Rarely do you come about a piece of hardware that you not only dislike but would willingly throw away a week after purchase - but this is the undeniable case with the Thrustmaster Firestorm Three Dual Analogue PC controller. Behind the bafflingly long-winded name is an even more bafflingly atrocious gamepad, one which lacks both style and substance. But is there anything good to be said about the controller?
To be fair to Thrustmaster, they have managed to create a very affordable option for PC users looking to indulge in computer gaming for the first time. Complete with all the buttons necessary to work with today's games (with a USB connection and compatible out of the box with games as new as FIFA 12) compatibility is not an issue at all. What's more, at around ten pounds, you can't be expecting miracles. Insofar as it works out of the box, is plug-and-play and works with most games, this pad succeeds.
It's a shame, then, that it fails in just about every other way. Take the design, for instance. The controller is far from aesthetically pleasing; it's a hulking mass of plastic which is both uncomfortable to hold and infuriating to use. With long arms reminiscent of the original Playstation controllers (and the awful prototype PS3 controller which made its rounds over the internet) and confusing 'grips' to the rear of the controller, the pad destroys the thought of 'ergonomic' hardware and is about as functional as a hammer made of jelly.
This could be forgiven if the controller functioned on its other levels, but even this is sorely lacking. All of the buttons you know, love and indeed need make it onto the pad (including the LT, LB, RT, RB / L1, L2, R1, R2 buttons) though their placement is nothing short of baffling. Granted, the four face buttons are found in the normal place, but they are domed pieces of plastic, all of the same colour; this means NO markings of any sort. No 360-esque colours or PS-esque squares, triangles and such. This focus on 'functionality' over form continues with the D-pad and analogue sticks. The D-pad is simply awful; tapping left invariably triggers up and basically any movement you intend to make with it will not function as you wish.
More disappointingly, the two analogue sticks are not concave (like a 360 controller) or good-quality, domed rubber ones like those on the PS2/3. Instead, they are two domed plastic nubbins offering no grip whatsoever. What's more, being placed together à la PS2 wouldn't be a problem if the pad wasn't so darn big. But it's massive, meaning that your hands are painfully outstretched throughout a whole gaming session. To add insult to injury, after mere weeks of use, the buttons stop working as they should. They not only stick under pressure, but become rock hard, meaning that a pass in FIFA gives your thumb a workout throughout an entire match. One of my friends would regularly stop mid-game, gaze it his pad's non-functional buttons then slam it across the ground in order to release the locked buttons for use.
But I am yet to get to the most atrocious design choice on the controller - because it does indeed get worse. Intending to buck the trend of accessible, functional, and unobtrusive 'start' and 'select' buttons, Thrustmaster thought it would be a good idea to place them on the rear of the controller...right on the 'ergonomic' hand grips. Picture the scene: you're losing 1-0, but are through on goal against a friend in the last minute of a tense bout of FIFA; you're one on one with the keeper and, carried away by the emotion of the occasion, you grip your pad for dear life...but no! You've clicked pause! After you've stopped cursing the pad's ridiculous design and gaped at your friend in disbelief, you click start again, and the goalkeeper's regained possession and killed off your attack. You weep onto the inadequate pad lying in your hands.
It may sound like a stream of exaggerated hyperbole but this review sums up the fury this pad will instil in you. Yes, it is low cost and yes, it is easy to plug-and-play, but in this day and (gaming) age, pads like this should no longer exist. The pad just doesn't deliver on any level: boring to look at, annoying to use and prone to failure after a mere few weeks' usage, this controller is disappointing even for the small amount you pay for it. The baffling design choices would be acceptable if the pad itself worked. But it doesn't. Unreliable, far from ergonomic and of a beastly size, this controller is to be avoided.
Neatly sidestepping any vibrator gags in the title, the Thrustmaster Firestorm Dual Power Gamepad, despite looking like a piece of early 90s tackmonger hardware, is actually one serious piece of kit. You are presented on initial impression with a mat black lump of plastic, covered in blue buttons with two control sticks - nothing too impressive and without further info. if you saw it in the shops, you'd no doubt pass it by for something which looks a little more professional. Well you would be WRONG to do so! The Firestorm Dual Power is a force feedback gamepad, which means that if you get a bump or a jolt in the game, you are going to get the same from the joypad - and its some jolt on this little beauty. In fact the motors are so strong that it comes with warnings on the packaging that prolonged play will 'hurt like hell' - and it does, believe me. Now, this may not sound like a good thing, but for those of us who use force feedback enabled products, there is nothing worse than flying into a wall at top speed and getting a little 'buzzing' effect in you hand - thats pointless. This lets you know you been in a collision! You can of course turn down the effects of this but that somewhat nullifies the point of buying it in the first place and you may as well opt for something cheaper without force feedback. All this aside, the pad itself is extremely well laid out. It has 10 buttons in all, 4 on the top, 4 at the front and two on the underside, which are all perfectly placed to be easily accessible. There are also three controllers which is somewhat of a novelty, two analogue sticks and one eight-directional 'pad'. All these feel extremely comfortable to use and well made, which is a trademark of Thrustmaster products anyway and although I have only tried it out on Final Fantasy VIII so far, it works like a charm. Overall then, if you are in the market for a gamepad then you really can not go wrong with
this one. Thrustmaster are reknowned for the quality of their products, so depite its RRP of £29.99, its well worth the investment. Plus, you`ll no doubt find it cheaper on the web anyway. for further info. and some screen shots see: http://www.thrustmaster.com