I was ready to give Sony and Nintendo my money, I really was, but both the PS5 and the recently revealed Nintendo Switch OLED have left me impressed, further convincing me that the PC is by far the best platform to play on at the moment .
While I’ve been a PC gamer all my life – the Amiga A500 + was the first gaming device I’ve ever owned, and the likes of Lemmings and Bart Simpson vs. Space Mutants are why I’m a technical journalist today – I’ve loved console games too. I have owned every generation PlayStation, so when the PS5 was launched, I was keen to get one.
I was not the only one who works, and the PS5 is still rarer than an honest Tory politician. Although I could not buy one, I realized that there were very few exclusives for the console I actually wanted ̵
The other games do not really interest me enough to buy a new console, or are also available on PS4, which I own. Some also come to PC, which further dampens my enthusiasm for splurging on a new console at the moment.
It’s a similar story for the Nintendo Switch. That console has been around long enough to generate a nice gaming library for it, and the fact that it relies on Wii U ports to strengthen its first party library did not bother me too much, since I never owned the original console.
However, I did not love the stories of poor graphics and poor performance on some titles, so as rumors began to swirl that a more powerful version was coming, I began to get interested. I’m starting to commute back to the office, so an updated switch that could play 1080p games on my TV when I was home, and offered better handheld performance when I was on the bus or train, was absolutely compelling.
As is so often the case with Nintendo rumors, the speculation was more exciting than reality. Nintendo finally revealed that it was actually working on a new Switch model, but the Switch OLED would only come with an improved screen – the rest of the hardware would remain the same.
This certainly came as a disappointment, especially as it held the underpowered hardware, along with the Joy Con controllers that I have heard are out of order.
Suddenly my enthusiasm for buying a new switch disappeared.
What has not worked, however, is my love of PC games.
Ode to joysticks
I’m very lucky that as part of my job I have access to groundbreaking PC game technology. Not only do I have a powerful desktop PC with the RTX 3090, but I have also built a brilliant compact gaming PC that is small enough to fit under the TV, but which can play AAA games better than the PS5 and Xbox Series X ever could.
It is this PC that has helped me really fall in love with PC games. My main gaming PC is great, but during the Covid-19 pandemic, I worked from home on that PC, and it’s meant at the end of the day, I do not really want to sit at the same desk.
However, the compact PC downstairs is completely different. As I explained in my article on the details of the trials and tribulations of building a small form factor PC, I have set it up with a user interface (Playnite) that allows me to start all my games using just a wireless gamepad.
This means that I can comfortably start and play games from the comfort of my sofa, using my 65-inch 4K TV as a screen.
Without the big Sony exclusives that I feel I miss (any Xbox game I want to play also comes to PC), I can play some of the best games out there … and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.
I’ve played almost all the mainline Assassin’s Creed games, and while I feel increasingly burned out by Ubisoft’s open world games, as soon as I heard I could be a Viking and trampled around my old drinking joke of Winchester, I wanted to get it.
At first I was going to play it on PS5, but after talking to myself about buying one, I got it on PC, and I’m glad I did. I’m able to play it at native 4K with graphical settings well above what the PS5 is capable of.
It’s not the best game ever (or even in the series), but I enjoy my time with it, and crucially, I’ve been able to play it without having to buy a next generation console.
And if you look at the lists of the best games released this year, almost all have been released on PC. Sometimes a game that is a console exclusively on Xbox Series X, PS5 or even Nintendo Switch, also comes out on PC. One of the best games I’ve played recently, Hades, was only available on consoles on Switch. Although there are now more consoles, if I only owned an Xbox or PS5, I would have missed it, but when I had a PC, I was able to play it there.
What about handheld games?
While my gaming PCs have been great alternatives to home consoles, what about handheld gaming? It was, after all, the biggest draw for the Nintendo Switch.
Well, there are two good options that have emerged that offer PC games in handheld form.
First of all, I got a Razer Kishi game controller. This controller splits in two and allows you to slide your smartphone (in my case a Samsung Galaxy Note 9) in the middle to act as a screen. It makes your smartphone a very Switch-like device.
Although it means playing mobile games on your smartphone, it is now more comfortable than using touch screen controls on some titles, what really blew me away used it to stream PC games to my phone.
I first fired up the Xbox Games Pass app and played some GTA 5 on the phone, and honestly I was very impressed. At first I thought the service was a bit tough, but then I remembered that GTA 5 only controls poorly. When I first got started, it was incredibly exciting that I played a game as ambitious as GTA 5 on my phone. Admittedly, I was connected to the home’s Wi-Fi, but the experience was flawless, and Razer Kishi made the control of the game feel as comfortable as if I was playing on a console.
Right after I got the Razer Kishi, I managed to use it well when some football tournaments seemed to be on, and somehow my TV was used to watch people kick a ball around a court. As you may have guessed, this did not interest me, so I connected the Razer Kishi to my phone, and this time tried the Nvidia GeForce Now app.
Log in to it showed a number of PC games that I already owned. To my delight, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla was sitting there, so after logging in to my Ubisoft Connect account, I uploaded it. Pretty brilliant, when I was loaded into the game right where I had been on my PC. Again, the GeForce Now service went brilliantly, and I was able to complete a series of missions using Razer Kishi on my phone.
The next big test will be to see how it works when you are traveling. Will public Wi-Fi on trains and buses be enough to have a decent experience? I’m dubious, but I’m looking forward to giving it a try. I can even try to get a 5G-enabled smartphone and see if it works. If it does, I have a way to play PC games while commuting, and will have no need for a Nintendo Switch (though again I would miss out on Nintendo exclusives).
While the Razer Kishi and cloud streaming services give me an exciting alternative to the Switch, allowing me to play PC games I already own on a mobile device, Valve recently announced Steam Deck. This is a handheld gaming PC that costs about the same as a Nintendo Switch, but is much more powerful.
Since it is a valve unit, Steam is heavily integrated, which means I will be able to access my large Steam library of games. It’s very early days for Steam Deck, but this may be another PC game option for a handheld console. This means that I do not have to rebuild games either, and save money in the long run.
This makes me once again feel that sticking to PC games this gene is the right thing to do.
All about upgrades
For anyone who remembered my efforts to make the little form factor gaming PC, I had built it around the RTX Titan that I already had. Although this is still an excellent GPU, it did not get the performance I wanted out of modern 4K games, falling below 60FPS like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.
So when I had the chance to get an RTX 3080 Ti, I decided to swap out the newer card to see what performance increases (if any) I get. Being able to upgrade the gaming PC is one of the biggest advantages PC gaming has over console games, so that it can continue to play the latest games long after today’s generation consoles are obsolete.
As with everything that has to do with the PC, however, it is not always okay. When I first built the PC, the only SFU size PSU I could get was a 600W model from Corsair. Although this was good for the building as it was, the RTX 3080 Ti is a thirsty boi, so a 600 W PSU would not cut it.
This meant that I could not just take out the old GPU and insert the new one. I also need to replace the PSU. It can be a bit of a nightmare, as the PSU is usually connected to all sorts of components. However, my decision to go with a modular PSU with the Corsair SF600 paid off, as I managed to get a Corsair SF750, which as the name suggests is a similar model, but with a rating of 750W, which is what I needed. Because it is also modular, it meant that all I had to do was disconnect the cables from the PSU (instead of having to disconnect each component), remove the existing PSU, install the new PSU, and then reconnect the cables.
So while upgrading the PSU could have been a bit of a nightmare, it was actually pretty good. I was able to replace the GPU for the RTX 3080 Ti, and then shoot the PC up. I tested a number of games, including Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, and saw jumps around 10 fps on average. While not huge it was enough for me to now play games with full graphics settings and at 4K without even dropping below 60 frames per second, which is exactly what I was looking for.
Definitely a worthy upgrade then, and a testament to how good the RTX 3080 Ti is, considering it’s half the price of the RTX Titan.
There is, of course, one big problem with PC games that still bothers us: lack of components. While it’s easier to get a CPU, it’s still incredibly difficult to get a new GPU, and it’s really taken the shine out of building or upgrading a gaming PC recently.
Hopefully, stock shortages will be resolved sooner rather than later, and people will be able to complete their construction. I’m not under the illusion of how lucky I am.
Still, everything has cemented the feeling that I absolutely do not need a PS5 of Nintendo Switch OLED anytime soon – PC games give me everything I need right now. It can go on for a long time.