Windows Vista is here, and with it comes the “next generation” of PC gaming (if you can call it a generation). Although newer PC games such as Oblivion have been able to compete well enough with their next generation console counterparts, Vista is going to bring a whole heap of new features to gamers (listed in the article for those who haven’t been following Microsoft’s progress with the OS).
One of the biggest improvements of Windows Vista for gamers is the implementation of Direct X 10, of course, and I think that once Crysis comes out we shall see just how amazing the games can look graphically running on the new operating system. Until then, I would actually recommend sticking with XP, as some older games have been reported to not run as well on Vista.
I had the opportunity to try out the final version of Vista just over a month ago, and although I didn’t try any games on it, the new interface felt very polished. Vista’s start menu especially impressed me because MS have finally replaced the annoying menus that pop out the side from Windows 95. Now the OS comes with a much sleeker tree menu, so that when you select an item, the subitems will appear below it.
Search is well integrated, so you can start typing in the “Run” box, and the start menu will dynamically change as you’re typing. I can’t say that the web browser has improved all that much… it’s Internet Explorer 7, which is also available for XP. It’s mostly playing catch up with other browsers at the moment and still has a long way to go before it reaches of quality of browsers such as Firefox and Opera. Everything on Vista at least looks “prettier” than with XP (the transparent windows are a nice touch), but this of course takes up more resources, so this may not be an improvement in everyone’s eyes.
The new Games Explorer seems well thought out from what I could see, although since I didn’t have any games installed besides Solitaire and the default Windows games, there was only so much that I could try. There seemed to be lots that you could do to restrict what games people on your computer were allowed to play. Hopefully older games (which will presumably not appear in the Games Explorer automatically when they’re installed) will allow users to add shortcuts to them to this menu.
Vista doesn’t run as an administrator by default which is great news for security, although it’s going to cause some headaches when running older programs and games. I think overall, this change was much needed, as Windows has typically been much sloppier than it’s competitors with regards to security in the past.
It’s good to see some better quality control and standards arising with the “Games for Windows” brand too, and Microsoft’s commitment to getting Xbox Live and Xbox 360 controllers working well on the PC… admittedly using controllers hasn’t been as simple as plug and play with some games, and hopefully this mean that there will be less “half hearted” console ports. I’m hoping that games like Halo 2 for Vista will include support for four wireless players so that it has all the advantages of a console (four friends playing the same room), but with the advantages that the PC has to offer as well (mods).
The performance on older PCs, and the price are really the only two downsides that I can see over XP. Some people have complained that Vista is merely Microsoft’s way of inflicting more DRM on us, and to further monopolise their position in the market - and while they are probably right - there are quite a few significant improvements for gamers, more than in any past Microsoft OS in fact. And eventually for PC gamers, once Direct X 10 becomes the standard, there won’t be choice… gamers will have to move off XP to Vista if they want to keep up with new releases. The price is also quite steep - US$379.99 for the Ultimate Edition. If you’re after a legitimate copy with all the features this is almost the price of the premium Xbox 360, and this is just for the OS. There are cheaper versions, but these are missing some features, so if you are planning on upgrading keep this mind.
So, what is everyone’s thoughts on this new gaming platform?