If you’ve ever wanted a light gun for your PC, today’s review should please you. ACT Labs, maker of a few light guns in the past, sent over their latest creation to test out. The USB Light Gun has been in the making for three years and will let you play those arcade shooters as they are meant to be. Does it stack up to the test? Let’s find out.
The USB Light Gun consists of a gray plastic gun with a nice cord length that runs into a box. The box holds a VGA input for your monitor and another monitor cord, which attaches to your video card. Finally, a USB cable runs from the box to your computer. Setup was incredibly easy as all I had to do was run the monitor into the box and run the monitor cord from the box to my ATi Radeon 8500 card and plug in the USB cable. All in all it took me around two minutes to have myself a working gun for my PC. Not bad if you ask me.
The feel of the gun is pretty light and well balanced. A soft rubber grip lines either side of the handle making it easy and comfortable to hold. The trigger has a nice strong feeling spring to it giving you a nice feedback when pulled. When you pull the trigger, it sends a left mouse click to the computer. On the left side of the gun is another button that acts as the right mouse button. The other side features a slide that when in one position lets you calibrate the gun. Sliding it back returns the gun into normal mode.
Calibration of the gun is pretty simple. When you put the gun in calibration mode, the computer screen turns white. All you have to do is move the gun from each side of the screen, back and forth and up and down. Afterwards, put the slider back and you’re ready to go. You’ll have to do it for each game you play but it’s not too bad since calibration is quick and simple.
When I first received the gun to try out the first program that came to mind to use it with was MAME. What better program to test the gun out then the emulator with a bunch of great old classic arcade games. I had a range of games lined up separated by a few years that I ran through. So, I fired up a few of the oldies to test the gun out with.
I had many fond memories of playing Duck Hunt on the Player’s Choice machine at the local comic book shop. Yeah I wasn’t one of the 99% of the kids at school with a Nintendo. I had the Sega Master System instead. But I digress. After calibration the gun worked pretty well most of the time. Accuracy seemed good for the most part with the occasional, “I know I shot that damn duck in the head!” scream only to see it fly off the screen. While it can be attributed to my aim being off, I know that some of them where because the gun’s tracking thought I shot to off screen.
I came to the conclusion that the tracking thought I fired off screen by going into Windows and shooting around. 95% of the time, the mouse pointer appeared where I shot. Being that the trigger mimicked the left mouse button, I shot at a few programs on my desktop to open them. During the course of this testing, I sometimes saw my mouse pointer way off to the edge of the screen after the screen flash from squeezing the trigger. I tried a few sessions of just shooting the center of the screen and various times the mouse would randomly appear on some edge of the screen. I don’t know if it was my unit or what but it was a bit annoying when playing games.
When the gun worked, it was a blast to play. Duck Hunt, Hogan’s Alley, Crossbow, and on and on most of the old games worked well. I had no luck with Terminator 2 though and even though I followed calibration steps in game and with the gun the game just wouldn’t work with it. There might be an update to MAME by the time you read this article that will allow the ACT Labs gun to work in that game though.
The gun does have a few limitations. First of all, you can’t use the gun with an LCD screen. If you don’t have a CRT monitor then you’re out of look. Also, you can only have one gun attached to the computer at a time. I would’ve like to play games like House of the Dead with a partner but the design only allows for the usage of one.
ACT Labs is no stranger to the PC light gun area and they have a good product when it works fully. While I am disappointed in the inability to use more than one gun and LCD monitor incompatibility, the gun is fun to use if you enjoy those types of games. It’s really cool to relive some of the old classics by playing them the way they were meant to be played. You’ll even find a list of web games that you can use the gun with on ACT Labs’ site. Installation and calibration is as simple as can be and there’s no driver installation needed. If you’re looking for a PC light gun to use, then ACT-Lab’s USB gun is the one for you. At $30, it’s not at all expensive. Just be prepared to deal with some accuracy issues on occasion.
When it works, it works well. Installation is simple and there are no drivers needed. You can only use one gun at a time and it wonâ€™t work on LCD monitors. Accuracy is an issue sometimes.