HKS Racing Controller by EAGLE3 review thread

Discussion in 'GT Resource Center' started by clacksman, Nov 29, 2010.

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  1. clacksman

    clacksman Licensed Racer

  2. clacksman

    clacksman Licensed Racer

    Here's nuTTTz with his impressions of the upcoming product:

    You know, it has been a long wait for Gran Turismo 5, and through the kindness of EAGLE3 that last couple of weeks was seemingly the longest. After all, it was enough anticipation to drive most of us nuTTTz waiting for the game alone. But what if you are sitting on something new, something incredibly creative, built specifically with GT5 in mind, but you have to wait to really try it? I was fortunate enough to be in that very position, and let me tell you, it was really worth the wait! What I am talking about is the new HKS racing controller from EAGLE3. The most creative controller design for console racing to hit the market, EVER!
    Seen here, https://eagl3.com/product/view/hks_racing_controller

    Initial impressions upon opening the box were very pleasing. Taking the HKS Racing Controller in hand was even moreso. Right away the texture on the backside of the unit was noticeable, a matte black plastic finish that seems to almost feel soft to the touch. Something I had only seen previously on high end joysticks. Knowing right away that sweaty hands would not see the controller sliding from my grip was only the first of several pleasing discoveries. It is somewhat lighter than the standard PS3 controller, due I'm sure to the lack of internal batteries, but a nice long 10 foot cable more than makes up for any lack of wireless abilities. Having this new HKS controller in hand, but no GT5 yet gave me an opportunity to test it out on a few other titles in advance and get a feel for how it handles and responds.

    My first test was on Ferrari Challenge, a title known to be very hard even for wheel users. Right away the advantages of the new steering and throttle controls became apparent. Correcting a sliding rear end is much easier with the thumb wheel than a joystick, and the amount of over-correcting which usually led to spin outs was very drastically reduced, steering control seems much more precise. Even more dramatic, the new throttle and brake levers. Yes, levers. No mere pressure sensitive buttons, two hinged spring loaded levers for throttle and brake. What was great to feel is the amount of spring tension. It was not a light feel, yet it does not feel too heavy. Add to that a full digital incremental display, suddenly you are working with levels of braking and throttle control previously only possible with a racing wheel. With the throttle lever sitting higher than the brake lever, it promotes a very natural feeling heel-toe like action by simply rolling your thumb over to the left. Very well thought out, and offers level of control far and above any mere controller.

    Having been so impressed by the level control available to me playing FC I had completely forgotten to try the buttons on the back of the HKS Controller. One for switching the one remaining joystick between left and right stick mode, the other was even more clever. Labeled RACE MODE NFS/GT this switch changes the throttle function from the new "levers" to the shoulder buttons. This is a great option, and will allow everyone to instantly, seamlessly switch modes, even in the middle of a race.

    Next on the test list was F12010. How the steering would respond in a super fast and twitchy F1 car was were my attention was focused with this title. Immediately I was impressed with the recoverability the rolling steering control offered. Small recoveries are just that, and over corrections were minimal, helped in no small part by an accurate recentering spring that does not bounce out of center when the wheel is suddenly released from full lock in either direction.

    The mapping feature of any game will also be enhanced by the "macro" function available. It allows you to change the function of any button for another by simply hitting the macro button, hitting the button you wish to change function of, then hitting the button with the function you want. So far impressed by all aspects of this new wonder controller GT5 could not arrive soon enough. When it finally did, the HKS Racing Controller continued to impress. In the process of the learning the new GT5 physics the HKS controller really began to shine. The level of steering control required for GT5 is easily matched by the controllability of the thumbwheel. Minute steering inputs that are crucial for smooth driving in poor grip conditions are done almost as easily as with my racing wheel. Running the Lotus in the second stage of the TOP GEAR event it became clear the "drifters" would be some of the happiest to get this controller. Popping the Lotus into a slow long tail slide going into the first left at the start the thumbwheel accuracy allowed me to countersteer the slow slide and not only maintain a gentle angle of attack, between the enhanced throttle control and the thumbwheel I was able to increase and decrease the angle of attack at will on my very FIRST attempt at that challenge. Rolling gently over to the brake while maintaining throttle, steering the car back straight and settling it into a stable braking maneuver was completely doable without any frantic or excess inputs.

    I have been using the new HKS Racing Controller now for probably 10 hours or so in GT5, and would very much prefer, and recommend it over a standard controller.
    In keeping with the HKS theme, my first "good car" purchase was the HKS EVO Hipermax CT230R, and my sights were set on the Nurburgring. The car was as impressive as the controller, and together they are an incredibly fun combination. Throwing the tail out a little and powering your way out of corners is fun as hell when you have the right controllability. I am impressed, and will be purchasing one myself for use whenever a wheel just isn't the best choice. For those who don't have the budget, or room for a wheel setup, this controller should be considered a must have. Every once in awhile something comes along that is a game changer in its particular field, the HKS Racing Controller is that very piece of equipment all PS3 racing enthusiasts will want in their arsenal.

    The TPRA and myself would to thank EAGLE3 for their generosity and the incredible opportunity to preview this new controller for you. In order to be fair, thorough and unbiased I will play the crap out of GT5 with the HKS controller until Monday, at which time I will bregrudgingly:) send it along to another TPRA member for further review.

    Our goal is to provide you several opinions from different members so you get the best possible analysis.
    Thank You, Good Luck and happy GT5'ing
    nuTTTz


    Thanks nuTTTz! :sHa_thumb2: Stay tuned for more reviews. :sHa_clap:
     
  3. clacksman

    clacksman Licensed Racer

    I got a chance for a review on this as well. :sHa_biggrin:

    Initial impressions

    What's this? A controller designed just for driving? Interesting.

    I was pretty handy with a normal DS3 during GT5Prologue until I got a G25 wheel. No doubt I'm a bit rusty as I hadn't used a controller to drive outside Grand Theft Auto (and a few demos of other race games) since getting the G25, but I had used controllers in GT since GTs' release in 1998 so it's not as if I'll have forgotten entirely.

    Design

    With no battery or Bluetooth inside this controller, it's tangibly lighter than a DS3. At 3m (~9'10" for you imperial types) the cord is nice and long. Other than a little spring noise heard from the X and Square (throttle and brake) buttons with no background noise to cover it there's no impressions of cheapness about this device. The plastic seams line up very well, screws on the back are inset into chamfered recesses, and the decals are smoothly applied. I don't know if the red colouring on the face is molded in or a coating but it looks good however it was done.

    The steering 'wheel' inset into the left side is a duplicate for the left-right motion of the left (L3) stick (which is still present). This moves the D-pad to what would normally be the right (R3) stick location, if you use the D-pad to navigate around GT5s' clunky menus you're going to be a bit lost when you first use this. The R2 and L2 buttons have much less travel than the like buttons a standard DS3, but you won't be using those for accel/brake with this thing so that reduced travel may be an improvement if you use them for shifting or anything else.

    Compatibility

    I had some issues with getting this product to work at all. I had to not only switch my lone DS3 to 'off' but I had to move it to position 2 first. I also could not have my USB keyboard plugged in (that would downgrade text chatting) but I don't think too many people use a Merc Stealth as a PS3 keyboard.

    Performance

    Trying this out in some random low-level A-spec races I was a bit lost to start as I hadn't used X and square for throttle and brake since I bought a DualShock sometime before 2000 (my PlayStation was an early enough version the DualShock wasn't out yet). With DS3, I had used R3-forward for throttle and L2 for brake for about a year before getting the G25 wheel, that year enveloping my maximum speed and overall competence racing GT5P online with various crowds.
    With a modicum of competence established in my right thumb, off I went to a real venue for testing. License tests.

    Having golded all the licenses in GT5 with my G25 wheel (and taken notes of how many tries gold took), I decided to try this controller in the "b" (first) licenses in GT5 to see how I went. The b licenses took me about 90 minutes (with a lunch break and a course maker trial in the middle) to gold with G25 on the first day I had GT5, I'm one of those people who don't move on until gold is achieved. Same theory in use with HKS controller.

    b-1: two tries with wheel, five with HKS
    b-2: two tries with wheel, same with HKS
    b-3: first try with wheel, second with HKS
    b-4: five tries with wheel, three with HKS
    b-5: four tries with wheel, same with HKS

    Here's where I stumble a bit.
    b-6: 5 tries with wheel for gold, 10 with HKS to get silver (boo, not gold)
    I used the regular DS3 to try to gold this, I got about the same silver time as with HKS controller in ten tries. Three more tries back with the HKS and I reset my best single non-wheel time with it, but I'm more consistently close to the gold minimum with DS3. I'll call this rusty thumbs in general.

    Moving on, back to golding before continuing.
    b-7: two tries with wheel, seven with HKS
    b-8: two tries with wheel, six with HKS
    b-9: first try with wheel, third with HKS
    b-10: first try with wheel, second with HKS

    So, not too bad for having done no competitive controllerrolling since mid-June 2010 when I got my G25. A couple tests where I golded with fewer tries using HKS controller than it had taken me with wheel, and one notable failure to gold using either controller available to me.

    There's a learning curve to good steering, throttle and brake control with this. The range of action on throttle and brake isn't quite the same as range of motion because you're at 100% brake and/or throttle before the button is fully depressed, and it takes a bit of travel to get past 0% into the action range.
    There's also a slight no-action spot at the center of the steering 'wheel' which you have to get past before steering happens. The self-centering action of the steering 'wheel' is a bit stronger than a DS3 L3 stick near center, and it lightens up as you get farther from center.

    Conclusion

    I can't say this is a product I'd buy, as I have a good wheel and station. I can't say this product doesn't have issues, as detailed in the last paragraph.
    However I still went faster with this than a standard DS3 despite the noted issues and not having a well-trained right thumb to work the throttle and brake.
    Now that this is available in many places, anyone hesitant to get a wheel for any reason and finding the DS3 or Sixaxis lacking for playing GT5 should check one of these out somewhere.

    :sHa_biggrin:
     
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