I'll admit it. I'm a sucker for crazy-looking peripherals. The crazier, the better. The Avenger checks off all the peripheral lunacy boxes.
Just look at it! It's bananas. There are straps, nubs and pokey appendages that look like spider legs. Straight out of science fiction, this is some rubberised steampunk fantasy. This isn't just bondage gear for your controller, it's more than that: The Avenger is a controller add-on that claims to be "the ultimate gaming advantage". I'd say that the ultimate gaming advantage involves cheating, but that's just me. This ends up being pretty close, and in a good way.
The big problem with traditional home console controllers is that your thumbs and your pointer fingers end up doing must of the work. Compare this with PC gamers, who use more of their fingers. This has traditionally been one of the reasons PC gamers have an edge and has resulted in a far more comfortable gaming experience.
The Avenger aims to do the same thing for controllers. Instead of only using one or two fingers on each hand, you can use three, which does make for quicker, more agile response time.
The thumbsticks, the d-pad, the guide button, the Back button, and the Start, the shoulder buttons, and the A button are left untouched. (There are optional adhesive nubs you can apply to your shoulder buttons to increase reach if you like!) To use the Avenger, simply open it up, insert the controller in the button lid, and snap into place. The X, Y and B buttons are given new appendages, and the triggers are lengthened. By turning the nubs, you can make the appendages more sensitive.
Tensile strength can be adjusted with rubber straps that are easily pulled into place. Making them tighter increases sensitivity. It's even possible to turn the straps into loops for pull triggers to squeeze off a few rounds. There is an opening as not to obstruct with the microphone port. There is also a "built-in tripod" in the back that can be used to rest the controller against your stomach, steadying it.
But it's such a mindfuck at first - and old habits die hard. For the first several play sessions with The Avenger, I was completely lost. In many ways, it goes against what we've been conditioned to think as the "correct" game controller. To operate the appendages, you make a flicking motion. So the instinct is to press down, but you'll need to flick out. It took some time to get used to, but my reaction time felt faster.
You can still press buttons with the Avenger - it's a flexible add-on. Literally. The spider leg appendages are flexible and can be bended closer to your fingers or further away from them.
Flexibility is what its about. The triggers, the tripod, and the straps can all be removed with a screwdriver. I didn't find myself using the straps. It's possible to make them tight, and then flick them with your ring fingers or pinky fingers to fire off shots. I didn't find this as easy as simply pulling the trigger, but that's a personal choice, and I do appreciate the option.
There was a learning-to-ride-a-bicycle period for the Avenger. I tried taking it online, and got killed pretty quick! But the more time I spent with it, the more comfortable it became. I also started using it for games like L.A. Noire, which isn't exactly the peripheral's purpose. This is a twitch product for your reflexes, but I got used to using it, and it felt comfortable enough to continue with my daily gaming use. That's a good sign, I think, a very good one.
The real gripe is the price: $US49.99 bucks. That isn't to say it's not worth it; the construction is solid, and the plastics and rubber are high quality. It does seem like a lot of money, but the there's a 100 per cent money back guarantee, showing just much iControl, who makes the Avenger, stands by its product.
If you are going to buy it, do realise that there is an adjustment period. This is a peripheral you are going to have to learn how to use. So you might get it out of the box, and then get your arse handed to you in Black Ops. You're going to have to stick with it, play through the awkward in-between stage to get the best use out of the Avenger. And maybe then, your regular controller might feel strange.
There are currently plans for a PS3 model, which will apparently be out later this year. I tested out the Xbox 360 version. I was impressed!
You can buy the Avenger here for $US49.99.