G-Pad Pro VR gamepad – hands on review
A while ago we pointed to the press release of the EDimensional GPad pro. Physically moving the controller to manipulate the game sounded like a good idea for flight sims and driving games and I’m happy to report that I’m now in a position to report on this interesting gaming accessory from a hands-on perspective – sort of. Why “sort of”? Read on…
Installation couldn’t be easier – the device is recognised by Windows as a standard gamepad, so plugging it into a USB port makes it instantly available to games.
In terms of axis and buttons, you’ve got
- 2 analogue axis
- 1 D-pad (emulating a hat switch in a normal joystick)
- 12 buttons (digital)
The layout is conventional PS2 console style – four trigger or “shoulder” buttons, two analogue sticks, and the last two “buttons” are accessed by pressing the analogue sticks down.
The fun comes when you enable the VR function to use the motion of the controller in the game. First surprise: when you enable the VR mode (which lets face it, is the reason you bought it in the first place) the “VR” axis of the gamepad replace the function of the left hand analogue stick, rendering it inoperative.
And “Fun” is the right word – playing a racing game by twisting the pad for throttle or steering gives a new dimension to it, especially if you’re used to the keyboard. It’s not as natural as a proper steering wheel setup but it’s also half the price of a good wheel and uses no desk space!
Sensitivity can be adjusted by using buttons on the gamepad, so if you find that every twitch leaves you spinning off the track you can always dampen it a bit.
Talking about sensitivity I did find that the motion was a bit “jumpy”. If you have the option of creating a dead zone in the game it can be tamed, but by default the controller did tend to send small control inputs even when I thought I was holding it still.
Playing the demo of Microsoft FSX, I found that by assigning the most commonly used controls (gear, flaps, throttle) to the gamepad I got a nice sense of immersion as I was flying around. With a bit of practice you can do a take off, circuit and landing without having to touch the keyboard – Much more realistic! As with the racing setup, it’s not as natural or accurate as a joystick but again, it’s cheaper and takes less desk space.
There’s also a force feedback option and here’s where I ran into trouble. I’ve only got Windows x64 or Vista RC2 available as test systems at the moment. While most games can be persuaded to run on one or the other of these systems the same can’t be said for drivers So, although the manual talks about programming the buttons on the pad to emulate keystrokes or even mouse inputs I was unable to test any of these advanced functions, including the force feedback
With that in mind, I can’t say for sure that the jumpy control inputs I noticed wouldn’t be ironed out when used with the correct driver – if/when I manage to sort out a conventional XP install I’ll update this review accordingly! (hence my “sort of” comment above)
As it stands for me right now hardcore simmers will find the GPad pro lacking, as the twitchy control input makes subtle adjustments tricky – a decent joystick or steering wheel offers a smoother response. On the other hand a good joystick / steering wheel is expensive and takes up a huge amount of desk space so the GPad pro has a certain convenience factor! Plus it beats trying to do anything with a keyboard hands down so for the more casual gamer I’d say it’s a great way to play driving/flying games.
Last thing: No, I didn’t try any first person shooters with it because
- I’m really not good at them so I couldn’t say how or if the gpad pro improved my scores.
- Those games can only be played properly with a keyboard and mouse, anything else is just asking to get fragged