It can sometimes feel that there’s a new control method being introduced to gaming every couple of weeks. From the Wii U bringing a touchscreen to proceedings, to the various motion controllers which have sprung up in the last few years, it’s a fairly constant trickle of invention.
Every time there’s a worry about how much support it’s going to get in games, how accurate it will be and so forth, but the MAG II has a rather unique take on things that makes it stand apart from the Wiimote and Move Controller.
Instead of relying on light sensors and cameras, it’s all handled within the controller itself via gyroscopes and other motion sensors. That data is then beamed to a simple wireless dongle attached to your PC or PS3 (there’s no 360 support I’m afraid), and should translate well enough to let you control practically any FPS.
The stock controller houses four AA batteries for power, and if you plan on using this a lot I imagine you’ll want to invest in some rechargeable ones, although recharging via the controller isn’t supported.
The “left” analogue stick sat nicely under my thumb and my right thumb had pretty good access to the other face buttons, with an extra fifth button nestled under my thumb joint to act as a right stick click. No need to stab wildly towards the TV for a melee attack! While it felt good in my hands, hopping into a game for the first time was a very different matter.
Right off the bat my sights were all over the place thanks to the sensitivity of the Expert setting it was on, even after I’d used the handy on-the-fly calibration button to centre myself and my seating position. There’s a very definite learning curve with this controller, and you have to approach it differently to a Move or Wii shooter.
The main difference is that the gyroscopes are the only aiming input, rather than supplementing other inputs as they do in other motion controllers. So while you do calibrate via a dedicated button to quickly centre your view, from then on it acts more like the right thumbstick, or a Move controller when playing with a “direct input” system.
There’re no cross hairs moving about on the screen, and no fiddling with screen borders and detection zones for when you want to move the viewpoint about. It’s a much simpler input method to grasp because of this.
After the first few minutes, I started to get the hang of things. Aiming down the sights and taking down enemies got a lot easier, and my brain adapted to looking around and the new motion control. There’s no need to actually look down the barrel of the gun, and you can easily sit back in your chair and have the controller at a relaxed and comfortable level, which will help to reduce motion fatigue.
I did consistently run into a few little hiccups, though. For example, Modern Warfare 3 uses a different level of sensitivity when you’re aiming via the sights rather than shooting from the hip. This meant that that larger motions were needed when aiming, and then when switching back I’d take a second or two to adjust to the different sensitivity.[drop2]
Similarly, some of the button placement actually hindered. There’s a second button behind the main gun trigger, which my middle finger would so often end up hitting, as my grip was riding higher up to reach the face buttons.
Unfortunately this was mapped to grenades, so whenever I still had some I’d occasionally end up chucking one randomly at my feet. In one particularly embarrassing moment I didn’t realise I was cooking a grenade and blew myself up.
I believe that this is something you can only adjust in-game, but with a USB port up top you’ll be able to plug the controller into your PC for future firmware updates. Given the way the controller works it’s clearly very important to have the ability to download updates, such as improving support for certain titles with little bits of fine tuning.
Right next to the USB port, there’s also a function knob, which opens up plenty more possibilities. It’s primarily used for picking between Beginner, Regular and Expert levels of sensitivity so you can ease yourself in, though I’d personally say to jump straight in with Expert. You can also select turbo fire options, an adjusted sensitivity for split screen play, light gun game support, and a few extra slots for game specific macros, a feature which is not yet available. Oh, and of course a toy mode, so that the gun will just vibrate every time you pull the trigger.
Overall, I was impressed with just how well the MAG II worked once I got used to it. After my time with it I still had a long way to be fully adjusted to the handling and button placement, but I was well on my way.
Generally retailing at around £80, this is roughly double the price of a standard DS3 controller, and I’m sure most of you will dismiss it as a gimmick. I guess it is, but by using its technology to latch in via basic gamepad support it means that this should be able to provide a near universal level of FPS support for those that do fancy a fresh twist on the gun controller.