Mouse Input in FPS Games

3 minute read

Am I the only PC gamer that is really, really fussy about mouse input? I say this because it feels like every other PC game I play comes with default input settings that are beyond jarring, yet most reviews fail to mention it.

This typically involves inbuilt mouse acceleration and/or input smoothing. Here’s a tip for budding FPS game designers: I have no mouse acceleration because I don’t like it; adding it a default non-configurable behaviour is nothing short of infuriating for someone who is fussy about these things.

This is only going to get worse as more and more games are developed across multiple platforms. What goes for consoles does not necessarily go for PCs, particularly when it comes to input.

NB: These things are subjective, so I say ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ enclosed in hyphens quotes. However, my opinion is better than yours - this is the Internet after all! - so I’m probably right (no hyphens quotes).

Doing it ‘Right’

Games that do it ‘right’ usually take the OS mouse settings and meddle with them very little. No smoothing, no acceleration. If options exist for the game, you can tweak til your heart’s content. TF2 is a good example of this; it has several mouse smoothing and acceleration options, but doesn’t enable them by default. As such, it ‘just works’ out of the box using your OS settings, but there is scope for customisation.

Doing it ‘Wrong’

Games that do it ‘wrong’ can commit any number of crimes, from smoothing or buffering the input over multiple frames (causing extra input lag), to using acceleration by default in their game input logic. I.e. your preferences get clobbered by the game and there’s nothing you can do about it. Maybe there’s some obscure editable .ini files with esoteric options to fix it, but should you really have to resort to such meddling to make it feel ‘right’?

Sometimes you don’t even realise how bad it is until you re-acquaint yourself with a game that does it ‘right’.

The Wall of Shame

Games that offend the input gods (in no particular order):

Battlefield 2

I love BF2 and have 1300+ hours logged, but god damn, it has some weird-ass floaty mouse input and acceleration going on - I had a game recently and had forgotten how bad the input was for infantry combat. I’m a pretty good infantry player in BF2, but compared to something like CS, it’s like being drunk. Being drunk can be fun, but I’d like the choice all the same.

Mirror’s Edge

The input is generally fine for movement and fast paced bits, but when you have to aim a gun you realise how awful it is (I guess this was partly down to the game’s combat having a melee focus, but still). I had to grip my mouse like I was squashing a potato or something. My mouse is set up with low sensitivity, but it felt like there was no fine control due to the acceleration, plus they varied the horizontal sensitivity based on your view angle.

Left 4 Dead 2

L4D2 is basically the same as L4D1 which had perfect mouse input, but it has an option named “Enable Multicore Rendering”. Enabling this option increases my framerate a little, but it also adds a strange, unwieldy “floaty” feeling to the mouse input. I’m guessing it causes extra input lag because I cannot aim worth a toss with it enabled, but disabling it returns my input to L4D1 standards (i.e. good!)

Thief 3

I am not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that the mouse input in Thief 3 was so utterly horrendous that the game was rendered unplayable. I went poking around in configs and changed various settings according to internet guides, but it was all to no avail. It was so very very choppy, unresponsive and uncontrollable that I gave up after a few hours of play. Horrible.