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If you are a multi-platform gamer, who plays on multiple consoles and desktop computers, then the chances are that you’ll probably have a favourite controller amongst them all. A few years ago I personally would have said it was Sony’s Dual-Shock controller, but since owning an Xbox 360 I have warmed to its joypad much more, thanks to a stick layout that feels far more comfortable than Sony’s offering. So when it comes to choosing which console to play the latest multi-platform FPS on, I have always swung towards Microsoft’s console with its more first-person-shooter-friendly sticks, but with the Gioteck HF-2 Ergonomic FPS Controller for the PlayStation 3 recently landing in my hands, that could all change.
What makes the HF-2 controller stand out from the rest of the third-party controller crowd is that it has the same offset thumbstick arrangement as the Xbox 360 controller. Finding this type of controller for PlayStation 3 is fairly rare. Gamers who seek this uncommon feature usually have to resort to a convertor box, which usually connects and converts a wired Xbox 360 pad to Sony’s console. There aren’t that many wireless PlayStation 3 controllers with a Xbox 360 thumbstick layout on sale today, so it is refreshing to see Gioteck support wireless connectivity out of the box. Utilising the PlayStation 3’s built in 2.4GHz wireless technology, the HF-2 does not require any unsightly USB dongles to be plugged into the front of the console, just pop the bundled batteries in (or use an optional recharge pack, sold separately) pair the pad with the included USB cable, then unplug and you are good to go wire free.
When looking at the size and overall shape of the HF-2, it isn’t too far off the Xbox 360 pad, so if you are a fan of Microsoft’s controller, like I am, then this makes the HF-2 a very comfortable pad to hold. Underneath the pad you’ll find soft brushed plastic that lines the bottom and side handles and helps to increase the overall feel of the pad and heightens the controller’s aesthetics and quality.
The HF-2 striking red and dark grey/black design, Ergonomic triggers and Dished D-Pad
On top of the pad, with its dark, grey camouflage pattern design, you’ll find the usual array of PlayStation control buttons, including: the Xbox 360 thumbstick layout, a raised D-Pad and located on the right side are the usual four PlayStation face buttons. The most striking difference from an official controller is that the Turbo button replaces where the PS button should be. Without any noticeable markings this had me guessing for a short while as to where the PS button actually is, but after a few presses of various plastic panels on the controller I soon discovered the unmarked ‘panel’ that sits between the D-Pad and the right analogue stick that acts as the controller’s PS button.
On top of the HF-2 you’ll find the usual L1, L2, R1 and R2 buttons and triggers. The triggers themselves have a little less travel on them than Sony’s official pad, however I much prefer this as it can sometimes be beneficial in certain games that require that instant-on control. Another great new feature of the HF-2 is a switch that can be found on the nearside area of the pad, below the unmarked PS button. Toggling this switch side-to-side allows you to convert the L1 and R1 inputs into L2 and R2 and vice versa. This feature is great for games that use button layouts where firing your weapon is assigned to the R1 buttons. By flicking this switch over you can quickly and easily assign them to the R2 trigger instead. Although you may be able to change this in the game’s menu it is good to be able to switch the functionality of the triggers on the fly, and without having to stop and pause the game.
An important part of any controller are the thumbsticks, and it is this particular area where the HF-2 has had the most attention and design. I’ve already covered the layout of them, but it is also worth pointing out the non-slip contoured tips that help you stay in control during the most intense moments of a game. The sticks themselves also sit higher than the official pad. So this means that you’ll have more stick travel which makes the pad feel more precise as well as more sensitive, which is something that can take some getting used to at first.
The Official PlayStation 3 DualShock 3, Gioteck HF-2 and Official Xbox 360 Controller
There are two major features that separate the HF-2 over its cheaper brother, the HF-1. First is the ability to connect to a PC and customise the sensitivity of the sticks, although I felt the sticks were sensitive enough for me. Second is that the pad is future proofed with the ability to upgrade the pad’s firmware. This means that if Sony make any software updates, that change the console and render the HF-2 useless, you can overcome this issue by downloading a new firmware from Gioteck and update the controller. This may also help with any incompatibilities with the controller in future game releases.
The Gioteck HF-2 controller has been a pleasant surprise. I’ve tried some shocking third party controllers in the past, and for me, the HF-1 feels more comfortable and responsive than the official pad. It’s Xbox 360 stick layout and chunkier handles makes this an ideal controller for first-person shooters. It’s raised sticks not only aid your shooting skills but they also help with other simulation titles that may require such precision, such as driving in Gran Turismo 5. Although raised, the D-Pad can feel a little clunky, but it is fairly responsive in beat-em-up titles, however this pad is mostly suited for FPS gaming. If you are a PlayStation 3 gamer who requires a wireless controller with an Xbox 360 stick layout, then look no further than the HF-2. It might just have your official pad collecting the dust instead.