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Control Freaks
Product: PlayStation Controllers
Hello again from the Geck0 -- the Hardware Review Editor around here. For some time now, I?ve wished that there was a better means of judging the various aspects of controllers against some sort of ?scale.? I have done almost every single hardware review personally, among other reasons, to insure a single, consistent frame of reference. Even so, if any you think about purchasing a controller, you are forced to make a comparative decision. Sure, five different controllers you?re interested in may have received good reviews here, but how do you know for sure which one is the best -- or more to the point, the best for YOU.

In order to help you with these types of questions, I have begun working on comparative tests to help point out the relative strengths and weaknesses of various controllers. As I develop new tests, new controllers will be evaluated and scored according to these tests. Previously reviewed controllers will slowly be evaluated and added to these test results pages, as time permits. Some of the oldest controllers may not still be available, so older controllers will appropriately have a lower priority. But, enough with the explanation, let?s jump in, shall we?

The first test I?ve devised is for testing CONTROL only.

    CONTROL (kuhn - TROLE) - 1. The ability to accurately and precisely affect the resulting action by utilizing the hardware?s user interface, including its buttons, switches, sticks, throttles, etc. 2. The ability to maintain CONTROL or to regain CONTROL after losing it. 3. Any aspect of a video game input device which makes gameplay more manageable.
The best test of the ability to keep and regain control (that I could think of) was the Survival mode in Driver. As a driving game, it requires a good amount of control in steering. Also, since you can expect to be knocked around a bit, the ability to regain control with a specific controller greatly affects how long you can last. Finally, with burnout, braking, handbrakes, and the various tricks that you can do with them, Driver is a good judge of how precise your control over the car?s handling is.

36???Blaze?s Viper
34???Guillemot?s Shock 2
32???Saitek?s PX2500
30???Logic 3?s TopDrive Reactor
29???Blaze?s Pro Shock Arcade
24???Blaze?s Hyper Drive
Results table: Average Survival Time. Higher scores indicate better overall control.

For this evaluation, all of the controllers were tested in the Survival mode of Driver from GT Interactive. All controllers were lined up in a random order, then a few games were played on each, working first down the list, then back up the list. This was done to negate the effect of any increase of skill which may have occurred during the testing period. Each controller was used to play 12 games, the highest and lowest scores were dropped, and the remaining 10 were averaged.

The date in the right hand column indicates when the test was run, and consequently, which controllers were tested in the same test group. All controllers sharing the same date were tested during the same session.

  • The Viper analog controller, by Blaze, ranked very high in control, having a high time of 63 seconds and a low time of 26 seconds.
  • The Shock 2 actually had times ranging from 12 to 71 seconds. Most were fairly high, but its scores were not very consistent.
  • Saitek?s PX2500 was an interesting controller, having some unique features. It actually had the highest score in the evaluation, lasting 78 seconds. Its lowest time was 20 seconds, and the scores used to derive its average score ranged from 22 to 42 seconds.
  • The Pro Shock Arcade stick was the first arcade stick to be evaluated by this method, and some may argue that an arcade stick really doesn?t fit this test. I maintain that the test is applicable to almost all (non-specialty) controllers. The Pro Shock Arcade may not have been at the top of this list, but its control was pretty good for a digital controller.
  • The Hyper Drive scored lowest in pure control in the first implementation of this evaluation, but it should be noted that the Hyper Drive is a digital controller. Had the steering mechanism been analog, I would expect it would have ranked much better.
It should be noted that controllers which received low or inconsistent scores may have been tested for as many as three rounds in the same manner as described above. The best score of the three was kept as the final score. The TopDrive Reactor?s score is indicative of its third round, having increased each time. This indicates that the TopDrive Reactor has a longer learning curve than most, but may indeed be able to attain a higher score with great practice. Since this study is concerned with ?relative? control, three rounds is the most allowed for any controller.

This concludes our initial use of the CONTROL test, but this feature will expand as new controllers are received and evaluated, and as the older controllers are slowly added in. I hope that this is helpful to some of you out there who wanted more specific, comparative info.

If you have an idea for a test that would be perfect for evaluating another aspect of controllers and would like to suggest it, by all means, email me.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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