FragFX Shark Controller for the PlayStation 3 Review
Platform: PlayStation 3
Earlier versions of the FragFX controller were purely awesome, filling an enormous gaming-controller void with a controller that mixed the best aspects of PC and console controls. The FragFX line made it possible to play shooters on the PlayStation 3 with the kind of precision that makes games pure pleasure. With the FragFX Shark, SplitFish has released a wireless version of the controller that fixes absolutely all the minor quibbles I had with the earlier controller.
How can I best describe a controller that manages to improve on the FragFX, a device that reigned as my favorite game controller for shooters? It's amazing. Truly, absolutely amazing. The FragFX had already convinced me to buy the PlayStation 3 version of any multiplatform shooter. Anything compatible with the FragFX, I wanted on the PlayStation 3 so that I could enjoy the superlative control the FragFX offered. The FragFX Shark is like sliding behind the wheel of a luxury car with every possible upgrade and feature. It feels good. It blurs the boundary between operator and controller so much that games are just more fun to play. It fixes all the minor issues with the original FragFX, ranging from weight to responsiveness, all while taking away those troublesome wires.
Like other controllers in the FragFX line, the FragFX Shark splits the standard PlayStation 3 controller into two parts. A left handed grip includes an analog stick (typically for movement), the D-pad and the left shoulder buttons. The right analog stick on the controller is replaced by a mouse that can be used for precision aim and control. The left and right mouse buttons take the place of the controller's shoulder buttons, and the controller's circle, triangle, square, and "x" buttons are on the left side of the mouse, under where your thumb rests. Instead of a cord, each part of the controller is powered by an AA battery and they communicate with a dongle that connects to the PlayStation 3 via the console's USB port, and a short cord connects the mouse to the left grip. The left grip is also the motion sensitive controller.
The FragFX Shark has a learning curve, but it's completely worth it. Once I'd adapted to the location of the various buttons and gotten the hang of the mouse-like controller, my play was transformed. Playing a first-person shooter, within 10 minutes I was at least as effective as I was with the conventional controller. After an hour, I was easily snapping my crosshairs to any target I wished, rattling off headshots and cruising through levels that would have stymied me with a regular controller. In online play, I easily soared from the middle of the pack to the top of the server.
My shooter skills were honed on the PC, so perhaps I'm prejudiced – I vastly prefer a mouse-style set-up. But I honestly believe that anyone, with a little time to practice, will prefer the FragFX Shark to a dual-analog-stick controller.
It does carry the usual problems related to a mouse. It's important to have a stable surface on which to mouse, and while the included mouse pad is solid, the FragFX Shark carries all the perils of trying to use a mouse on the couch. If someone else sits down, you can miss a headshot, and without care, it's easy to put a lot of stress on the wrist and tendons.
Only using the basic controls, the FragFX Shark controller is easily worthwhile as my go-to controller. But there's a lot more. I've never relied so heavily on the manual for a controller as I did for the FragFX Shark. In fact, I'm not sure that I've ever opened the manual for a controller before.
The FragFX Shark is unbelievably configurable and replete with advanced functions. The sensitivity of everything from the mouse to the motion control can be adjusted. Buttons can be remapped. Functions can even be remapped to various motions of the left grip. There's a frag button that when held down makes the mouse more precise for sniping or other precision motion. Buttons can be set to rapid-fire rather than single press. All of this can even be done on the fly (although I still haven't memorized all the button combinations that allow me to do so). Particularly if you focus on a single game, there is no controller that can be better customized to do exactly what you want to perfect your game experience.
While the FragFX had some issues, the FragFX Shark is pure joy to use. I never noticed any lag with the wireless controller, so dropping the wire was glorious (and involved fewer tangling situations). The weight and sculpting of the mouse and left grip were glorious and felt perfectly natural – certainly up to the standards of a high-end, ergonomic mouse. Best of all, the mouse has tuned out the dead-zones inherent in console control adaptations. Moving the mouse felt exactly like it should, without that mushy space that comes from mapping an analog stick to a 1750 DPI optical mouse. If there's a single problem with the FragFX Shark, it's that the controller is right-handed. That's great for me, but not ideal for the sinestrous among us.
Even at the recommended price of $90 for the FragFX Shark controller, this piece of hardware is completely worth the price tag. It's an ideal controller and a mandatory purchase for anyone who plays competitively online or prefers PC-style controls.