At CES this year I got to look on with longing while a Sixense rep demonstrated the Razer Hydra motion control stick for me on a copy of Portal 2. Now, a mere six months later, I can say I've lived the dream. In all honesty, game controllers with 1:1 motion tracking aren't in short supply these days, but Razer Hydra has a couple of perks. Let's explore them after the break, along with a quick video of our time with the thing.

  • Hydra is a serious offering for the PC from a serious accessory maker. You can hack the Kinect, Move, and Wiimote controllers to work with a PC, but Hydra is actually built for computers.
  • You don't need much space. Unlike the Kinect, Wii, and Move, which all require a significant distance from your TV for proper operation, the Hydra is designed to work a couple feet from its magnetic base station -- perfect for sitting at your desk.
  • It's ultra sensitive. Move and MotionPlus offer great motion tracking, but I think the precision of the Hydra has them beat, at least for small, subtle motions suited to PC games. The precision isn't just about up / down / left / right / up / down, it also applies to subtle twists and tilts of the controller as well.
  • Dual analog sticks. I think everybody on the console side of things has dropped the ball here. While motion control is really great, if all the two motion controllers are doing is replacing two analog sticks, then you're right back where you started. Hydra has an analog stick on each motion stick, giving four sensitive directional inputs.
  • Portal 2. No other motion controller gets to mess around with Portal, and Hydra is even getting some exclusive levels that involve manipulating the size of boxes. It's also very telling that Hydra not only can handle the regular input requirements of a first person shooter, but also extend them.
  • Customizability. An advantage of PC gaming is tweaking your setup, and you can use Hydra just how you like it, swapping in an analog nub for the look controls, for instance. All the buttons and inputs (two triggers, four face buttons, analog triggers, motion sensing) are completely configurable.

Overall, motion gaming will probably only be a niche in the PC world for a long while. The one big advantage PC games still have, outside of a slight graphical edge, is the keyboard and mouse, and I doubt hardcore gamers will give that up without a fight. Still, I enjoyed my time with the Hydra, and I think it represents a serious, respectful approach to the idea of putting motion controls in the hands of PC gamers.

Hydra is available pre-order now, ships this month, and will work with 125+ PC games at launch. Just try to avoid tripping over the $140 pricetag.


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