Microsoft Sidewinder Game pad Pro Review
Gamepads are always going to be the best option for serious gaming. Although some styles of games are best with the humble keyboard and mouse ( first person shooters, other games requiring slick and fast movements ), others will require a gamepad for more efficient gaming. But it is not as simple as that, gamepads aren’t an easy buy, such areas as comfort, compatibility and features play a massive role in choosing your gamepad.
The Gamepad Pro: Introducing the Sidewinder Gamepad Pro from Microsoft. As the name suggests, it is apart of the infamous ‘Sidewinder’ family, which can be described as the industry standard setting family of gaming pads/joy sticks. Released late 1999, this controller isnt exactly ‘new’, and finding this game pad on the market is getting harder and harder. What would make this controller a better or worse buy over a Gravis, Thrustmaster or Logitech gamepad? read on.
As stated earlier, some games are best played with a control pad, some just aren’t. Sporting games are a great example of a gamepad ‘friendly’ game, as are racing games. With this in mind, EA sports own a large hunk of the sport department, and many of their games will work with this controller without a single problem, straight out of the box ( Madden 2k1 and NHL 2k1 for example ). Not only this, but Microsoft have added a ‘scheme’ option in the controller properties, where you can load a certain supported game’s scheme and use it with this controller to its full potential. Updated schemes are also available off Microsoft’s website. Although nowhere near every game has a scheme, it is a nice addition. So with most games, compatibility is this Gamepads middle name ( if gamepads had a middle name of course :)).
The games I used this control pad with were:
– Madden NFL 2001 and 2000
– NHL 2001 and 2000
– Monster Truck Madness 2
As expected, these games went without out a hitch while using the GamePad Pro, without using the schemes.
Features and Comfort:
As the pics show, this controller has 1 full directional D-Pad, 1 shift button, 6 normal buttons and behind, 2 index finger buttons. The two buttons behind the gamepad ( labelled “L” and “R” ) are nicely shaped and very easy to use. Infact, on a general note, the gamepad is very comfortable. It is very well shaped for a human hand ( ya see Microsoft ARE human ), and long use is not a problem. The buttons are also nicely shaped, and I didn’t experience any sore thumb/finger problems once.
The Shift button, in theory, is a great idea. Basically, what it does is add another 8 buttons. So pressing ‘A’ might do one thing, while pressing ‘Shift+A’ does another. But, as the pic shows, the shift button is poorly placed ( next to the D-Pad ), as using it would require an extra finger on your right hand, or your left thumb/finger, which would be on your D-Pad. Overall, the shift button isn’t very important anyway. It isn’t much trouble using it in slower paced games which don’t require you to use the D-Pad all of the time, and most games won’t need more than 8 buttons anyway.
One thing I was happy to see Microsoft include is a long cable. Although this isn’t very important, it is great to be able to sit back a bit from your pc and play games, so heavy gamers might not get so sore or tired in the eyes from playing to close. As I said, not very important, but nice to have.
However, if there was a problem with this gamepad it would be the D-Pad. Personally, I prefer the Sony PSX style D-Pads, even if they don’t offer as much accuracy compared to a full D-pad ( in theory ). The D-Pad is rather slippery, small, and it isn’t all that accurate. Although playing with the dead zone and the range of motion helped, it didn’t fix it. During some games I found it difficult at times to move straight, and move at a constant speed.
To sum this review up, I was impressed with the potential shown in games with this gamepad, and it was rather comfortable, but a few little annoying problems let it down. I really haven’t used every other gamepad out there, so I can’t recommend this directly, but I can recommend it for users looking for a comfortable, compatible, cheap gamepad ( around AUS $50 ). When buying this pad, you know your buying a quality, well known gamepad. Finding it is another matter though…..
I would like to remind you that these are my personal experiences ( comfort etc..), and they may not be the same with everyone.