It’s the MS Sidewinder Dual Strike. It’s not rare or anything, but as a PC pad junkie, I’d been on the lookout for one for years. That ball joint thing in the middle makes the right hand side work as sort of a non-optical Wii remote. Once you get acquainted with the sensitivity, it’s not too bad, but it’s–unsurprisingly–hardly the mouse replacement for shooters it’s billed as.
I spent some time trying to set it up for Max Payne, because that’s one of the games it was marketed along side. Much like all the other late 90s Sidewinder stuff, I’m sure the config program did a better job of this than the default windows joystick options (and also supported that weird standard Sidewinder shift key as a shift key). Quake 1 was pretty playable too, but the joint feels sort of rickety, so I was afraid to really squeeze it too quickly to the limits of its range of motion. To deal with this I cranked the sensitivity way up and tried to maintain some sort of zen-like state of calmness and percussion amid all the chainsaw ogres and leaping demons, rather than whipping the controller around. It’s kind of a cool experience.
Surprisingly the pad’s major problem isn’t the main gimmick though. That weird thumb-print looking left d-pad’s directions are set at this weird off angle and they don’t correspond well to the actual range of movement your thumb has if you’re gripping the thing. It’s totally not the fatal flaw I expected, and no one mentioned that in any of the old reviews.
Microsoft released this alongside another FPS-centric pad called the Freestyle Pro, which I’ve had for a couple years. It’s sort of the proto Sixaxis, as it’s gimmick is a set of tilt sensors. Hell, it even sort of looks like a less pointy version of that Batarang PS3 prototype. It has a more traditional 8 button layout, and I’ve used it sans-senors a couple times when I was too lazy to dig out another pad. It’s way bulkier than standard Sidewinder pads though, and the senors are rough to calibrate (although again, maybe the original software handled this better). There’s also this really weird scroll wheel/throttle thing in the center than I never found a use for.
I’m pretty exited about the Steam controller, since it sounds like it might finally be realizing what MS was grasping at with these two back in '98.