Firestorm Dual Power Gamepad - PC - Review
Rune Glifberg has major speed worked up heading into the half pipe. His board climbs the wall and he soars high into the air, spinning at the top of his aerial assault, and heading for the ground. Oops, the half pipe is no longer below him.
There is nothing to break his missile-strike fall except the cold, hard, unforgiving concrete. You just know this is going to hurt. Glifberg slams into the ground, blood flying. You close your eyes, afraid to witness the mayhem of the fall. But the gamepad in your hand won’t let you forget. It replicates each bone-crushing bounce across the concrete with accurate vibration.
The Thrustmaster Firestorm Dual Power Gamepad is a remarkable device that renders solid feedback from games that support it.
In Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 (the game which supplied Glifberg’s fantastic fall from space), the gamepad provides an accurate account of the action. On a college campus setting, the skateboarder gets a little off the run, and rolls through a patch of grass. The Thrustmaster device lets you feel the wheels bounce through the rough surface of the grass. That brings a realistic feel to the game that is cherished.
Let’s break this down into a couple of categories:
The Dual Power Gamepad is unique in that it doesn’t require a pin-port for installation. It uses the USB port on your computer – just one. There are no batteries to buy, and the total installation process – which includes the Thrustmapper controller setup installation – takes mere minutes.
With most USB products, you don’t have to shut down your machine to install the unit. Thrustmaster’s manual for this product recommends it. When you restart your system, Windows will recognize the product and install the appropriate drivers. However, you still will have to go into the control panels/controllers, and add the Thrustmaster device.
Installation of the Thrustmapper software, allows you to test the 13-programmable button setup, and experience the vibrating feedback of the device.
The feel of the product
If there is one thing about this gamepad that immediately sells it, it is how great it feels in the player’s hands.
At first glance, this product looks a lot like the controller for a PlayStation. It has the D-Pad, two analog stick controllers, and the four-button array on the top, with two L and two R buttons on the top, just like the PS controller.
But here’s where Thrustmaster got sneaky. The problem with extended PS play is that the controller starts to slide, as your hands get hot and sweaty. You won’t have that problem with the Firestorm Dual Power Gamepad. There are cutouts for the middle fingers, with two buttons nestled back in there.
Instead of hard plastic, this product has a rubber-simulated coating that gives it a soft feel. After hours of continual play, the gamepad still felt comfortable in the hands.
Thrustmaster has several Firestorm gamepads. The Firestorm Digital Gamepad retails for $19.99. The Firestorm Dual Analog Gamepad sells for $29.99. And the Firestorm Dual Power Gamepad (the one tested for this review) goes for $39.99.
Quite simply, this is one terrific peripheral device that adds to the gaming experience.
Jessica, a 12-year-old, was asked to play with a Microsoft Sidewinder Gamepad, and then played with the Thrustmaster. The latter won the comparison hands-down.
“I like the Firestorm Gamepad a lot because the little sticks are a lot easier to use,” she said. “All the buttons are really easy to get to, and when we play games, like the skateboarding game, it is easy to use. I like it because it vibrates, and the other ones don’t, so it makes it feel like you are hurting yourself when you crash and stuff.”
Granted, the force feedback is much like the PlayStation feedback, varying degrees of vibration in the hand-held unit. But whereas the vibration in a PS controller is just a constant hum, the Thrustmaster device emulates that in terms of varying degrees of vibration and time sequencing.
The programmable-button feature is especially nice. If you have a tendency to stab certain buttons, you can program the most repetitious moves into those buttons, rather than having to stick with the game’s presets.
For a true measure of what this gamepad brings to the gaming experience, let’s go back to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 for a moment. Using the Microsoft Sidewinder, it was extremely difficult to accomplish all of the tasks in the beginning stages of the program. In other words, scoring was tough. Using the Thrustmaster Firestorm Dual Power Gamepad, the first level was wiped out quickly.
The gamepad allowed for increased touch control, and the analog sticks made axis control of the skater incredibly easy.
When game players launch a program, they want to have
a fighting chance to succeed. If the controllers – whether they are a steering
wheel, keyboard, joystick or gamepad – are awkward to use or handle badly,
that can ruin the entire experience. The Thrustmaster Firestorm Dual Power
Gamepad enhances the experience. Sure the force feedback is nice, but what
shines brightest is the gamepad’s versatility, comfort and sensitive controls.