A bit over a year ago we took a look at a new PS3 controller from Gioteck which was released with the FPS crowd in mind. That controller, the HF-2, sat very well with us and despite there being an awkwardness with the R1 and L1 buttons the ability to switch the front and back shoulder buttons around at will brought us to the conclusion that it was actually pretty good.
But not content with creating such a great bit of kit, Gioteck went back to the drawing board and tried to improve on things with another new controller. Step forward the SC-1, a “sports controller” which mixes things up a bit and targets itself at the enormous market of sports fans currently sitting on PS3s round the world. The result? Something good. Very good.
The first things that’s obvious when comparing this to the HF-2 is there’s been a bit of a reshape of the pad itself. The pointy corners have been rounded, the trigger swapping button has gone and there’s a fancy new design which, sports a bright red back behind a black and grey striped front. It’s a more tasteful design than the camouflaged effort previously, and sits more comfortably alongside your other gaming kit. Elsewhere we’ve also got two programmable buttons which can recreate recorded combinations of buttons (handy for difficult tricks, fighting combos and that sort of thing) and a much improved d-pad which gives a much smoother 360 degree feel than the DS3 or HF-2 had on offer. Plenty of changes then to believe Gioteck have really given this thought and not just redecorated the same old controller, and add in the ability to change the sensitivity of the analogue sticks and you’ve got a very interesting looking package.
Some things haven’t changed as much – the analogue sticks are still in their wonky Xbox-style offset positions, the sticks themselves enjoy concave tips for better thumb grip and the rear shoulder buttons are also concave, stopping those trigger-slippage issues that people often find on the Dual Shock 3 (unless you use the handy Gioteck clip-on triggers, obviously). While the idea of having off-set sticks still melts my brain when it comes to games using both sticks at once (15 years of Playstation gaming takes its toll on muscle memory) the improved feel of the sticks and triggers does make life easier in some games. There’s a satisfying weight to the SC-1 too, and the rubberised material is comfortable to hold, again with a less slippery feel than the official PS3 controllers. There’s still no SixAxis support, but with very few games using it nowadays that probably won’t be a huge loss to most people.
So it’s clear that we liked the look and feel of the controller, but that means nothing if the games don’t benefit. We chucked a few different titles into our PS3 and tried the SC-1 with a range of game styles, interested to see if this is only good for sport games or can be used as a general DS3 replacement.
As a sports controller it seemed only sensible to give the SC-1 its first outing on FIFA13. My experiences here might be different to others (I’m still using the old PES control scheme thanks to a mild addiction at uni) but it took a while to get the hang of the new buttons. As well as the position of the shoulder buttons taking some getting used to, the face buttons seemed less sensitive than I was used to, which led to a few missed passes and shots not taking place. That’s my excuse for losing a few games. Some time later one of the improvements over the HF-1 was obvious – the L1 and R1 buttons press down from any angle instead of the pivoting motion used previously, meaning you can easily press them with the middle knuckle while keeping your fingers on L2 and R2. Much easier than before. The analogue sticks felt good to, and while I’m not one for doing many tricks while playing the left analogue stick felt very smooth, giving good response into the game itself.
Staying on the sporty theme, next up was NHL13. With movement round the ice needing a smooth touch, the slick analogue sticks worked beautifully, with the right stick this time having a much greater impact. The two sticks being in different places took some getting used to, but it was a comfortable enough experience. The less sensitive buttons were still annoying, but by this time I was getting the hang of them so there were fewer problems as a result. I felt more in control after an hour or so, to the extent that I’ll be reaching for the SC-1 over my trusty DS3 next time I shove an NHL game into my PS3.
Gran Turismo 5
GT5 is all about precision driving and subtle control, and between the handy curved L2/R2 buttons and the responsive left stick it felt great to throw a few cars around with the SC-1. The size and shape of the controller meant longer races were still comfortable, and the action of the triggers meant there was plenty of throttle and brake control without much by way of finger slippage.
While you’re up in the air, Starhawk is all about the shoulder buttons. All four come into regular usage, with both flying and shooting controlled by the top of the controller, so we need an easy to use layout for when we’re up, up and away. Unlike other games where you might be resting a single finger on the top of the controller, resting both your index and middle fingers on the SC-1’s shoulders work really nicely, and even during the most panic-stricken moments it’s very easy to keep control of your fingers and hit every manoeuvre you try to.
Black Ops 2
The HF-2 was designed for FPS games, and it’s clear to see the difference when playing a shooter. Without diving into the controller options and reassigning buttons to other functions, the front shoulder buttons used for aiming and shooting are tricky to accurately and reliably use for long amounts of time – the HF-2 had a perfect solution by allowing you to switch the buttons over, but the SC-1 doesn’t enjoy the same luxury and is tough to use as a result.
Terraria uses R1 a lot. Nearly all the time. At this point the HF-2’s clever switch to swap the shoulder buttons would have been a god-send, but as it was I felt like having to distort my hands a bit to keep the button held down to do more digging. Most of the other stuff – notably the use of the d-pad to select stuff – worked nicely, but I’d suggest that the SC-1 wasn’t really aimed at games like this…
Overall then it’s clear to see just how much I like the SC-1. While the position of the L1/R1 buttons are still a little awkward in some games it feels like you’d get used to it with continued use. The face buttons aren’t quite as sensitive as those found on the Dual Shock controllers, but again repeated use will get your thumbs more used to this and you’ll barely notice. Gioteck have done a great job with the SC-1, and whether you’re looking for a change from the DS3, an Xbox gamer finding the alternative PS3 layout tricky or just need a new controller then this comes highly recommended. It improves on the HF-2 in almost every way, and considering how much we liked that controller, that’s high praise indeed.