MS Sidewinder Dual Strike

MS gamepad reviewed

- MicrosoftPrice - about £40

System Requirements -   P166 or equivalent   Spare USB port   16Mb RAM   10 Mb Hard Drive space   Microsoft Windows 98

Getting Started

Gamepads and joysticks have become compulsory tools for the true gamer, with a joystick or gamepad for almost every genre. But there has been a shortage of gamepads designed for first-person shooters .. until now.

Microsoft has released a new gamepad in their "SideWinder" series, specially designed for first person shooters and action-adventure games. As with most Microsoft gamepads, this one is very well designed, comfortable to hold, and extremely easy to install.

Plug the gamepad into your USB port, restart your computer, and just run the CD that comes along with the gamepad. Be sure to have the Windows 98 CD available during the install, because this gamepad requires a few files from it.

After that you're all set to go. Of course, you have to calibrate and configure it first, but you'll do that in a jiff...

First Impressions

I consider myself a veteran gamer, and especially with first person shooters.

Because of this, I have become very attached to playing with the keyboard and mouse combination. I have tried out a bunch of joysticks and gamepads which promised to replace the mouse and keyboard, but unfortunately none of them did. Usually I am sceptical towards controllers designed specially for first person shooters, but I decided to give Microsoft's Dual Strike a try.

It's a very comfortable device which fits right into your hands (like a glove), and basically there is a button for everything you will ever need in a first-person shooter. The Dual Strike's unique feature though is that the right side can be twisted around. In theory this enchances precision movements like aiming and firing, while the left hand controls agility and movements like running and sidestepping.

The Dual Strike comes with it's own configuration tool called SideWinder Central, which places itself in the system tray and is easy to reach. Included with SideWinder Central are 20 pre-defined game schemes for your favorite games.After I had installed the pad I was eager to try it out, so I loaded up a few of my favourite games...

Quake 3 Arena

The gamepad was horrible in this game at first, as it was very difficult to configure. No Quake 3 scheme comes with this gamepad, so I chose the Quake II scheme, which proved to be impossible to steer.

I decided to try out the "Unreal" scheme instead, and suddenly it was a whole different feeling, and much easier to steer. It was completely different from my usual mouse / keyboard combination and felt rather "unfamiliar", but after I had played for an hour I learned to play with it, and even managed to pull off some advanced tricks.

Unreal Tournament

After I played Quake 3 for a couple of hours I decided to fire up Unreal Tournament and try the gamepad out with that.

Although movement went pretty smoothly it was impossible to aim with the gamepad. It was pointless to use weapons such as the sniper rifle with it, because by the time you have taken aim your opponent has already killed you.

Urban Chaos

I was interested to try out the gamepad with a third person game too, so I loaded up Mucky Foot's third person action-adventure game, Urban Chaos.

The "Unreal" scheme wasn't too good in this game, and I couldn't find any other scheme which worked any better. I couldn't configure the game properly either, as there were a couple of buttons which I couldn't bind.

I had to play with the default settings (which were pretty lousy), but I didn't have too many problems with movement, combat etc. After a while it was comfortable to use the gamepad for this game, and despite the configuration problems combat was fairly easy.

Conclusion

With a comfortable and beautiful design, the Dual Strike is one of the better gamepads around. But it is still very hard to use in some first person shooters, such as Unreal Tournament, especially when it comes to aiming.

Unfortunately, I found it too hard to play with this gamepad, no doubt because I've played with the mouse and keyboard for way too long to change. If you're new to the first person shooter genre though, I certainly recommend that you try this gamepad out.

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7 /10

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