expertise with Cuphead’s new DLC, The Delicious Last Course, which accommodates a brand new gauntlet of mind-bogglingly tough bosses. Like the bottom Cuphead recreation, Delicious Last Course requires quick reflexes and fast button presses to remain alive, and the Steam Deck’s extremely customizable controls assist the button urgent a part of that equation.
During a battle, I often maintain my proper thumb glued on the capturing button (on the Steam Deck, X) whereas utilizing one other a part of my thumb to press leap (A). But when each break up second counts, I discovered I used to be reluctant to carry my thumb even a second to press the sprint or particular shot buttons. That infinitesimal break might imply the distinction between surviving one other barrage or dying and having to begin a battle all the best way from the start. With only a couple tweaks and 30 seconds within the Steam Deck’s menus, although, I modified the controls so I might leap, sprint, and fireplace off particular photographs with out ever having to carry my thumb.
I might have remapped the particular assault nearly wherever on the Steam Deck, however I selected one of many 4 uncommon buttons on the again of the console, which fall virtually precisely beneath my third and fourth fingers once I grip the system. As buttons, I truly don’t assume they’re enjoyable to make use of. They’re fairly shallow. But I additionally assume it’s a superb factor that the buttons require a deliberate press to click on by means of. That makes them nice for actions you don’t need to do on accident — like, say, Cuphead’s particular photographs, which might flip the tide of a battle however take a while to cost as much as full energy.
I additionally turned the R2 set off right into a parry button and mapped the L2 set off to the brand new dodge roll combo for Ms. Chalice, the brand new character launched within the DLC. The roll usually requires urgent down and the Y button on the similar time, and I had loads of hassle nailing it through the Delicious Last Course’s hectic boss fights. Putting the combo on L2 made the roll rather a lot simpler to make use of.
Using shoulder triggers for motion actions so as to maintain your thumbs on the management sticks is a method I realized after scouting higher customized layouts for Returnal on PS5, and it made an enormous distinction in Cuphead, too. And I made the L4 again button into an on the spot screenshot button so I might snap pics of Delicious Last Course’s devious boss designs. (One later boss is truthfully nightmare gas.)
I haven’t simply messed with buttons. In Vampire Survivors, I’ve the correct stick mirror the left in order that I can swap between them. (I’m making the sport assume that I’ve two left analog sticks.) The recreation typically requires you to continually push the management stick for upwards of half-hour to outlive towards hordes of baddies, so having the ability to swap sticks helps my left hand from getting drained.
And you don’t need to give you these concepts your self: if you wish to look by means of different peoples’ concepts for management schemes, you possibly can browse them proper from a recreation’s menu in SteamOS, that means you don’t need to go digging by means of Reddit like I did for Returnal.
The Steam Deck’s unbelievable customizability and easy accessibility to various controls opens up a extra philosophical query: who ought to resolve what a button does? In most video video games, that’s largely out of your arms (pun meant). But with the Steam Deck, you are able to do all types of untamed issues that push how we’d historically assume a sure button must be used.
In Half-Life 2, for instance, there’s a wild structure that permits you to contact the highest of the correct management keep on with activate gyro aiming, tilting the system to maneuver your reticle with way more accuracy than a joystick alone. That’s one thing you possibly can activate for any recreation with just a few faucets on the Deck. You might even theoretically make low-lift multiplayer sofa video games work on a single Deck by setting half the Deck to duplicate a mouse and keyboard and the opposite half to make use of gamepad controls.
It helps that it takes only a few button presses to get to the menu that permits you to change any button you need. You can use that menu to decide on what any button does for any recreation in your Steam library, and it’ll robotically bear in mind what you set for every recreation. And since each Steam Deck comes with the identical set of buttons, you gained’t want to purchase issues like a further controller or a separate accent to fiddle with much less frequent enter choices like again buttons. The Steam Deck actually allows you to resolve the way you need to play a recreation, and that flexibility is rapidly making it certainly one of my favourite devices ever.
As extra folks get their arms on the Steam Deck, I can’t wait to see how others consider new and inventive methods to customise controls for my favourite video games. For now, I’ll maintain utilizing my very own controls for specials in Cuphead — and I’ll attempt to seize a screenshot after I lastly beat the terrible dragon boss.