Two big shooters fired out this spring: Halo 4 and Call of Duty: Black Ops II. If you are into shooters (I mean, really into shooters), maybe you are looking for an edge. That's exactly what Japanese peripheral maker Hori hopes it can offer with its controller designed especially for FPS games on consoles. But does the controller hit its market? Let's put the pad through the paces and find out.
The FPS Assault Pad comes in two flavors: PS3 and Xbox 360. The review sample I was sent is a Japanese PS3 unit with official Sony branding. In the US, the controller is exactly the same sans the official PlayStation licence. The Xbox 360 version, however, has official Microsoft licensing.
Out of the box, the first thing I notice about the FPS Assault Pad is the soft touch plastic. This controller feels nice, and I'm always flabbergasted that Sony and Microsoft skimp on the controllers, favouring hard, cheap plastics. Yes, I know it's a cost issue, but when you have a nice tactile controller like this, the extra cost sure seems worth it.
The controller's shape is similar to the DualShock in that the controller's face is flat (as opposed to the Xbox 360 controller's curved face). The grips, however, are different: they are slightly longer and cone shaped. They are, though, more comfortable than the DualShock's grips.
The big difference for the PlayStation version of the FPS Assault Pad, dubbed the FPS Assault Pad 3, is that the analogue sticks are above the face buttons, instead of below. There might be a learning curve for some players, but I found that the analogue sticks' location put a logical focus on those sticks as well as the shoulder and triggers. For FPS games, this is where your fingers want to be.
There are actually four shoulder buttons: FR and FR are below the R1 and L1 shoulder buttons. The triggers below those buttons are closer to actual gun triggers than the DualShock's triggers -- a welcomed tweak.
And since you can easily remap the buttons to those shoulder buttons, complaints about accessing the face buttons on the PlayStation version quickly become a mute point.
But if change is not your thing and you own Microsoft's gaming console, the Xbox 360 version, which is called the FPS Assault Pad EX, has the analogue sticks in the same location as the official Microsoft controller.
The FPS Assault Pad comes with three different nubs for the analogue sticks, each of varying lengths. Below you can see the shortest numb compared with the longest. The middle sized numb would be somewhere in, well, the middle.
While using the longest one might seem like driving a double decker bus, I found it easier to control. It has more of a joystick feel, enabling you to control with side of the stick. Since your thumbs end up being in a higher position, accessing the shoulder buttons felt more comfortable -- for me, at least. You do need to screw the numbs in fairly tight; I can see them coming loose during intense play if not screwed in correctly. Since the three sticks are just kind of packaged as is and without a case or even a bag, I do wonder if the alternate numbs will easily go MIA. I know they would at my house. Still, the customisation options are winners.
Another feature I really like about the FPS Assault Pad is how there's a dial behind the D-pad to control the stick sensitivity. The difference isn't night and day, but it was noticeable, and the option to make those adjustments is appreciated. The other thing I like is the "Target" button on the controller's backside. Pressing it causes the onscreen camera movement to slow down. For example, if you press Target as you try whipping quickly the analogue stick, the on-screen camera actually moves much slower. It's a good way to get steady precision, without having to make tiny thumb movements.
The controller is wired, which, in this day and age, might put off some players. But the cord is long, and you don't have to worry about the controller devouring batteries -- something I imagine this controller could do. The force feedback is, well, forceful. But it wasn't exhausting or problematic; it's noticeable.
The one complaint I have about the FPS Assault Pad would be the LED lights. Goodness, they are too bright and very tacky! I really want third party peripheral makers to focus on classy-looking products and lay off the sci-fi reject pile! The default LED colour is blue, but when you shoot, it turns red -- a not so subtle reminder that you are shooting people in the face. Blood is red, geddit? Um... What's worse, from some angles, the LED can be seen peeking through the controller housing. That's a shame, because it seem like the FPS Assault Pad isn't well fitted together. A shame, because it is well fitted together. The LED light isn't a deal breaker, because, thankfully, you can switch it off.
If you play a lot of shooters on consoles, and you are not entirely satisfied with standard controllers, the FPS Assault Pad is definitely worth consideration. This is a very good controller, which delivers what it aims to do: offer customisation and an edge for FPS gamers. So yes, it hits its mark.
FPS Assault Pad [Official Site]