Gadget Review: Microsoft SideWinder Dual Strike

I’ve been looking for a new gamepad, recently I’ve been having troubles finding one. Actually I was looking for one to use at my office. After two weeks of looking, I found the Dual Strike from one of the first shops I was looked at. They say it was a new shipment. Oh, how I really feel that our country is so deprived of controllers and really good mice. Anyway I was a real skeptic about the Dual Strike since it was designed primarily for first person games. I can’t imagine playing any FPS with such a controller. So this was the only good controller around and I really needed a USB gamepad anyway so I didn’t hesitate to buy it.

This is actually not designed for WinXP so this would be interesting if it would actually run. I hooked up the controller and checked if it was detected correctly, and it did. I installed the drivers immediately and I was warned that the driver is not designed for Win2000/NT. I didn’t care less; this wasn’t Win2000 or NT anyway so I continued with the installation.

After a few minutes of evaluating the configuration screens I realized there were already game presets, which is configured from the keyboard. The presets though are pretty much useless unless you have a lot of old games installed in your computer like Unreal, Descent, Freespace and Half-Life. I really like the idea that it was pretty configured directly to the keyboard and mouse control but it seemed like it was having a little getting used to. The gamepad didn’t respond with the controls as it seemed like it didn’t function at all, but I tried to configure the controls anyway. I really had a hard time setting up the buttons. I think it took me an hour for just one game. I tried to get a better feel which buttons go where. After preparing everything, I restarted the computer and everything went fine.

As you will see when you get hold of this controller you will notice that this is not a standard controller. The left handle is used for movement and the right handle is used for point of view. Microsoft calls this the Dual Strike FX. The controller options defaults this setting to “off” I don’t know why but when I turned it on, the controls seemed interesting. The right handle acted out as a mouse control, which is pretty strange though, you can turn up down left and right as sensitive as the mouse but it takes a bit of getting used to because we gamers are not used to use our arms for targeting but rather our hands. It’s like relearning a new way to handle a different kind of mouse. The left handle was supposed to be simple enough because it is where a standard controller comes in, but I found it a bit awkward because there are three buttons beside the movement controller in which if your think about it, how in the world can you remove your thumb on the movement buttons when your in a middle of a deathmatch. Well, it felt totally wrong if you ask me.

There is a shift button on the left controller which can give you a second set of configured controls which is a nice addition. Originaly when you look at it you do have about 8 buttons, yet because of the shift control it can give you to 16 buttons. Though your left thumb which is used for movement will have to hold this button to use any secondary presets. So if you want to use this it should be at times when you don’t have to move from a position, so choose your presets wisely.

Well, now for the trial run. I have Serious Sam, Grand Theft Auto 3, Unreal Tournament and WarCraft 3. So I got 2 first person games, 1 third person with a driving game and a real time strategy just to test the accuracy of the controller. Would it be comfortable enough to replace the mouse? Let’s see.

First I really try using First Person games since this was the primary reason for getting such a controller anyway. So Serious Sam comes first. As I tried playing the game, it really felt good to go way back away from the monitor relaxing and using the gamepad as my compete control over the game. Though everything felt very new, it took me more than an hour to adjust to the game, actually it felt like I was playing a new game all over again.

Unreal Tournament was hard to cope up with because of the fast action. It felt difficult to adjust to but then again it was possible to adjust, just a bit longer than usual. It’s good that there are only a few buttons that I really need but it seemed more like a disadvantage because you still have to reach out a number to get your specific weapon and the if your in a middle of a deathmatch it would really be hard.

Grand Theft Auto 3, here I had to make a lot of adjustments just to make the game compatible enough for all the controls. I didn’t need all the controls anyway just the ones I really need. The Keystroke command was very useful here because it can record several keys into one button. It was better used in the turn on the in-game mission. I had a hard time playing the game using a car. My older gamepad (Gravis Xterminator) was better in the driving mode.

WarCraft 3 took a little adjusting; here I used the direction pad to scroll the map and the dual FX mode as my mouse. It takes a while again to adjust but I find it very nice especially when using a gamepad. You can’t do the same accuracy in a console gamepad, namely PS2, Xbox and Gamecube.

Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project played like it was any other gamepad, only that it had a rotating right handle which doesn’t do anything.

After playing through these games I found it that it just takes a while to adjust to most games. It is great for first person, third person and surprisingly it also works with a RTS game. Though it’s not a perfect controller for every game since it was too hard to use it for racing games or games like Colin McRae, I find this as a really innovative controller. If you want a fast paced game that you need every button at a second this wouldn’t be for you but if you want to relax back away from the keyboard and just play for leisure this is a nice controller to use.

Windows 98
Pentium 166 Mhz
USB support
16 Mb RAM
10 Mb free on hard disk
CD-Rom 4X
Any pointing device

Tested on:
Windows XP
AMD Athlon XP 2000+ 1.667 GHz
USB hub
512 Mb PC2100
40x CD-RW
GeForce 4 Ti4200
SoundBlaster Live!
A4 Optical Mouse

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