While you’re wondering how to pronounce HF-2 (“Is it HF-HF or HFF?”), I suggest you take a look at what I made of the HF-1. The two models are largely identical, the main differences being firmware related. For those of you who can’t be bothered to click the link – that’ll be all of you, I imagine – a brief summary of most of the basics:
Based on the design of the official Xbox 360 joypad, the analogue sticks on the HF controllers are positioned differently from those on the DualShock, and feature concave tops. There are only two regular shoulder buttons, as L2 and R2 are FPS-friendly triggers. The ‘flipswitch’ on the underside of the pad swaps the functions of L1 and R1 with L2 and R2, allowing you to make the triggers the default ‘iron sight’ and ‘shoot’ buttons for most FPS games.
There’s a Turbo function if you’re into that sort of thing, and the controllers work by bluetooth – no dongle required. The main body of the HF unit is sturdy (but light) and comfortable to hold, even for gaming sessions that go on longer than they should. If you want to play wirelessly, you’ll need two AA batteries; though you can use the HFs as wired controllers if you wish. Okay, that’s you lazy tykes mostly up to speed, but wait! There’s more to come.
There were three problems I had with the HF-1. One was that the nubs which give the top of the analogue sticks the appearance of reticules would sometimes dig into my large, powerful thumbs when pressing and holding L3 or R3. This I found easy to forgive, as it wasn’t a constant problem and there was plenty to like about the controller (plus, eventually, my thumbs got used to this gentle abuse like an awkward teenage boy mocked on a regular basis by a beautiful girl).
Another, much more serious problem was that the bluetooth connectivity would sometimes become unreliable – or would stop working completely – for no apparent reason, especially when playing Black Ops (I never found out exactly why). I’m happy to report that I’ve not experienced this problem even once with the HF-2, despite having tested it under the same conditions as the HF-1. I can only presume that, by accident or by design, this is due to the aforementioned fiddling with the firmware (more on which shortly).
The third problem, and the greatest irritant for me personally, related to the shoulder buttons (L1 and R1 without using the flipswitch). Unlike the DualShock equivalents, they are set into the unit at an angle. Not a problem in itself; but for whatever reason, you can not guarantee that your input will be registered unless you press these buttons at the point where they are raised from the unit the most. This point is opposite the end aligned with the trigger (L2/R2 without using the flipswitch).
What this means, basically, is that if you pull your finger back in a straight line from (for example) R2 and then press R1, there’s only a 50/50 chance that the joypad will grudgingly admit that you’ve pushed the button. You need to re-educate your gaming instincts to presume R1 to be a few centimetres to the right of R2 and, yes, this same problem is present in the HF-2. Also as with the HF-1, each of the buttons requires exactly one smidgen of extra pressure (compared to those on the DualShock) in order to work. This, thankfully, is only noticeable on the rarest of occasions.
The way the HF-2 really distinguishes itself from the HF-1, however, is its ability to interact with something called ‘the internet’. This interaction is twofold but before we get onto that, let’s start at the very beginning. First, you’ll need the relevant software for your Windows PC. This is not (as you may expect) on a CD packaged with the controller, but must instead be downloaded from Gioteck’s website. Here’s a direct link to the page you need. The good news is, the software only requires a negligible amount of hard drive space, and is incredibly easy to use.
The bad news is, physically connecting the controller to your PC isn’t as straightforward as you might expect. I plugged one end of the USB cable provided into the HF-2, and the other end into my PC. I thought that was all that was required of me. Oh, what a naïve young(ish) fool I was! The HF-2 program refused to admit that my controller was there, and it wasn’t until carefully examining the page I downloaded the software from that I found out why.
Quote: “Whilst holding down R3 and SELECT insert the mini USB connector into the mini USB port of your HF2”. Yes; press R3 and Select simultaneously, and then plug in the USB cable while still holding down both buttons. It was a vaguely amusing, though somewhat unexpected, challenge. I felt a bit like somebody auditioning for Britain’s Got Talent. You know; one of the ones with no hope of going through, but making enough of a fool of himself to justify brief inclusion in the TV broadcast.
With that job done (a small pang of disappointment in my heart that nobody was present to witness my triumph), I sat down to the firmware updater itself. The HF-2, you see, is the first third-party controller to be future proofed against PS3 firmware updates. It works perfectly fine with the latest firmware at time of writing, so no update is currently available/necessary; but it’s nice to know that the option’s there.
The second function of the firmware updater is to adjust the thumbstick sensitivity. You have a grand total of… er… two settings to choose from. ‘Normal’ (the default setting) and ‘High’. Thumbstick sensitivity is all down to personal preference – plus virtually all FPS games nowadays allow you to adjust it in-game anyway – but personally, I found the higher setting to take advantage of the HF’s superior sticks much more.
Yes the HF-2, as (of course) with the HF-1 before it, has analogue sticks that are a huge improvement on those of the DualShock. The dead zones and physical quality of the sticks themselves gave me much more confidence in aiming and moving, to the point where I was happy with higher sensitivities. In fact, after spending so much time with the HF units, I literally can not go back to the DualShock for FPS games. Sony’s official option now feels… wrong to me. The continued lack of SixAxis support, not to mention the continued problems with the shoulder buttons, means it’s still not suitable as a permanent replacement across all genres though.
If there’s ever an HF-3, I really hope they sort out those shoulder buttons. SixAxis support would be nice, as would a rechargeable lithium battery. As it stands however, the HF-2 is a great choice for anybody looking for an FPS specific PS3 pad.
Just bear those damn shoulder buttons in mind.