Sunday, March 28, 2004

Logitech Dual Action Gamepad

Rating: 4 out of 5
Pros:Comfortable, fully featured controller, and the Logitech Profiler software is great Cons:No force feedback, directional pad can't be used with many games

Introduction.

After having tried a couple of bargain priced game pads, and not really finding what I was looking for, I decided to check out Logitech's Dual Action game pad. It was only twenty dollars, and it looked like a decent game pad for the price. I have had good luck with Logitech products in the past, so I was willing to bet that the Dual Action would also be good. I couldn't believe I actually found a decent game pad at a K-Mart store, as they carry very few computer products around here besides printers.

I was not mistaken. My opinion may be slightly biased after trying out the Saitek P150 and InterAct's AxisPad, but then again the Dual Action is a much better game pad while still retaining a low price. As an added bonus, it comes with a really handy piece of software called the Logitech Profiler, which allows you to use your game pad with games and programs that do not natively support a game pad.

Look & Feel.

At first glance, the Dual Action looks similar to a Dual Shock controller for the Sony Playstation. The only noticeable differences are the obviously different color (the Dual Action is a slate blue color), the lack of an analog selection button, and a differently shaped directional pad. Upon closer inspection, the Dual Action also does not contain any kind of force feedback, which is not that big of a minus, as many computer games do not support force feedback anyway.. there are a few, but not many when compared with the sheer number of titles available in total.

The Dual Action has all the same buttons apart from the mode button. There are 1, 2, 3, and 4 buttons where the Playstation controller would have Square, X, Circle, and Triangle. The Playstation's L1 and L2 buttons are replaced by buttons 5 and 7, while R1 and R2 are replaced by buttons 6 and 8. Buttons 9 and 10 take up the space where select and start buttons would be on the Playstation controller. There are also two analog sticks on the Dual Action, both of which can also be pressed and used as buttons.

Personally, I think that the Dual Action game pad is a little bit more comfortable to hold than the Sony Dual Shock, though they are very similar in design.. and I do mean very similar. The hand holds on the Dual Action are just a tiny bit wider, and they are contoured so that they slope towards the outside of the controller. This makes it really comfortable to grip and hold on to. It also feels as though there is a hair more room on the back side of the controller, so my fingers do not always feel like they are smashed like they do with the Playstation controller.

The Dual Action is a little bit lighter than the Dual Shock Playstation controller, but like I said, it has no force feedback. That means that it lacks the motors and weights that are present on each side of the Dual Shock. The Logitech Dual Action feels really durable and well made. It is sturdy, comfortable, and does not rattle around when you shake it.

The cord is about six feet long, giving you plenty of room to move around. Or, if you are like me, plenty of room to feed the cord up through the back of your computer desk, so that it can sit on the shelf under the monitor when not in use. When I pull it out, I have three or four feet of slack to play with, and I do tend to use it while I squirm back and forth while playing a game.

Profiler.

The Profiler is a rather nifty piece of software. It allows you to map keyboard or mouse commands to game pad buttons. Just type in a name for a command, and hit record. Press whatever keyboard or mouse buttons you want, and hit stop. Assign that command to a button on the game pad, and you can use the game pad for games that do not natively support it.

It don't stop with just games though. The short tutorial that comes with the Profiler lets you use your game pad in Microsoft Notepad. You can assign a mouse axis to an analog stick, allowing you to control the mouse pointer with it. You could in theory use the Profiler to surf the web with your game pad, check your email, or even balance your check book.

The Profiler is really fully featured, and is one of the most handy programs that they could have possibly shipped with the controller. I gave it a pretty good test while playing Age of Empires Gold and Delta Force 2.

Age of Empires Gold worked pretty good using the left analog stick in place of the mouse, with buttons 1 and 2 set as the left and right mouse buttons. Since Age of Empires Gold is a game that makes heavy use of the mouse, this was more than good enough to play. It will, however, take a few minutes to get used to, as a joystick does not handle the same as a mouse does.

My only qualm about the Profiler came while trying to play Delta Force 2. I noticed that it does not seem to handle the directional pad very well. When I set the directional pad to work the same as the arrow keys, then loaded up Delta Force 2, it was really hard to walk around. My character kept stopping and not walking correctly, jerking his way forward in glitchy steps instead of walking smoothly like he does with the real arrow keys.

You can make your own commands to assign to various buttons, but it is usually easier to download a ready-made profile from the Logitech web site. For a few hundred kilobytes, you can download a ton of profiles that are ready to go, just load it up and assign the ready-made commands to your game pad keys, and start your game.

My Experience.

I found the Dual Action to be a pretty good game pad. I am really happy with it, and will be using it for a while now. Maybe it is because my last couple of inexpensive game pads did not perform as well as I would have liked, or maybe it is simply because the Logitech Dual Action is a good game pad. Regardless, it has earned itself a place on my computer desk.

The only thing I did not like about it, was the directional pad. I loaded up Grand Theft Auto 2, and went to customize my keys, only to find out that the directional pad could not be used at all. The Dual Action seems to automatically trade the directional pad for the left analog stick instead. Fine, but in Grand Theft Auto 2, an analog stick don't quite work the same as a directional pad does. Setting left and right on the stick to turn, up to move forward, and back to reverse.. since pushing up on the joystick always ends up pushing up, as well as a tiny bit to either side, my character would only walk or drive in circles when I tried to move. Not good. Easily fixed however, by making two of the action buttons work for forward and reverse, and using the analog stick only for turning.

I fared a bit better while playing F-16 Multirole Fighter and Comanche 4 however. Since both of these games use joysticks by default, the analog stick on the game pad worked pretty well. I did have problems, but it was with the games and not the joystick, as neither game would allow me to customize my game pad keys. I could move with the joystick, or shoot with a couple of buttons, but the rest I had to use the keyboard for. The Profiler came in great here, I used it to set the remaining keys to work and didn't have any more problems.

Of the games I tried with the Dual Action, there were ready-made profiles available for Age of Empires Gold, F-16 Multirole Fighter, Delta Force 2, and Comanche 4. Games which had no profiles ready were Armored Fist 3, and Grand Theft Auto 2, though the original Grand Theft Auto did have one.

Other Stuff.

The Logitech Dual Action is PC and Mac compatible. For a PC, it requires a Pentium processor or compatible, 64 MB of RAM, 20 MB of hard drive space, a CD-ROM drive, a USB port, and Microsoft Windows 98, ME, 2000 or XP.

Apple Macintosh requirements are a Macintosh computer with a USB port, Mac OS 9 or Mac OSX v10 or later.

The package contains the Dual Action game pad, as well as an installation guide, and a gaming software CD-ROM that contains the Logitech Profiler software. The Dual Action also comes with a 1 year limited warranty.

Conclusion.

I am really happy with my purchase of the Logitech Dual Action game pad. If I ever decide to get another game pad, I will certainly remember this game pad and look at Logitech first. I will probably purchase a second one of these, for use with my other computer, as that computer is setup for my little brothers to play games on.

If you need an inexpensive game pad with some quality, I would suggest the Logitech Dual Action. If you don't need analog sticks, or very many buttons, you could also check out the Saitek P150. It is half the price, with half the features. Still, I think the Dual Action is a better deal.

I would recommend this game pad more for games that can be played easily with the analog stick. With the directional pad issues, it is really hard to play with it, and it is the sole reason I am not giving the Logitech Dual Action five stars. A great game pad over all, I will not be looking to replace it any time soon. Unless, of course, I upgrade to another Logitech game pad with force feedback.

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