It’s About Control

This week we take a look at three different peripherals for the Microsoft Xbox. All are aimed at either increasing your control, or letting you expand the Xbox’s capabilities in some way without hurting your wallet too much.

I will tell you right now, I used to hate almost all console racing games. To be perfectly honest, it is because I generally am not very good at most of them. Well that was before this little Gem fell into my hands. The Gamester Pro Racer Hand-Held Wheel has made driving games out side of the arcade fun.

The first time I started Project Gotham Racing after I plugged in my new wheel, I lost the race as usual, but on the second race, after I got the hang of the wheel, I finally managed to come in third place. And my scores have only improved, though I still must hang my head in shame as my girlfriend continues to stomp me in racing games.

The controller is a little bit smaller around than a small bread plate, and fits nicely in my hands. To drive you hold the stick steady in your right hand while moving a section of the wheel in your left. The A, B, X and Y buttons are on the top of the right hand piece. The four-way controller, the black and white buttons, and the back and start buttons are located on the center section. The triggers are located where you would expect them on the underside on both the right and the left hand sides.

The controller has the same nine foot cable with the in-line release as the standard Xbox controllers, which is not surprising as this controller is officially licensed by Microsoft. The biggest surprise for me was finding out that it has vibration feedback. That feature, while somewhat expected, is not listed on the packaging, and is only mentioned once in the tiny manual.

I am very pleased with this product and as it sits in my hands, I must give it five GiN gems. The only problem I have found at all is that when I went to look for the Gamester Pro Racer Hand-Held Wheel in stores and online, I can not find it anywhere. The web site listed on the box as www.gamesterusa.com comes up as a page under construction. I finally had some luck when I called the support number 1-800-803-9611. I found out that the retail price is around $30 dollars. My advice for now is to call and ask them where to find it. They were extremely friendly and helpful on the phone.

The best thing that I can say about the Vortex Xbox Controller from Radica is that you can be playing with the Xbox controller you got out of the box, pause your game, plug in the Vortex and you wont be able to tell the difference. That said, there are some subtle differences in button placement, color and weight that make this controller unique.

The main body of this controller is grey with black highlights and black grips. The button layout is exactly the same with the exception of the white and black buttons which seam to me to be slightly more to the right and easier for my finger to reach.

Also instead of clear and black, the buttons are solid black and white. The start and back buttons are larger and easier to reach. The two triggers are located in the same place, however the triggers on the Vortex do not have quite as much resistance. The A, B, X, and Y buttons are solid colors on the Vortex. The buttons on the two joysticks seem to make a more audible click and the directional pad is not the same shape as the original. Instead of the smooth dips and ridges of the original, the Vortex just has four raised dots. As I said earlier, none of this resulted in a difference in game play. The vortex has the same to expansion slots and the same 9 foot cable with in-line release as the original.

I am very pleased with this product and as it sits in my hands, so I must give it five GiN Gems. The only problem I have found at all, is again when I went to look for the Gamester Vortex is stores and online, I can’t find it anywhere. The web site listed on the package is www.radica.com but there is no product information on that site, not even in the coming soon section.

Ok, quick quiz boys and girls. If you pop in a DVD into a Playstation 2 right out of the box, what happens? Imagine that, it works. You can use your game controller as a remote. Just press X to play the move. Sure you have to be near the PS2 to control it, but most people just pop in a movie and then sit back and watch it anyway. There is an optional DVD remote for the PS2 that you can buy, but you don’t have to buy it.

Ok, so let’s continue the quiz. When you pop a DVD into an Xbox right out of the box, what happens? Nothing! Actually, a screen ops up telling you to go spend an additional $29.95 plus tax on a DVD controller. Well I recently had to go and buy said controller, so I thought I would take a moment to tell you about it and watching DVDs on your Xbox.

When you are ready to watch a DVD on your Xbox, you plug in a little infrared receiver into one of the four slots on the front of your Xbox, pop in a DVD and grab your remote. With the remote you can play the movie, fast forward, reverse and jump from scene to scene. Quite honestly, I am not sure why you need to buy the playback kit. Most of the controls could easily be handled with the game controller.

The movies look great on the Xbox. It’s just that you should not have to pay extra for something the device can do natively, but apparently has disabled till you spend the extra cash. If you are looking for a game station with a DVD controller for one price, your only option at this point is a PS2. In conclusion, I give the Xbox DVD playback kit two GiN Gems. If you do not have a DVD player in your home, then go spend the $30, it is well worth the expense. Otherwise, sick with your normal DVD player. Most of the DVD games I have seen for the Xbox so far are not really anything to write home about.

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