One Next-Gen Voice Command I Can Do Without

One Next-Gen Voice Command I Can Do Without

I can understand why game developers working on next-gen games might be psyched to play around with voice commands. They represent an interesting and relatively new way to let players interact with games. But there’s at least one next-gen voice command I can happily do without.

Every Xbox One owner (and every PS4 owner with a microphone or PlayStation Camera plugged in) can theoretically control their consoles with their voices. As a result, game developers can add voice functionality to next-gen games and assume that a large number of players will be able to use it. Games offer a lot of potential applications for voice, both interesting (tactical commands and complicated menu-navigation could theoretically get a lot easier) and less interesting (no one is going to switch weapons with their voice when the d-pad is right there).

However: I submit that we do not need to use our voices to pause the game. I learned this last week from Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, the graphically gussied-up next-gen remake of last year’s Tomb Raider reboot. In addition to a graphical face-lift for the environments and a literal face-change for its protagonist, the Definitive Edition adds a host of small next-gen (or, “next-gen”) features. They’re mostly little things: The DualShock 4 lightbar flashes when Lara Croft fires a gun, the Xbox One Kinect camera lets you lean your body on the couch to see some scenes from different angles.

Those additions are mostly tacked-on and not particularly useful, but they’re also easy to ignore. (I guess you can put some electrical tape of the PS4 controller, if the light bugs you.) Unfortunately, as long as the game’s voice commands are activated, they’re a lot less ignorable. That’s mostly because among the included voice-commands is the ability to say “pause” and pause the game. You can then say “resume,” and it’ll resume.

In theory, I can see why it wouldn’t seem like a terrible idea. Unfortunately, I found that both PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game were far too excited to pause the game for me. The game would pause pretty regularly, regardless of whether I’d pressed a button or even said “pause.”

“Holy shit that’s a lot of graphics” once paused the game. “Hey, can you grab me some water?” once resumed it. At least once, the PS4 version paused and restarted even though I hadn’t said anything at all. I’m not the only one complaining, and the game isn’t even officially out yet. The game regularly stops, sometimes during heated action sequences. You can’t pause and talk to someone in the room for fear it’ll start up again unexpectedly. Calling it “a bit annoying” is like calling the weather on Yamatai Island “a bit rainy.”

I actually do like the ability to pause videos with my voice: Vocally playing and pausing videos is one the most useful applications I’ve found for the Xbox Kinect. (I recently bugged Sony about whether they’d add video playback commands to the PS4 camera, but their response was a standard-seeming “We’re always looking at ways to enhance the PS4 experience based on what users are asking for and the camera has proven popular with early PS4 purchasers.” Hopefully they’ll expand the PS4’s voice commands soon.)

Of course, pausing video and pausing gameplay are two different things. Especially when the pause function is as touchy as it is in the Definitive Edition of Tomb Raider. It’d be great if the developers who made the Definitive Edition could re-tune (or better, just remove) the pause voice command. Here’s hoping they do.

As for other voice commands in the game, I have my doubts — from the time I spent testing them, the weapon-selection commands also seemed a bit overzealous and the d-pad is far easier to use. But really, I went into the menu and deactivated voice commands after an hour or two of play and a half-dozen or so unintentional pausings and unpausings. While I’m sure not everyone will have identical problems to the ones I had, I’m also guessing that most players will just turn the voice commands off. (And hey, at least you can turn them off — it sure would’ve been a bummer to have a solid next-gen upgrade like this marred by annoying voice commands.)

Game developers, hear my plea! Get as creative with voice commands as you want, but keep “pause” where it belongs: On a little button near my thumb.

Picture: Shutterstock


  • If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that this article was suggesting that the Kinect didn’t exactly work as intended…

    • Did you even read the article? It’s an issue affecting both platforms and all the links to users experiencing the issue that the author provided were all PS4 users.

      But hey, don’t let that stop you from going out of your way to diss anything Xbox related.

      • Voice commands don’t really work on any system and they don’t really add anything to a game. If anything they’re more likely to take away from a game and immediately pull you out of the immersion.

        • That’s not true, I use voice commands on a daily basis with my Xbox One, let me give you an example of a few.

          Voice commands for media (Pause/Play/Back/Resume, simply navigating Xbox Video, or “Xbox Play The IT Crowd” can be said from anywhere in the system)

          Xbox Snap, probably one of the most useful. Why navigate through menu’s when you can get there with one voice command. additionally “Xbox Switch” to switch focus between your main app and your snapped app.

          Xbox Bing, why bother navigating to the store and typing in the name of the Song/Show/Movie/Game you want to purchase when you can say Xbox Bing and then said name of item.

          Y’know, you don’t have to like the Xbox One, it’s fine, but it’s futile trying to belittle it for others just because of that. I don’t care much for the PS4 but I literally leave it at that.

          Either way, this is fairly off topic considering all I did was point out your erroneous comment but you couldn’t acknowledge your error, you had to push forth.

          • NIce way to ignore the bulk of my reply, a majority of the useful features are for functionality and media (that being said, functionality can be used while gaming i.e. snap, answering Skype call). You opened your last comment with “Voice commands don’t really work on any system”.

          • So now you’re taking literal meanings in order to attack other people making an obvious snipe that even people who bought an Xbox One are making?

          • I see, you’re trying to argue that voice commands are a waste, while saying ‘don’t take it so literal’ when I point out they’re actually quite useful. No way to lose that argument.

          • Ok, I’ll be more clear. Voice commands are usually not needed, particularly as a gameplay feature, as the commands can easily be mistaken or unrecognisable. The commands also take too long to process and it is much easier and quicker to perform with a simple button press. You’re also limited by what commands can be used and usually cannot adjust or retool them for your personal benefits or used in a way that you personally think would be better suited.

            They also take you out of the experience of the game, as when you say it you realise what you are doing. This is made worse when you spend some time struggling with the game to accept your simple command.

          • Disagree specifically in bf4 multiplayer where you open a spindle menu to call ammo or medic or accept missions etc its not only more time consuming it also obstructs your view.

            I could not go back to gaming without voice commands.

            but yeah pause menu voice command in a single player game sounds crap imo . Mind you if it takes you to specific sub menu like in dead rising 3 which works well because the menu is large with various sub levels which is annoying to transverse on a regular basis without voice shortcuts.

          • @neo_kaiser @mattm

            Im with you matt I use mine for all that too.. Neo… good instance of ingame being useful… NBA 2K14… i can call plays, time outs, change the defense strategy all with my voice… so easy, so great..
            except for when it picks up on me swearing and i get a tech foul

        • They definitely add a LOT to FIFA 14, you can do so much more on the fly with Kinect than you ever could with the controller. Without it you would be pausing the game and going through menu’s to make the same changes.

          • A bit unfair since most gamers haven’t paid attention to the previous 13 FIFA games 😛

        • Wrong voice commands made Skyrim even more awesome rather then flicking through a menu to select your shout or power which really pulled you out of the action.

          also shouting at zombies to get their attention and to demoralize psycho’s that’s very immersive.

          calling out for a medic or ammo in battlefield 4 rather then requesting it from a menu is freaking awesome.

          PS or Xbox + camera + big screen(min 64″) + 5.1 setup or higher on loud is the only way to play FTW

          • calling out for a medic or ammo in battlefield 4 rather then requesting it from a menu is freaking awesome.

            Um… haven’t we been doing that for over 10 years? Whether or not the request is made is dependant on how much of a team player the other guy is?

          • Yeah, I’m with you on this one. In Skyrim I used the dragon shouts ‘unrelenting force’ and ‘detect aura’ frequently and being able to just say the name of the shout instead of having to pause and bring up the quick menu and scroll to each one was definitely better. It was also great swapping between bow and sword combos.

            But it only worked when my house was empty, even my wife talking on the phone in the other room often triggered commands. But when it worked it was a dream.

          • Yeah I guess I’m blessed with an added on games room that’s separate away from the house.

            to be honest I had a moment once where I was actually standing shouting voice commands during a heated battle of Skyrim…it was like 2 in the morning and the double sliding doors were fully open, I actually felt bad for my neighbors and worried what they would think after hearing the dragon shouts….but only for a moment lol

          • You lucky bastard, a games room is one of my goals one day. When the kids fly the coop. I’ve picked up a few collectables for decorations, stuff like the Gears of War lancer replica etc.

      • Thank to wearing only sony approved eyewear I never read anything bad about sony or playstations. Why just here in this artical I read that the ps4 has an autopause feature that will stop you having to waste your previous time deciding weather or not to pause and then actually pausing. The PS4 truly is the way of the future………also that Xbox sound broken or something……If I was you I would proboly put it in a cabourd or something lest it bring shame on yor family.

          • I’ll have you know Neo and I have played more than one xbox game together. He’s secretly an xbox fanboy. Sorry for blowing your cover Neo

          • Oh nooo! I thought nobody would ever look up my gamer profile with over 130,000 gamerscore!

            I thought my comments about loving the Halo franchise would come off as ironic!

          • Wow 130,000……sorry I’m not worthy with my pathetic 58k 😐 “slowly backs away and shuts up”

  • That kind of voice command is just retarded, when the pause button is effectively 2cm away from your thumb.

    • Yeah, I found this puzzling when playing Dead Rising 3. As far as I could tell you could navigate the menus with your voice. I never used this feature but I can see that it’s helpful to go straight to a certain menu. But I agree with this article that t he pause/unpause feature has no real benefit and is only capable to being a negative feature.

      I can’t think of any reason why you’d want to pause your game with your voice cause if you’re playing your game you have the controller in your hand the button is quicker to hit. And there’s absolutely no reason you’d want to unpause the game with your voice if you’re not near the controller because you can’t play the game with your voice.

      On more than one occasion I accidentally un-paused the game with my voice because the ‘pause’ command was SO sensitive almost any word will set it off. I’d be talking with my wife and the game would constantly un-pause so I had to dashboard instead of pausing (which is no more inconvenient than pausing). Such a curious, kinda dumb concept. Don’t people test this stuff?

  • When I got my Xbone a month or so ago I messed around with the voice controls and wondered if I would actually use any of them day to day.

    Answer, not so much. I turned them off in Dead Rising 3 because whenever I paused the game, it would magically unpause itself, even when I wasn’t in the room!

    I was using “Xbox turn off” because it amused me, but I got over that pretty quickly.

    The only one I really use now is “Xbox Snap” and “Xbox Unsnap”, to bring up that side panel when I want to record some gameplay, and that’s only really because I have no idea how to bring that function up using the controller.

  • I had to unplug my controller to stop Dead Rising 3 from resuming, even when I wasn’t in the room.

  • I was shocked by how terrible this was while watching the Videogamer UK livestream of Dead Rising 3, it must’ve randomly paused itself a dozen times per hour. Not to mention randomly picking up on them talking and causing the game to “shout” so attract zombies. Uuuugh.

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