Splitfish FragFX Shark extended hands-on: good for Call of Duty and little else

Another year, another Splitfish FragFX controller, determined to bring the accuracy of a PC mouse to your frag sessions on PlayStation 3. This one, the FragFX Shark, boasts a thumb wheel to manually set your mouse sensor's dead zone, improved emulation algorithms and 50 hours of solid gameplay (and 500 hours standby) on a pair of AA batteries. As you might imagine, we weren't able to test the latter due to a little thing called work, but we spent a good number of hours putting the peripheral through Call of Duty, Dead Space, Killzone 2, The Club and more, and came away fairly disappointed. Find out exactly why after the break, and check out our gallery below.

Update: We've added a couple images of the final production units to our gallery below. %Gallery-106803%
First off, for a $90 controller, the FragFX Shark feels dirt-cheap. Sure, there's a six-axis motion sensing package in there, a pair of 2.4GHz radios, a USB dongle and more potential for customization than you can shake a stick at, but it's hard to get around the fact that the plastic groans, creaks and has rough edges along every seam (Update: Splitfish has informed us that the mouse we reviewed was constructed of prototype plastic, not the finished plastic.). What's more, the mouse has a surprisingly uncomfortable design -- it's got a scalloped, concave indent on the right that makes it easy to pick up, but very difficult to hold down on a nearby surface without constantly (and eventually, painfully) twisting one's wrist. By contrast, the FragChuck (as that's what the left-hand peripheral is called) does far better with a large, comfortable analog stick with the perfect amount of tension, the usual three triggers and a suite of customizable controls, but we have to wonder how Splitfish still hasn't managed to perfect the mouse.

By contrast, setup is a breeze, as all you have to do is plug in the USB dongle and switch both devices on, and we have to give the company props for the incredible speed at which you can customize controls on the fly using just the controllers themselves. Instead of mapping keys in a PC editor, you just hold down the Function and Select buttons, choose "Macro," "Button Remapping," "Rapid Fire" or "Stick Swap" from the directional pad, and then press the button on either controller that you'd like to adjust. Tap the left mouse button, then the right mouse button after a "Button Remapping" command, then approve the change with Function and Select again, and you've swapped the two buttons in five simple moves. The entire assembly works with PC and Mac by flipping a switch on the dongle, by the way, and the FragChuck makes a great substitute for WASD, but we quickly tired of finding the Shark to be the least comfortable mouse we owned.

We've been skirting the main problem with the FragFX Shark so far, but now we'll get straight to the point -- whether due to a sub-par infrared sensor or over-compensating algorithms, the mouse just isn't sensitive enough for most every game we tried. Though it worked wonders in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 where the game itself lets you set sensitivity to extremely high levels, every other game we tried wouldn't let us turn our character around to face a foe directly behind us without lifting the mouse off the surface multiple times, even with the dead zone wheel set to minimum and in-game sensitivity set to max. Bagging sniper headshots in Killzone 2 and dismembering bladed mutants in Dead Space from a distance was easier than it had ever been on a gamepad, sure, but it's all of little use in close-quarters combat or frenetic online shooters where you have to move from target to target quickly, and these days when every gaming mouse worth its salt lets you adjust DPI on the fly, we can't think of an excuse for such an tremendous oversight.

We can't speak for Engadget readers, but what we want is simple enough: a FragChuck with all the same features but an added USB port up top, so we can plug in a tried, trusted and true serious gaming mouse of our choice instead of the existing nonsense. But if you only want a controller for Call of Duty: Black Ops, the FragFX Shark might suit you well enough. You'll find it on sale today for $89.99.