PowerA moved to step up its peripheral game in 2012, with a sharp new logo and look for its products. I got to spend some time checking out a few of its flagship offerings for later this year during a recent preview tour through New York and folks who take their gaming seriously definitely have some neat toys to look forward to.
Also in the realm of console controllers is the Fus1on, a high-end, tournament-friendly gamepad for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 that is meant to appeal to the eSports crowd. Backlit buttons complements the stylish matte black surface and analog sticks. A small button on the rear of the gamepad can be pressed to cycle the lighting through its five different color options.
The build quality is very nice with responsive, click-y face buttons, a well-defined D-pad, and a thick, braided 10-foot cord extending out from the back of the controller. There's also an included rubber cord management that can double as a bracelet when you've got the Fus1on plugged in. The high-quality build extends to the Fus1on's innards as well, with a metal mechanism under the hood offering more durability. It's the analog sticks and the shoulder buttons, however, which really help this controller's design stand out from the competition.
Seasoned gamers will immediately notice that both analog sticks are shorter than you would typically see on a first-party controller. The thumb grips at the top of each one are also wider, and slightly concave. Taken together, the tweaked analog stick design is meant to offer players more precise control over stick movements. It felt right to me, though some players do prefer more of a raised analog stick (see also: KontrolFreek).
With the shoulder buttons, the left and right triggers both have a shorter pull, offering a marginally quicker response time for those who feather their FPS shooting for more accurate burst fire. Their responsiveness falls somewhere between the more springy Xbox 360 triggers and the mushier PlayStation 3 triggers. Meanwhile, the upper shoulder buttons are molded to wrap around the sides of the controller, offering players more convenient access regardless of what their grip is like.
Speaking of which, the Fus1on also features interchangeable handgrips. A toolkit included in the package comes with a tiny Phillips head screwdriver that you can use to remove the three screws from each side of the controller. Players will be able to opt between a harder molded plastic grip and a softer rubberized grip. The whole thing comes packaged inside of a hard-shell zip case, with enough space inside to house the Fus1on and its accessories.
PowerA also has a unique pair of items designed to appeal to serious gamers who have succumbed to the lure of mobile gaming. The big problem with bringing console-style play to touch-based tablet and smartphone interfaces is the control. You lose a lot of the tactile sensation you get from a gamepad when you're manipulating virtual analog sticks and buttons on the screen.
Enter PowerA's MoGa. The Bluetooth-powered mobile gaming controller is only Android-friendly at the moment, though that certainly isn't the end of the line as far as the future is concerned. There's nothing to announce yet, but PowerA is certainly aware of how popular other mobile operating systems like iOS and WP7 are.
There are actually two versions of the MoGa: a more portable one with a flatter build and smaller buttons that falls somewhere at the upper end of pocket-sized, and a larger one, shaped roughly like an Xbox 360 controller, that packs a few more buttons than its smaller counterpart. Both designs feature a flip-up cradle with an extendable grip, making the devices compatible with Android smartphones of every shape and size.
Setup is designed to be simple and largely automated. Users will find a QR code on the inner portion of the phone mount; using a QR reader on that will take you straight to the MoGa app homepage in the Android marketplace. Once you've got the app installed, it then walks you, step-by-step, through the process of pairing the MoGa with your device.
The app also serves as a sort of storefront and library, linking out to product pages for compatible gaming apps and maintaining a running list of compatible apps that you already have installed. It's even smart enough to recognize and add items that you downloaded prior to getting a MoGa.
Both options offer the tactile sensation that you lose when you're using virtual controls. The larger of the two is, for all intents and purposes, an Xbox 360 controller. Holding it feels almost exactly the same as far as your grip goes, and the buttons/triggers have a similar level of responsiveness.
The more portable option feels quite a bit different. The analog controls are essentially flatter versions of the analog nub that graced Sony's PlayStation Portable. They take a bit of getting used to, but the difference between them and a virtual analog option is immediately noticeable, and it's for the better. The face buttons are predictably tiny, but, again, it's more a matter of getting used to the layout.
The most unusual adjustment for hardened console gamers will be the triggers. Either they're not analog triggers on the MoGa, or mobile games simply haven't been designed to support such a thing. There's no feathering going on; each trigger "clicks" like a button, and the click is what sends the command through to the game.
I tried Modern Combat 3, for example, and aiming down sights worked on a toggle control with the left trigger rather than on a "hold to aim," as you would typically expect from a first-person shooter. This could also simply be an issue of design; MC3 was built before the MoGa was even announced. Future games that support the device will presumably be built with more flexible control options to suit a wider variety of input methods.
I also got to take a peek at PowerA's upcoming Medal of Honor: Warfighter controller. You might remember that the company also released last year's well-received Batarang controller in connection with Batman: Arkham City. The design for this new one isn't as far out as last year's release, with the shape roughly mirroring that of an Xbox 360 gamepad.
It's a sleek controller with a glossy, marbleized finish, backlit face buttons, and black, rubberized handgrips with small strips of red backlighting running down the center of each one. It's a nice, solid piece of gear, no question. Also included in the box are four collectible pins adorned with logos for some of the Special Forces units that feature into the game.