It’s a fanboy’s favourite hobby; the argument between which is the best controller out of the PS3 and 360 pads is always a fun debate for anyone who cares or hasn’t head the same argument 300 times before, but it’s just possible that Gioteck have managed to make life a little less argumentative. Their “ergonomic” HF-2 controller for the PS3 certainly leans closer to the Xbox camp in its design, so is this the hardware to make Xbox fans take another look at the PS3?
Well, quite possibly. Targeted squarely at the FPS market, The HF-2 is nothing like the Dual Shock 3 we’ve come to know and love. The d-pad and left analogue stick are the other/wrong way round, the rear shoulder buttons (R2 and L2) are lower and the front ones pivot on their inner edges instead of pushing straight down. After over 10 years of using a Playstation shaped controller, it definitely takes a bit of getting used to.
The biggest shock isn’t, as you might expect, the switch under your left thumb but instead the behaviour of the L1 and R1 buttons. With fairly big hands I’d hoped that a chunkier controller would give easy access to all of the buttons, but it took a lot of perseverance before I was comfortable with the way these rocked on an end; it felt like I should’ve been pressing the buttons with my middle knuckles. Considering I first tried this with MW3 (where the L1 and R1 buttons are quite important as the aim and shoot buttons) it didn’t make life easy at all.
Step forward one of the HF-2’s secret weapons – a little, tucked away switch below the controller than when flicked to the other side instantly swaps the shoulder buttons. L1 becomes L2 and vice versa. All of a sudden the triggers on the back feel really good, and short of a few bungled grenade throws the killing count improved significantly. Nice. I tend to use the Gioteck triggers for my DS3 as it is (I’ve always struggled with the convex nature of the DS3’s rear shoulder buttons) but these “triggers” certainly felt very natural to use. The analogue sticks were very precise too, with minimal dead zone and consistent motion around every direction on both stick, and the concave nature of the sticks made finger slippage a rare occurrence.
Having got to grips with the triggers, I figured a racing game might benefit from easier accelerating and braking along with the repositioned left stick. On went Gran Turismo 5… the race started, I buried the throttle and… nothing. I forgot to switch the buttons back to their normal settings. Damn.
Once underway it felt pretty good, although I still preferred the DS3 with the clipped-on triggers in terms of speeding up and slowing down. The repositioned left stick made my hand positions more symmetrical, which might help for longer sessions, but took a lot of getting used to, strangely more so than while playing MW3.
So it’s the ideal controller, right? Well, not so much. The four face buttons often need a press firm press to be recognised, and the d-pad isn’t the best either. You certainly won’t want to be trying out Street Fighter 4 with this unless you’re willing to end up with no left thumb after half an hour. However the most worrying element of the HF-2 is the turbo button. You can assign this to any button on the controller to give you a rapidly repeated button press, something which will give you a definite advantage on a FPS (instant machine-pistols ahoy) and possibly promote some cheating amongst those who like to work that way. It’s not compulsory, but it’s an option.
So who will this appeal to? Well the most obvious answer is those folk who have used an Xbox 360 for the last few years and want to jump to the PS3 without having to learn a new controller layout, but aside from that there’s definitely a market for controllers like this amongst the FPS crowd. It’s solid, weighty, feels great to use once you get the hang of it. It’s wireless too if you’re willing to pump a couple of AAs into the back. But despite all that, I still ended up back with my trusty DS3. It’ll get an outing whenever I drop back onto Battlefield or COD, but it’s not a complete replacement for me.
Either way, it’s a top quality bit of kit.