Hardware Review – SplitFish FragFX Shark Controller

Console and PC gamers are forever divided regarding what method is best to play games with. While console gamers typically prefer the ease of using a controller resting firmly in their hands, PC gamers enjoy the improved accuracy a mouse brings, although a keyboard is rather unwieldy. SplitFish‘s latest FragFX Shark hybrid controller is looking to mesh the two control methods. So is this the killer controller hardcore console gamers have been waiting for?

Touting a motion-enabled, single joystick not too far removed from the PlayStation Move Navigation Controller for your left hand, and a more traditional mouse in the right hand, the design is simple enough. There are no wires to connect, with the only thing you plug into your PlayStation 3 being a USB dongle. There are two LEDs that light up on the dongle when you turn on the controllers, which turn on when there is a connection. Setting up could not be simpler. Just plug in the USB dongle, turn on both units, and in much less than a second you are good to go. There’s no pairing process, and the left controller performs just like the left half of a DualShock 3. The mouse is not functional in the XMB, however the face buttons below your right thumb work just fine. Lag seems to be as minimal as using a regular controller as well.

The whole setup comes with a rather large mousepad, which SplitFish claims was specially engineered for the mouse, down to its texture and color. The mouse uses a 1750 dpi optical sensor, and the left controller (or “Fragchuck” as they call it) has an accelerometer for gesture support. The mouse seems to perform essentially the same on a wooden table, however, with perhaps a few more random movements. The mouse is hefty, but not too heavy. It has a nice finish, and glides along effortlessly as all good mice should. It is definitely tailored for right-handers, however – southpaws are pretty much out of luck here, unless you are extremely dexterous with your left ring and pinky fingers and can somehow manage to hold the “Fragchuck” in your right hand.

While the hardware is impressive, and the battery life seems to go on until infinity, none of that would do any good if the controllers do not play any better than your average DualShock controller. Unfortunately, this is where, by no fault of the manufacturer, the experience can occasionally fall flat. Many PlayStation 3 titles out there simply were not created with mouse support in mind. Uncharted 2 and even the Killzone 3 beta are examples of this. In Uncharted 2, your movements with the mouse have to be quick. Slowing down for more precision causes the crosshair to move either only up and down or left and right in straight lines. So it appears some games are definitely not made for this kind of setup. Turning the sensitivity up alleviates this, but then the crosshair moves extremely slowly, usually too slowly to do you any good. The Killzone 3 beta was a bit more forgiving, but it does take quite a lot of tweaking to get the game playing any better with the mouse. Honestly, most people will want to stick to the regular DualShock for the games that require much tweaking.

However, the gamers that are interested in a product such as this are likely looking to play it with the Call of Duty series of shooters, or titles similar to it such as Medal of Honor. This is where everything clicks. Setting the sensitivity knob on the “Fragchuck” affects the mouse’s sensitivity as well. Setting it around 5 seemed to strike a perfect balance for me while playing Modern Warfare 2. No matter what game you play, however, you should be sure to turn up the analog sensitivity on both axes as high as they will go. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and the previously-mentioned Modern Warfare 2 work as smooth as butter with this setup. While I am no pro at either game, aiming felt a lot more accurate, and turning around on a dime can definitely save your bacon in tight situations. Also, the battery life has been claimed to be about 50 hours per AA, something which I am nearing and the controller is still as responsive as ever. Combine that with the great accuracy this manages with the right game and it will definitely give you an edge.

The folks at SplitFish are not pulling any strings and pretending to market this controller to anyone but the hardcore shooting game fan. You can set macros, which means you can map a button to, for example, switch to your RPG, fire off a round and then quickly switch back to your regular firearm. Since console games are typically not as easy to get to remap buttons, this controller does it for you as well. Of course, there is also a rapid fire mode for those single/three-shot weapons which enables you to fire at much faster rates than you would probably be able to otherwise.

The FragFX Shark is available now for $89.99. That price point may seem a little high, but the accuracy it affords you on the PS3 is likely going to be worth the premium to hardcore shooter fans. A joystick just really cannot compare. Add in numerous additional functionality such as macros, button switching and rapid fire modes, and suddenly you become a lot more potent on the battlefield. Casual shooting fans may want to steer clear, however. You already know if you’re the kind of gamer who wants this type of controller. The price of admission will likely be worth it to you then.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ Setup is a breeze, battery lasts nearly forever.

+ Works wonders in mainstream FPS games.

– High price point, does not work as well in many shooters.

7 out of 10