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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Initial Look at the Gamepad

So I've been trying out the gamepad that I got for Christmas, The Logitech Gamepad F310, and wanted to give a little details on the first impression I got from using it. Any console gamer would know the importance of a good gaming controller for playing games, especially in a competitive situation, where it is "somewhat agreeable" on blaming a loss or a missed input on the bad controller. Believe me, I've been there, when playing games like Super Smash Bros. Melee, and there's that one ghetto controller for the 4th player that's all worn out and/or a third-party controller. Whether if the controller really is defective or simply been roughly handled, it certainly can make a difference to your performance. So how does this gamepad compare to both the keyboard + mouse for PC gaming, and how it feels next to a PS3 controller?

Big hands hitting at the top
First, from holding the gamepad, it certainly feels a little fatter and a bit cramped around the handles. The underside of the controller at the shoulder buttons stick out the whole length of the L2 and R2 triggers, limiting my medium-sized hands' fingers enough room for holding it, which isn't too much of an issue for me. However, people with bigger hands may feel uncomfortable holding the handle controller with three fingers wrapped around the handle, which may force them to put both their index and middle fingers on each of the shoulder buttons.

Speaking of the shoulder buttons, the L1 and R1 buttons are much more "clicky" than that on a PS3 controller. The same can be said about the 4 main buttons, ABXY, as opposed to Sony's X, O, Square, Triangle, but it feels more solid than it is noticeably "clicky" like the L1 and R1 buttons are. I'm not sure if anyone would be bothered by that, really, but it IS something I noticed when comparing with the PS3 controller. The D-Pad however, feels a bit wobbly, and may not take much to go from a direction to a diagonal direction. So far, I've been generally avoiding using the D-Pad in favor of the joystick however, so I don't really have any bad experiences to share regarding the D-Pad. As for the Joystick on the other hand, also feels solid, and pretty good. The first time using it though, you may want to rotate them once to let the game/computer understand the range of the joystick, as many times when starting the game, I'd hit one direction, let go, and my character would move in a certain direction until I hit that direction as well on the joystick. Is that a calibration issue? After rotating it once though from start of usage, everything responds properly. Switching controls between the D-pad and joystick is instantaneous and easy as the gamepad has a Mode button that swaps the controls for the D-pad and left joystick with each other, so if you prefer one over the other for movement, it's just a button away.

Moving on to the software side of using this gamepad on your computer, this comes with a small CD, labeled Logitech Gaming Software V5.10, which is used to install the software for key mapping your gamepad in its Direct Input mode. This is what I used to map out the buttons for when I'm playing Recettear, and I spent a couple of minutes trying it out and testing the newly set controls, and it works fairly well. One issue I had with this though is the D-pad. I mapped out the 4 directions on the D-pad with the arrow keys used for movement, which worked out great. But when I hit a diagonal direction on the D-pad, my character just stopped as I had not set the buttons for the diagonal inputs. So I tried inputting the diagonal inputs, but... couldn't quite figure out how to key map the two button combination fluidly. What I ended up with was Recette moving erratically taking a slight step left, then a slight step up, stop, left, up, stop, etc. instead of moving diagonally like she's supposed to. I'm sure I just didn't input the motion properly, but I couldn't seem to figure out how to do it properly in the time that I gave myself for key mapping it, and decided to just use the joystick instead, which only required me to key map the 4 directions on each spectrum of the joystick's X and Y axis.

The software also comes with pre-mapped controls for Left 4 Dead and Mass Effect as well, which I both have, but have not tried yet. However, I don't intend on testing them out any time soon either, as I don't exactly feel comfortable playing a FPS game on controllers as I do with the keyboard and mouse. In a future, second part of the review for this controller, I will at least check them out to see how they've mapped it, and how well it works for the games.

Instead, here are the games that I HAVE tried the gamepad for.
  • Beat Hazard - Being that this game can be played 2 player on one computer if you have one person on the keyboard and mouse, while another player playing on a X Box controller, I wanted to check it out so that I can play this fun game with 2 players. I forget whether if I played this on XInput Mode with this gamepad, but Beat Hazard definitely recognized the controller and plays like how it should. ... I think I'll stick with the keyboard and mouse though when I'm playing 2 player though. >_>' 
  • Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale - Direct Input Mode, made my own key map for this. Simple enough, and plays well with the gamepad IMO, although not necessarily a necessity.
  • Rusty Hearts - So yeah, add another game to the backlog list. Checked it out since I was invited by a friend to play with them. And this game already has its own pre-set controls in XInput Mode, which is nice. I would have been overwhelmed on how to key map this game myself. >_>; As good as the game is on the keyboard and mouse, I definitely do prefer the gamepad for this game. Certain actions, I just didn't bother with on the Keyboard, while I feel more natural doing on the gamepad, like grabs, jumping, and any special skills beyond ASDF keys, (G, H for skills, haven't gotten buffs yet, etc.)
That's all for now, but I may give some other games a chance with the gamepad as well, such as these.
  • Rumble Fighter - MAIN reason why I wanted a gamepad. I hope I won't be too rusty or fallen behind in standards with the power creep that was definitely there with higher stat outfits and upgrade gems and what not.
  • Audio Surf - Not necessarily a hard game to key map, I would think, and might feel more natural to do than on keyboard OR mouse IMO.
  • Chantelise - I did it with Recettear. Why not Chantelise? Haven't started it yet though, so I have no clue on how the controls are like on it yet. 
  • Duke Nukem Forever - Eh, I figured if it's also on consoles, then I may as well try the console controls too, along with Left 4 Dead and Mass Effect. 
  • Just Cause 2 - Ditto. Just gotta look up what the controls are on the console versions so I can key map them.
  • Left 4 Dead, Left 4 Dead 2 - Ditto.
  • Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2 - Ditto again.
  • Spiral Knights - Ehhhh... ? It feels like it's a simple enough game that I could try it out, but I'm concerned about the accuracy I'd have in the directions I'd be facing when attacking. We'll see though. 
That's all I have for now, but hopefully I'll have more to talk about this gamepad in the future, when I try it out on some other games.

Edit 7/31/2014: It's been forever since I've done ANYTHING on the blog as you can see from the dates, but this NEEDED to be said.

After some 2 years of use (by both me and my little brother), the RT button (and sometimes the LT button) started having false fires in its neutral state. Depending on some very slight positioning of the Trigger buttons, it will think that they are being pressed down all the way in its neutral state. Pushing them in slightly will make it believe that it is in neutral state, but holding the buttons without pushing them in all the way constantly while using it isn't exactly the most comfortable way to be gaming. And upon research, this seems to be a common problem among Logitech's gamepads. Before this issue, the controller worked very well, but the problems with the Trigger buttons made this controller hardly usable now. I may consider modifying the controller itself so that it works, but that's just additional work to get a product that should be working fine to do what it's supposed to.

Instead, I found a way to use a PS3 controller to work on PCs with pretty great results. Better DS3 will take inputs from any USB controllers and give you many options for button mapping. People may have heard of Joy to Key (for PS2 controllers), and MotioninJoy, but IMO Better DS3 does the best job at what it was made to do. If you have a PS3 controller and want to use it for your PC games as well, I would highly recommend using Better DS3 than buying a Logitech controller. If you absolutely need a separate controller for your PC, then a XBox 360 controller is still pretty good. Just plug it in and start playing without any mapping configurations needed.

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