Gamers always eye the launch of a new OS from Microsoft with suspicion - will Windows 7 be the one that makes the grade?
Windows 7 has met with fairly mixed reviews across the board although it’s definitely getting far more positive feedback than its predecessor, Windows Vista. That overweight, memory hogging behemoth didn’t do anyone any favours.
Most of us stuck with XP or, after a couple of disastrous Vista dates, promptly uninstalled it and went back to XP. See a common theme here? Well, with Windows 7 I can confidently say that even though I’ve been playing around with the evaluation copy for many months now, it has the looks of Vista with the speed of XP. This was a nice realisation that I rewarded with an extra hour of kicking butt and transferring my games library via Steam.
With many unnecessary extras shaved off the top like Outlook, Photo Gallery and Calendar (you can now nab all of these with Windows Live alongside some nifty new aesthetics), it’s eminently more customisable. Windows 7 really is the sexy younger sister of Vista’s ageing diva. If you like things sleek and unencumbered, it offers you that in spades.
With previous operating system launches (XP SP1 anyone?) we’ve all experienced a nasty drop in performance or had innumerable conflicts, issues and compatibility problems. So, for many of us, the launch of Windows 7 has posed something of a dilemma. Do we upgrade or do we stay the same? I’ve done some tussling with this new OS and have some good news, and some bad news, to report.
I’ve run older games like Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow quite comfortably, my only adjustment being to run it in Windows XP compatibility mode for better performance. I’ve also taken Sims 3, F.E.A.R. and Far Cry through the motions and I have to admit that I’ve experienced absolutely no issues. Performance has been running on a par with my XP rig and, in spite of plenty of buggy hiccups on the eval install, the games were smooth and even to run.
Of course, I say this with a certain amount of restraint. There will always be problems and I have no doubt in my mind that something will come up as Windows 7 chugs into its first year and we crave a Service Pack to iron out the kinks. There have been plenty of surround sound problems reported thanks to driver issues and there are definitely niggles with IE8 that have had me tearing out my hair.
Another shiny beacon is DirectX 11 of course. It’s not quite on the cards for some of us lesser mortals until we grab all the necessary hardware but it’s definitely something to look forward to. Those graphical displays have had me drooling and I can’t wait until I’ve upgraded and inserted everything I need to make it a reality. Fortunately, WIndows 7 is also compatible with DX10. Microsoft didn’t do their unpleasant discontinuity tactic as they did between DX9 and DX10.
One concern that’s been widely recognised is that Microsoft seems to have neglected PC gaming in their drive to launch Windows 7. Interestingly, features written by gaming journalists and those reporting Windows 7, from here to Chicago all mention the same thing. Why should behemoths like Microsoft care about the gamer – we’ve often had the short straw and we’re pretty good at putting up with all sorts of sub standard products.
In fact, our middle names could comfortably be “tolerant troubleshooters”.
My question is, why should we be consistently set aside? PC gamers have long invested plenty of cash and time into their PCs and are usually snapping up technology the moment it appears.
The PC Gaming Alliance (PCGA) has barely featured during the launch of Windows 7, a tragedy in itself. Designed to “drive the continued growth of gaming on Personal Computers” the PCGA should have been out there in force, pushing the platform and the PC onto a hyper-alert market. It seems that everyone has missed a trick here. What are they doing over there? Gaming?
You’d think that with the amount of money poured into Games for Windows’ coffers, there’d be some kind of announcement or advancement (other than DX11 of course) that would have us wrestling one another to get our hands on this operating system. Well, think again. No games, nothing, not even the simpering Games for Windows has received so much as a toot or a strand of ticker tape. What a lost opportunity! What a kick in the teeth for a core consumer niche that has ridden out the horrors of their bloated systems in order to play games!
I understand that the market is currently driving towards the console, a debate in and of itself, but the PC has an enormously loyal following and plenty of titles that can run on no other platform such as MMOs. Don’t you think, Microsoft, that you could have supported a niche group of customers just a little better? After all, as we watch more and more games lazily ported to the PC months after they’ve been launched on a console, it would have been nice to celebrate the PC once again.
So, is Windows 7 worth getting as a gamer? If you’re happy with what you have right now I would say don’t bother. All the parts of Windows 7 that make me shiver with delight have absolutely nothing to do with gaming*. What a shame.