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InterAct HammerHead FX Gamepad

Package Contents:
Gamepad
Driver CD
Installation Guide
Warranty Card

System Requirements:
PC with available game port
CD-ROM drive for software installation
20 MB available hard disk space
Two "AAA" batteries for Rumble Effects
Windows 9x/ME or 2000

Specifications:
10 programmable buttons
PC game port, PC USB or iMac USB Capable
8-way hat switch and digital D-pad
Dual analog joysticks
Rumble feedback (with user supplied batteries)

Here we are again in PC gamepad land, looking at another feature packed product: The Hammerhead FX fromInterAct. What does it bring to the table and how does it compare to the modern crop of force feedback padsalready out there? Read our latest review for the answers....

The Hardware

The HammerHead FX is tightly packed with controls and has a full range of critical features. It not only has a dedicated digital pad allowing for directional or POV control, but two thumb controlled analog sticks that allow for a more 'relaxed' range of movement in titles like flight simulators.

The rest of the pad has the standard array of buttons and then some. In addition to the expected six buttons on the face of the controller, there are two flipper buttons on either side of the face and two trigger buttons on the bottom of the unit. There are two additional buttons in the center of the face that are designed to allow for the toggling of the force feedback effects and the quick access of programmed profiles, but they do not usually come into play that often. In fact, if you do not add two "AAA" batteries to the bay on the underside of the controller, the force feedback effects will not function at all.

In taking a detailed look at the layout, we found that the two trigger controls on the underside got in the way more often than we expected and at times we ended up activating the controls when we did not mean to. We further found that the default cluster of six control buttons on the face were a bit close together for our tastes, and oddly, that by default the primary activation row is on top instead of the bottom. Most pads we have tried over the years have the key controls on the bottom row, so it may be a bit disconcerting to some gamers.

Overall, the design is solid and comfortable, though not optimal in all areas. It is fairly ergonomic, but feels more comfortable in larger hands than smaller hands. Luckily, the button responses are fairly solid, ensuring that in most cases users will be fully aware of when they depress a control on the pad. The resistance on the two analog sticks is firm, making control precise and consistent. The D-pad is a bit soft, but that actually seems to work in its favor, as it feels more forgiving than your typical D-pad.

The Software

There are basically two parts to the driver software: The first is located in the Control Panel in the Gaming Devices area. There is a fairly standard four tab interface that handles some of the more basic configuration options including button and axis assignments. The first screen has an odd interface hiccup that makes configuration a bit harder than it should be. On the upper right of the first screen, there are some default axis assignments as well as a custom option. Using the two scroll buttons it is possible to move through that list until you find the one you are looking for. However, we found that even though we scrolled to an option, the display did not change at all. We contacted InterAct and received a prompt response that gave us the solution: Scrolling to the desired option was not enough. You also had to click the text of the selection to activate it. Once we scrolled to the custom option and then clicked the item in the list box, the custom screen was made available for programming. InterAct is aware of the issue and will hopefully address it in a future driver release to make it more intuitive. This will be important because by default, the D-pad and analog sticks are not fully active as one would expect. The D-pad is configured as a POV-only control, while the left analog stick controls horizontal only and the right handles vertical only -- not the most useful option for those who want to jump straight into a game. By selecting Custom we were able to activate the D-pad and both analog sticks as fully functional multi-axis controls.

The Rumble screen helps test force feedback effects, which again will only be active if you have inserted two "AAA" batteries into the device. Rumble effects during testing were only active on the left side of the pad, though each side has a vibration generator. The FX generates vibration via the circular motion of a lopsided weight instead of the up and down piston effect that some others use. It seems to work fairly well, but is not terribly powerful, as the effect is lessened the faster the cylinder is rotated.

The third tab deals with the standard button assignments, and while not elegant, gets the job done. We found that the six primary buttons were not configured as most other pads are by default. The first three buttons reside on the top row instead of the bottom row, which can make things a bit confusing, luckily, changing the settings on this screen is fairly easy. The final screen on the right provides basic driver and web-help information.

 

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