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Splitfish FragFX Shark preview: elegant weapon for a more civilized age


Perhaps you don't like playing first-person shooters on consoles, because you think controls can't get any better than a keyboard and mouse. Or maybe you won't play first-person shooters on the PC because you're worried about the price of hardware upkeep. Splitfish hopes to cater to both possibilities with its FragFX Shark controller combo.

Gallery: Splitfish FragFX Shark prototype -- First hands-on! | 11 Photos

The packaging bills it as a "competition-style FPS mouse combo controller," yet I see it more as an effort to cross that great divide. Think about how long you've championed the respective control scheme of your preferred platform. Is there really no room for improvement? Can you not learn or adapt in some way to the controls of "those guys?" Because of how much it crams into the package, the Shark honestly feels like the best of both worlds.

In the right hand, you've got a mouse with face buttons on the left side. In the left hand, you've got a wireless controller that feels like the Nintendo Nunchuk, albeit boasting more buttons. But a lot of these buttons handle functionality for the unit as a whole -- the custom button mapping, stick swapping, rapid fire and "macro" functionality.

Macro is kind of a misleading term. This particular feature lets users set a gesture-based command inside of the combo controller. For example, when playing Modern Warfare 2 (the only game available to test the unit with) I set it to handle melee attacks, but it could be used to set grenade throws or, well, anything. So yeah, there's an accelerometer jammed in there too.

You'd think that with the limited real estate and all of these buttons, nubs and whatchamacallits crammed in there, it'd feel like a crowded mess, but it really doesn't. With three large shoulder buttons on top of the combo controller (one handles the button remapping, so it's not in constant use), the left hand is more than capable of handling everything on the combo controller. And because of the placement of the buttons on the left side of the mouse, the right thumb easily reaches those. In terms of functionality, it gets the job done and doesn't feel too overbearing.

Don't get me wrong: there's definitely a learning curve here and it's steep, but after overcoming that, this control method proves itself as one of the more responsive ways to play an FPS on the console. It's certainly not for everyone, but I feel like the custom button mapping and device design, as well as the hardware sensitivity customization on top of in-game sensitivity settings, offer a depth of control you can't simply get on your stock controller. You can do drop shots much quicker with this than with a controller, users can tweak different rapid fire settings outside of just a turbo toggle switch (rapid fire sniper rifle, anyone?) and create a completely custom control scheme playing to their own individual strengths or weaknesses, provided you're a righty.

The Splitfish FragFX Shark controller is available starting today for an MSRP of $89.99.

Gallery: Splitfish FragFX Shark | 3 Photos

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