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    PlanetQuake | Features | Articles | The Claw
   

The Claw
Pappy-R reviews an alternative controller for Quake players.
  — by Pappy-R


Here's a shot of the button layout.

Manufacturer: Ferraro Design

Cost: 99 Australian Dollars (about 50 U.S.)

I'm not one to run rampant around the web, and hardware dealers looking for the newest and freakiest fad controllers. I'm not looking for the best "force feedback" available, and I never bought one of those Orb controllers that look just like...an orb really. I did feel an urge to try The Claw when I saw two things though. First, the shape of the thing looked like a natural cradle for the human hand, unlike some gimmicks that go for odd looks rather then ergonomic comfort. Second were some of the designer notes stating that the creation was done in all stages with gaming actually used as the test bed.

Now it's time to see if this new kid on the block has what it takes to kick your keyboard in the pants. Yes another feature of the Claw that some people have found very interesting is that the device is aimed at replacing your keyboard as a controller, and not the mouse. Your mouse is safe around the Claw. Since this is my first hardware review here at PlanetQuake, I get to pretty much make up my own format, and I'll try to stick to my issues and concerns with the product as they came up in normal use.

Setup

Opening the door for the courier that had my Claw in his hands, I had the normal fears of a new controller; setup. If you've grabbed the occasional joystick or gamepad, you know that a fear comes over you as you bring the device closer to the sanctity that is your computer. Everything is just how you like it on your box, and this new little toy is going to make you mess with that in new and, you pray, no too permanent a fashion. These are the fears I had when bringing the Claw into the same office as my game machine. "Phear not!" cried the box of the new toy with comforting phrases like "Program buttons in game - on the fly" and "No additional software required". Comforting indeed...now let's see the instructions.

All that's required in the specs, and in the real world, is indeed a simple patch in between the keyboard and computer where the Claw will get it's power, become active, and even give you a little beep if you did it right. "Beep", we have a winner! Now we have to get it programmed, but according to the single instruction sheet, this will be easy as well. Other than the 9 buttons on the working area of the controller, there are two switches lying underneath with simple toggle functions. One chooses between "Program" and "Play", while the other selects which memory set to use. Yes you can have two separate button configs in this little beast, and they'll switch over with the flick of a button. Score!

Actually setting up the Claw is effortless, and I mean it. Set the switch to Program and you'll hear a tone. Press a button on the Claw control pad and the tone will now beep. Press the keyboard button of the function you want the Claw button to have, and boom, that's one down. Select a Claw button to program and a keyboard key to have that function taken by the Claw. I found it best to do this in the game I was setting it for to make sure I got weapon switches in as well.

The first thing you're going to notice while setting the Claw up is that it has a remarkably small amount of keys as compared to your keyboard, and to some players, this may cause issue. In just Quake III alone I have requirements for all of the weapons to be reachable by one bound key, and that takes me over 9 right there if you throw in my "next weapon" key. The makers of the Claw have addressed this in two ways. You can program multiple keystrokes to a single Claw button, to a max of five, which can have even newbies doing rocket jumps with the click of one button. The next "cure" for the amount of buttons is a new modifier feature now available for the original Claw users, and in place on all controllers sold at this point. The new modifier gives you a shift key function to allow another 8 button functions for the Claw. Fill your 8, define a shift, and you'll have another 8 clean buttons waiting for commands. This alone went a long way to making the Claw more usable. Now all of your team binds or weapons can be access on all the Claw buttons with a click, and you'll have your movement keys intact and right where you wanted them.

Next: How does it feel, and how does it play?


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