In the Forums...
Posted: October 26, 1999
Written by: Chris Burek
Estimated Retail Price: $49.95
Whilst the mouse-keyboard combo has long been favoured the choice of the avid gamer for 3D shooters, game controller alternatives for the genre keep popping up. We've see attempts to accomplish this by ThrustMaster with its FragMaster, not to mention the Panther XL from Mad Catz and SpaceOrb 360 from Spacetec.
Microsoft's SideWinder Dual Strike controller takes off from where these past efforts left off, hoping to provide a solid alternative. While you wouldn't expect the most active Quake or Half-Life player to switch from the mouse-keyboard combo, this controller category does provide a good alternative for beginners, novices or those who just prefer game controllers to the keyboard and mouse. Let's find out how the controller stacks up.
The Dual Strike is held as any other game pad would be, but operates differently. Your right hand is used to rotate the right handle, which is connected to the left handle using a ball-and-socket joint. This rotating action controls aiming and direction within 3D shooters (i.e. mouslook). On the left are controls for the eight-way directional pad, the X and Y buttons, and the shift button. The A, B, C, and D buttons are on the right. Each index finger has a trigger button. Not only is this pad used for 3D shooters, but it also doubles as a normal game pad when enabled in the Control Panel.
As with USB peripherals, installation is a snap. First we installed the included SideWinder Game Controller Software 4.0, and then plugged in the Dual Strike to a vacant USB port. Windows 98 detected the controller without error and was set up accordingly.
For our tests we used many of the top 3D shooters such as Quake 3 Test, Quake II, Half-Life, SiN, Unreal, and also Shogo: MAD. All of the aforementioned games except Quake 3 Test had a pre-configured scheme for each included with the SideWinder software.
Getting straight to the point, I was surprisingly impressed by the operation of the Dual Strike even though I've been a long-time fan of the mouse-keyboard combo. The controller does sport somewhat of a learning curve from what you'd be normally used to, but after a while of play, you should adapt. The rotational handle worked with accuracy when aiming or controlling our character's movement, though it does fall short compared to the precision of the mouse. The speed of the aiming (equivalent to mouse speed) can be adjusted via the Control Panel so you can tweak it to your preferences. That's most likely one of the first things to do after first trying the Dual Strike, as I personally found the defaults somewhat slow and inadequate. The buttons are also nicely positioned, and just in their amount for your essential moves and tasks. It was also nice to be able to kick back in our chair instead of having to be up close to the PC when using the mouse and keyboard, thats one of the advantages. After long periods of use, we found discomfort from the controller's design.
Overall, I'm impressed with the Dual Strike. Its ease of use, functionality, programmability, comfortable design, and features make it a product to beat in this controller genre. While personally I wouldn't use it as my primary control for a 3D shooter type game, its a great secondary unit to add to your arsenal. This is not the type of product however, that hardcore Quake players would want to switch to. It just can't beat the accuracy of the keyboard and mouse. I recommend it to those who dislike using the keyboard or mouse or any other controller with their 3D shooters.