FPS Master

Review

posted 11/1/2003 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
One Page Platforms: Xbox
I’m not sure about you but I haven’t had many complaints when it comes to playing first person shooters on the Xbox. Of the three major consoles I always felt that playing them on the Xbox gave me the most comfortable and enjoyable experience. The layout of the analog sticks and the general resistance always allowed for me to be precise and lethal when picking my enemies apart. Apparently Radica and its gaming division, Gamester, doesn’t see it this way and thus, has decided to unleash the FPS Master, a new Xbox controller designed to cater specifically to the FPS shooter market.

Its main selling point is that the buttons are on the handles as opposed to the face of the unit. This means that you won’t have to take your finger off of the right analog stick in order to access the A, B, X and Y buttons anymore. Radica has also replaced the back triggers with actual triggers, the kind that you would find on a firearm or an R/C car remote. To top things off, the controller can be programmed and the buttons can be mapped to your liking. One neat feature of this is that you can invert the analog sticks on the controller independently from the game. This means that if you’re playing a third person shooter that requires you to use inverted controls you can simply program the unit to go to inverted mode to cancel it out, leaving you with standard controls.

Some of the largest problems of third-party controllers are the construct of the device and the resistance of the triggers. Most times the buttons feel mushy, as if someone had spilled some Coke in them the day before and allowed it to dry before shipping it. This simply is not the case with the FPS Master. Every button, and most importantly the back triggers, exude a proper amount of resistance and successfully avoid that sluggish feeling. Another neat aspect of the device is the trigger wells on the back of the controller. It’s like an actual firearm in that it’s an entire enclosure, because there’s a restriction on the other side of the triggers it makes it easier for you to wail on them faster. It also provides the latent function of keeping your fingers on the triggers so that they don’t slip off.

There are a few aspects of the device that I didn’t like and it begins with the analog sticks. It’s not the actual tension of the sticks itself, there’s enough resistance here to provide accuracy in even the most frantic shooter; it’s the suppression of the sticks themselves. They simply don’t suppress deep enough and it causes the sticks to become very loose and difficult to handle. In games like HALO where the left analog stick must be suppressed in order to crouch, this becomes a huge pain. It’s difficult to crouch and aim and move at the same time. Another fault of the controller is the positioning of the D-pad. It’s basically impossible to access it comfortably, causing you to reposition your hands into awkward positions. This isn’t a huge factor in most shooters but games like Brute Force, which use the D-pad to order commands, become insanely tedious.

It seems like this problem could have been resolved had the D-pad been centered more on the unit instead of being placed on the left handle. Radica opted to put in an LCD screen in the middle of the d-pad which is pretty nifty for techno geeks but really cripples the unit’s design. It’s kind of like the Xbox jewel that was in the middle of the original Xbox controller, it looks nice from an aesthetic standpoint but it really hinders the unit’s functionality. Instead of having a functional D-pad we have a nifty LCD screen, pick your poison I guess.
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