I'm always disappointed when a PC game doesn't control well with a mouse and keyboard. Sports games, in particular, are usually much better with a controller, and even when you can use a mouse and keyboard it's often the case that not much thought has been put into translating the controls for those of us who like sitting at our desktops with our fingers on the home row.
When I saw Madden 19 on PC at E3 this week—if you hadn't heard, Madden is back on PC after a decade away—I was fully expecting to have to play it with a controller. Just about every game I tried this week—Hitman 2, Anthem, even FPS Metro Exodus—were only playable on controllers.
But, surprise! There was a single station where Madden was set up with a mouse and keyboard. Not a surprise: no one was using it. Back to surprises: the mouse and keyboard worked really well.
One of the great things about a thumbstick on a controller is it gives you a specific type of control you can't match with a keyboard. In driving games, for example, using the stick to turn your car gives you a full range of control: turn a little with a nudge of the stick, turn sharply by pushing the stick all the way. On keyboard using A and D to turn, you only have the option of turning all the way. You can't half-press a key.
Controlling a player in Madden 19 isn't mapped to the WASD on the keyboard, but is tied to the mouse using a "virtual thumbstick." A circle appears in the right corner of the screen with an arrow in it. Move the mouse a little in any direction and the player moves in that direction slowly, like a defender hovering around in the backfield before the snap. Move the mouse further and the player moves faster.
It took a bit of practice, but it felt like a good emulation of the full range of movement and variable speed you can perform with a real thumbstick. There were some nice additional touches: scrolling the mousewheel changed the camera view from forward-facing to reverse angle to a higher overhead shot.
I asked if the keyboard controls would be re-mappable, and was told they're not sure if that will be a feature yet. I certainly hope it will—a big part of making the PC audience feel like they're being looked after is giving them the ability to change and customize the games they play, and there's really nothing more frustrating than not being able to change which key does what.
Even if they do allow key remapping, I'm pretty sure a controller will still be the best way to play Madden 19, and just about everyone who plays will opt for that. At the same time I'm happy to see some thought is being given to weirdos like me who want to use a mouse and keyboard for just about everything, even when it isn't the best option. If you need advice on what works best with Madden, here's our guide to the best gaming keyboards out there.