Gioteck’s FPS controller for PS3: HF-1 FTW?

As anybody who owns all three machines knows, Sony’s PS3 DualShock – while a perfectly good joypad – is a few small steps behind the Xbox 360 and Wii controllers in terms of precision. This is only really noticeable when playing FPS games, and as such, various companies offer FPS-specific alternatives. Joe’s already given you the lowdown on the Eagle Eye mouse & keyboard adapter; who’s next?

Wave coyly in greeting at Gioteck’s HF-1 controller for PS3.

Many gamers will fall in love with the HF-1 before they’ve even tried using it. It’s Bluetooth (though you can use it as a wired controller should you so desire)? Ace! Triggers for L2 and R2? A ‘flip switch’ that gives you the option of swapping the L1 & R1 functions with those of L2 & R2 (thereby making the triggers the default fire & aim buttons for most games)? Proper analogue sticks? Oh look, the tops are even shaped like aiming reticules, bless! And it’s been given a lick of camouflage paint. Hmm, the sticks are positioned differently; you know, it kind of looks like…

Yes, the military flavoured elephant in the room here is that the HF-1 seems to have been modelled on the official 360 controller. The fact is however that Gioteck are happy to admit this, as they know full well that even diehard PS3 fans (so long as they aren’t disturbingly zealous) grudgingly admit that the 360 has the better joypad, especially for shooters. However, while the HF-1 certainly looks like a 360 controller – despite the ‘turbo’ button guiltily lurking between Start and Select – it doesn’t feel like one.

Flipswitch; the switch that flips.

Gioteck’s offering is slightly bigger, for one; chunkier than either the official Microsoft or Sony options. If you have freakishly large hands, then a) send us a photo, and b) you’ll find that the HF-1 is more comfortable to hold than the DualShock. It’s been lovingly curved in such a way, however, that it’s still comfortable for those who have no trouble with the standard option. Unfortunately, it’s not quite all smiles and sunshine in terms of comfort.

Looking at the indents on top of the analogue sticks, you’d expect them to soothingly cup the ends of your digits like some kind of thumb bra, wouldn’t you? Okay, so you probably wouldn’t use the thumb bra simile, but anyway. If you have impressively manly thumbs like me, you’ll find that in actual fact, the small nubs that give the reticule appearance to the sticks press into your thumbs most of the time you play. Surprisingly perhaps, this isn’t usually a problem; but if you hold down either L3 or R3 while moving (most likely by running in Call of Duty), it can soon start to become uncomfortable.

I for one was willing to forgive this, because the sticks are otherwise better than those on the DualShock. While not quite as lovely as the 360 pad, the dead zones and general ‘tightness’ of the sticks are noticeably superior to those of Sony’s controller. In fact, such was the difference, I felt confident enough to significantly increase the stick sensitivity for Battlefield: Bad Company 2 from that which I’d settled on since release.

There is, however, a slight issue with the face buttons; which require a little more ‘oomf’ than those on the DualShock. Ninety nine times out of a hundred there’s no problem, as you hit the buttons harder than you might think in the heat of the action anyway. That one time in a hundred however – when you hit the button a millisecond too quickly and/or apply 99.9% of the required pressure – is frustrating. This is most likely to happen for actions where a quick tap is all that’s normally required, for example reloading. You do adapt to this, but you shouldn’t really have to.

You naughty, naughty thing.

Of more concern are the shoulder buttons (L1 and R1 by default, but the flip switch changes that). The angle that they’re set at, and the way that they slope, mean that you need to press them at the outer edges (where they’re raised from the body of the controller the most) to guarantee that your input is registered. In short, they don’t always work, and you can’t just let your finger naturally slide straight back in a straight line and press down as you can with the DualShock.

Now, if you’ve researched the HF-1 elsewhere, you may well have come across a veritable legion of criticism; mostly from consumers, sometimes from site reviewers as well. The vast majority of this criticism is centred on the dead zones and laggy input. After testing the HF-1 at length, I don’t doubt that these people are telling the truth; but I suspect that most – possibly all – of them relied on Black Ops to test the controller.

Black Ops was in fact the first game I tested the HF-1 with. All was fine and dandy to begin with; but after 30-40 minutes, the analogue sticks suddenly decided that they found me terribly boring, and wanted to do their own thing. Input lagged terribly, or didn’t seem to correspond with what I was telling the controller to do. My only choices were to a) turn the controller off then on again to reset the sticks, b) use it as a wired controller, which seems to eradicate the problem, or c) switch back to the DualShock. I encountered this issue every time I played, both online and offline.

I have a 60gb PS3 and so, curious at this bizarre software compatibility issue, I tried a PS2 FPS (No One Lives Forever). Same problem; everything fine for about half an hour, then both analogue sticks became mischievous little scamps.

Just in case you didn't know how a USB cable works.

A few hours after writing what I thought was the final draft of this piece, I experienced exactly the same problems in Modern Warfare 2 – despite several lengthy play sessions where the controller worked perfectly. It would seem that in order to guarantee consistent performance across all games, you’ll need to resign yourself to a USB lead – rendering the wireless option somewhat pointless. Presumably, it’s the fact that the HF-1 uses bluetooth rather than infra-red that’s causing the problems.

Finally, it’s important to note that the HF-1 does not feature sixaxis control, making it unsuitable as a permanent replacement controller for all games. There are thankfully few FPS games at time of writing that force you to make use of sixaxis, and certainly none that I’d urge you to run out and buy. The only two I can think of that I’ve played are Killzone 2 (sorry, I just find the Killzone games boring) and Resistance: Fall of Man, which told me to shake my controller like an angry child when my character was set on fire.

If the DualShock is a dowdy yet reliable & ever-loving lady/man, then the HF-1 is their sexy, flirty sibling. You’ll want to get hands-on with HF-1 as soon as you see it/him/her; but be prepared for this dirty flirt to slap you often – and not always in a nice way.

The HF-1 was tested with PS3 firmware version 3.60. It requires two AA batteries (not included) for wireless play; two mid-range alkaline batteries will last roughly half as long as a fully charged DualShock.

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He’s the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you’ll find something he’s written in there.

Luke doesn’t have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

10 comments

  1. MaiJar Nelson. /

    Good review but slightly spoilt by some lazy writing. You used a hackneyed phrase that doesn’t fit just because you wanted to say elephant in the room…

    “Yes, the military flavoured elephant in the room here is that the HF-1 seems to have been modelled on the official 360 controller.”

    The fact is that Giotech deliberately modelled it on the 360 controller, and PS3 owners who buy it will be doing so for that reason of having the thumbsticks more intelligently spread.

    I actually bought one. Because the DS3 is uncomfortable.It felt lovely to touch. But exactly like you experienced with the buttons, for me the X button, sometimes I had to press extra hard for a response. It was as if the rubber button hadn’t been glued to the circuit underneath properly. I took it back to retailer for an exchange but they had no replacement. I guess it must be a design/production fault. However if I see it cheap I will get another one because it was comfortable!

  2. “As anybody who owns all three machines knows ,Sony’s PS3 DualShock – while a perfectly good joypad – is a few small steps behind the Xbox 360 and Wii controllers in terms of precision. ”

    Bollocks . Could guys like you please stop passing your personal opinions and preferences as facts ?

    The pad is fine , perfect for some people , crappy for others , just ok for some others .
    Same goes for the 360 pad .

    It’s a matter of personal preference .

    • Luke K /

      As everybody knows, you are wrong and have excessively large elbows.

      • Steve123 /

        As everybody knows, preference cannot be deemed right or wrong – and as everyone can tell from this remark, you’re arrogance clearly isn’t stylistic of your journalistic demeanor. You’re just a prick.

  3. Tashy P /

    That d-pad is god awful! Why do gamepad designers always seem to FAIL at it lol.

    Nintendo seems to be the only ones that do it right nowadays ffs.

    http://img.gamestation.co.uk/images/hubs/3DS/images/d_pad.jpg

    • Luke K /

      While I’ve never come across a d-pad as good as Nintendo’s (they own the rights to the design), I actually quite like the HF-1 d-pad. It’s chunky, but responsive; personally, I’ve never had any problems with it.

  4. Statix /

    The reviewer of this controller is full of it. The official Sony controllers have ZERO built-in deadzone, so how can you possibly say this Gioteck has “superior deadzone?” By all accounts that I’ve read on the internet and reviews of the Gioteck controllers, the analog sticks have HORRIBLE deadzone. Everyone who sounds the least bit credible says the same thing regarding the deadzone of the analog sticks and how it adversely affects FPS gaming.

    And just because you prefer or are used to the 360 controller doesn’t mean the PS3 controller sucks. If this Gioteck is really so incredibly superior like you claim it is, and the PS3 controller so woefully inadequate, then why aren’t people running out in droves to purchase this Gioteck? I mean, the PS3 controller is so poor and uncomfortable and millions of PS3 fans are so dissatisfied; you’d think Gioteck would’ve sold a million-plus units of their controller already, right?

  5. Statix /

    And no, I will not “grudgingly admit” that the 360 controller has the superior “joypad.” Simply because I absolutely, 100% do not agree with this statement. I’ve been a joystick user and playing of FPS on consoles for many years, and I’ve had experience with all sorts and models of first-party and 3rd-party controllers, and I’ve always held the opinion that the PS3 controller has superior analog sticks, with the perfect amount of tension, a greater range of motion, and little-to-no deadzone area (i.e., precision) compared to the 360’s analog sticks. The PS3 sticks simply feel smoother and more precise, at least in my humble opinion.

    It’s not that I’m a fanboy who things the PS3 controller is 100% perfect either; I find the offset analog layout of the 360 controller, as well as the overall shape, to offer more grip and handle and overall ergonomics than the PS3 controller. The 360 controller also has superior triggers. So I do completely acknowledge that both controllers have their respective pros and cons, and am not just a PS3 zealot who defends everything with the Sony logo on it. I’ve been a joystick and gamepad user for a very long time, and I have very strong opinions as to what makes a good controller.

    • Luke K /

      I’ll now happily admit that the number of people who have experience with both controllers yet prefer the PS3 joypad is greater than I thought. And I never said that the DualShock was “woefully inadequate” or “poor and uncomfortable”. It is none of these things; I LIKE the DualShock. It is however my honest opinion that the HF-1 units are better for FPS games.

  6. “As anybody who owns all three machines knows, Sony’s PS3 DualShock – while a perfectly good joypad – is a few small steps behind the Xbox 360 and Wii controllers in terms of precision.”

    As anybody who reads Critical Gamer knows, Critical Gamer doesn’t know its s**t half as well as it thinks it does. Perhaps if it stopped accepting handjobs from Microsoft’s marketing departments it would be a little less deluded about the Xbox’s supposed superiority.

    The above statement is utter nonsense. Don’t mistake opinion for fact – journalism rule #1.

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