The First Real Evolution of the 360 Controller? A Look at the Razer Onza - eyros2k Blog -
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The First Real Evolution of the 360 Controller? A Look at the Razer Onza

For all the MadCatz, Pelican and GENERIC controllers I've sampled over the years, I have never found one that actually made any real steps forward. Nothing worth spending even half the price of a 1st party controller for.

I'm not sure of the coverage this device has gotten on Game Informer up to this point, but I picked up on the Razer Onza browsing a CES 2010 wrap-up site early last month. Check out this video from the show to see some of the features hands on (2:27-4:26).

First impressions

Take a look at the finish on the controller. You know that powder smooth finish all the Razer mice have? Oh yeah, that's the good stuff right there. That magical finish is somehow able to decrease sweaty-hand syndrome (and thus the crude that it inevitably leaves behind), and maintain the perfect level of friction.

The joysticks appear to be elongated, which means more travel distance, resulting in more deliberate and precise movements. See KontrolFreek.

The D-pad certainly looks different. It's obvious to see the independent buttons for each direction. One wonders why this sort of thing wasn't done sooner. No more accidental diagonal presses.

Do I see two sets of bumpers? The Back and Start buttons have been moved too! More on that later.


Let's get it out of the way; everyone says the exact same thing, "Wired? PASS." When I play any game that requires twitch reflexes (pretty much anything outside of navigating menus and turn based games these days), I am sitting forward at the end of my bed, about 5-6 feet from the screen. The controller stays firmly planted, and through-traffic is not an issue. So, for me personally - a wire is nothing but saved batteries. The only time this would be a bad thing is during high attendance LAN parties in a small venue. Hopefully the people you play with are courteous enough to watch their step. I’m not sure the supposed decrease in input lag from a hard-line is worth mentioning. I've never felt cheated by the wireless controllers of this generation… but who knows; maybe I’ll be able to make those microsecond reaction shots some guys manage to make against me.

Adjustable joystick tension… O-M-G. I have dreamt of this option on controllers for years, and it's finally come. I'm sure I'm not the only one to occasionally get over enthusiastic when making snap aiming adjustments. You're surprised by an enemy and try to quickly respond, but end up passing over your target… In high stakes multiplayer, that's likely to be a death sentence.

Even outside of competitive gaming, this level of precision is something we could all use. Mass Effect 2 - Besides the need to score headshots, how about every time you have your action wheel up and make a quick move to an ability but miss it by a hair and activate the wrong one? Not a big deal - but still a minor annoyance that this sort of thing could correct. How about Assassins Creed 2? The architecture makes for environments that have more than a few directions to string your free-runs. I have inadvertently run myself off of roofs at just the wrong angle more than a few times. End up missing my mark, resulting in heavy injury and usually a very sticky escape situation.

The D-Pad having actual separate buttons each direction just makes sense. The first 8 way D-Pad I remember was on the Sega Genesis, in the time before analog joysticks became a staple for console controllers. At that time it made sense, to give you a better sense of control in "3D" environments – to work as a joystick now does. But what is the D pad used for in the current generation? 95% of the time it’s for a single action – squad behavior settings, inventory selection. Most games only utilize the 4 directions, but for those that also use diagonals – it’s certainly no problem to press two with your thumb. Even beyond that, it just looks beautiful. Very aesthetically pleasing I must say.

Next, we've got the multi-function buttons. Most have seen this sort of thing before, the recent MadCatz MW2 controller being one example. However, unlike those before it, the Onza actually appears to be off to a good start! With sensible natural button placement – right between the existing bumpers and triggers - for someone like myself who uses a 1-finger trigger control method (index sits on triggers, and moves up to hit bumpers as needed), this seems like just a better utilization of space... and certainly makes more sense than tapping your ring finger on the back of the controller. Reload, change stance, weapon swap, jump - whatever you prefer -  without the need to move your right thumb from aiming to mashing a face button.

Lastly, the difference in the button placement, overall shape, and finish all appear to be good in theory as well. It’s tough to comment on these sorts of things without getting the controller in your hands though, so I’ll just say – judging by Razer’s superior engineering on their computer mice, and from what I see in the photos, I’m stoked. The illuminated edges are certainly pretty as well - hopefully they won't be too bright.

So what do you think? Do any ideas jump to mind when you think of the joystick tension or bumper style MFB?

Personally, I’m thinking of MW2 (as if it wasn't obvious) when considering the applications for this controller. Mapping B to the left MFB and X to the right one should help me maintain control of my aim while going prone, and make for easier/safer looting of care packages. A slightly higher tension on the left stick for more deliberate creeping movements sounds good, but an ultra tight right stick sounds even better. The smoother finish and seemingly slightly larger size of the controller should make for a more comfortable experience. Heck, maybe I won’t have to hear squeaky triggers either! (3 out of 4 of my 1st party controllers have this problem)

Blog originally published 02/02/10. Re-released 07/21/10 to coincide with the mention of this device in the August issue of Game Informer.