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CES 2010: Razer

Posted by: John at 1/8/2010 1:40 AM
Razer’s been long known for mice and PC peripherals but as with many other businesses, they were itching to branch out. And branch out they did as Razer’s going to be producing some console items in the near future.

At CES 2010, Razer had a headset and a controller both designed for the Xbox 360 on display. Since Razer has a good relationship with Microsoft (They did produce a mouse and keyboard for them.), I’m not surprised they went with making some Xbox 360 items. I asked about any plans for the PlayStation 3 but they are going to let the market dictate and see how well they do in the 360 realm first.

The Xbox controller called the Onza Professional Gaming Controller has a few distinct features. First of all, it is wired and the reason they did that is because they envision this item as a tournament style product. They wanted to make sure there were no lag, no matter how minute it is, and as well being reliable throughout the day without having to worry about battery life.

Each thumbstick contains a dial that can loosen or tighten the stick. For first person shooters, dial it down to where moving the stick around is really loose. When going into a driving game and wanting more control, dial it up and increase the tension on the sticks so that it takes more effort to move them. I have to admit, it felt pretty good to be able to adjust the strength on the resistance of the thumbsticks and customize to the game you are playing.

A new bumper button that sits between the regular bumper and trigger allows you to set it to any one of the button presses using a slider on the bottom of the controller. So, if you want to make the middle bumper a left thumb stick click, you can do so. It does make the bumper/trigger area more crowded and I’ll have to try it out to see how easy it is to get used to as well as not hitting one of the other items by mistake but it’s an interesting feature and a nice concept. I know I’d rather have a button for holding my breath or knifing in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and the Xbox 360 controller from Razer will allow that.

The jewel buttons are also designed to be fast action and will let you do multiple presses quickly. I don’t know if I like the feel of it more than the standard controller but Razer’s looking to increase the performance in this area and it’ll be interesting to see if their design succeeds once I get my hands on a production unit.

I did ask about adjustments to the D-Pad and they are going to be doing something. The prototype didn’t have any changes from what I could see but the final product should have a redesigned D-Pad, which I hope is better than the standard controller.

The controller was a very early build but it felt good in the hand and should be built pretty well considering the reputation Razer has. Some people might be turned off by the fact that it is a wired controller but those wanting pure performance might like that design feature. While no other details were given about release, the Xbox 360 controller represents a new line of items for Razer. It will retail for $49.99.

Called the Chimera, this Xbox 360 headset is a 5.1 semi-wireless solution with a rotating mic on the side. There’s a base unit that connects to the 360 through an optical cable, which then relays the sound to the wireless headset. The base unit also doubles as a charger which will charge the headset when you place it on top.

Now if you want to talk with the Chimera, you are going to have to run a connection from the headset to the controller but that’s about the only limitation in terms of wired connectivity.

The full headset is built to be light and sturdy while providing high quality surround sound. I’m not one to be able to hear much difference with a surround sound headset versus a straight stereo setup but I’m curious to see if these puppies make a difference.

The base unit has a few nice features that I’ll touch on. One, it has a pass through so that you can plug in another optical to the TV or receiver. With the headset off, the sound will be routed through the base unit and into an external speaker setup. Once you turn the headset on, the audio is cut off to the external option thereby giving you the convenience of not having to go to the bag and switch plugs around depending on whether you use the headset or not.

The second feature is that you can daisy chain up to four of these guys and have an easy to setup private chat option. For those playing in the same room and really want to communicate without having to deal with the Xbox setup, this is another alternative solution.

The Chimera headset will retail for about $129.99.

The last item I saw at Razer was just recently announced at CES. All three consoles have or will have a motion sension controller but the PCs have been a little slow to get behind the party. Well, Razer was showcasing a demo of what they have in store for PC gamers in the near future.

The guys at Sixsense are behind this dual wand setup that acts just like the Sony Wand or Nintendo WiiMote whereby you can have 1 to 1 motion using either controller. Instead of using accelerometers, the Sixsense option uses a magnetic technology to do all the work. What does this achieve? Well you don’t need any line of sight item to be able to interact with the things on the screen. No IR bar or camera is needed as there’s just a base unit that you can place anywhere that will take the movements you produce and relay them to the PC.

So why should you be excited? Well, Valve is working with Razer and Sixsense to get this product some steam to succeed. I was shown a specialized version of Left 4 Dead 2 whereby you could so thing such as flick one way to reload and use an overhead throwing motion to throw a molotov cocktail. What was really cool was seeing the katana being used just like what you would see in Red Steel 2. It was 1 to 1 motion as I saw the sword rotating and swinging exactly the same as it was with the player’s movements.

There was even a Metroid-like mode where the right controller was used to point in an area on the screen rather than rotating the view. You could then move and shoot anywhere on the screen without having to turn as the cursor moved independently of the view.

It was just a tech demo but an interesting one. Again, Valve was announced as one of the companies working with Razer and Sixsense on this product but more were hinted at but not talked about. It remains to be seen if the PC crowd will get behind this type of controller since there has been one or two options in the past that haven’t been popular, but with companies like Valve behind them, it just might have a very good chance of succeeding.