Any gamer can tell you, extra controllers are like batteries: you can never have enough of them. Just like batteries though, there are both good and bad brands out there and every once in a while you can find a true “diamond in the rough” in terms of the “off brands” (read: third parties). Power A, who is anything but an known third party, certainly has a bit of a diamond on their hands with their Batarang Wireless controller for the PlayStation 3.
The wireless version of the Batarang controller is, physically speaking, exactly like the wired version Cyril reviewed
recently. The controller is modelled to resemble one of Batman’s most reliable weapons, the Batarang. You don’t have to worry about the sharp edges on this contraption though, as the Batarang-style visual is created from a combination of material layers and colors. THe overall controller design is actually very reminiscent of a standard Xbox 360 controller, however the coloring and texture layers give it a more high-tech, Bat-like appearance.
A majority of the controller’s body is made of a hard, grey plastic which features detailed etching similar to Batman’s modern suits. This sort of material usually creates problems for long terms gameplay sessions in my experience but Power A has ingeniously fitted the controller with a strategically placed rubber coating over the areas which your hands spend most of their time, particularly the are where it rests in your hands. This has practically eliminated any and all concerns that I had with sweaty hands that result from extended gameplay sessions, while preserving the rigid feel the controller gets from the solid, plastic base.
The button layout is also modeled off of the 360 controller rather than the traditional PS3 Duel Shock controller; this means that the directional pad and the left analog stick have switched positions compared to the standard PS3 controller. Each of the controller’s buttons buttons provides quick and responsive feedback when triggered despite sticking out above the face of the controller quite a bit. The directional pad sticks out just as far too, though it performs as well as you would expect. Power A has gone with a traditional cross-design, which isn’t as effective as Sony’s standard d-pad but leaps and bounds better than anything Microsoft has put on a gaming controller to date.
The controller really excels in the area of the analog sticks and the L2 and R2 triggers. The analog sticks in particular are incredibly tight and responsive, something that I look for in a controller. The triggers are dramatically shorter than the Dualshock controller, which makes it more comfortable and responsive. If there is any weak point in terms of buttons, it lies with the L1 and R1 buttons, which are incredibly loose. I have not had any issue with responsiveness, but am not a fan of their overall “feel” in terms of how much they rock in their static position.
All of the expected features are included in the controller, including both Sixaxis and rumble feedback. As an added bonus, Power A has even included configurable accent lighting for the controller which serves no purpose other than to look nice. There are clear areas around both the grips and the top of the controller, which can be lit up with one of 7 different LED colors. The placement of this lighting doesn’t do anything to help with it’s performance; you won’t be utilizing this feature to see your buttons in the dark, as none of the input areas are lit.
The lights can be triggered using one of the controllers 2 additional buttons, which straddle the select and start buttons. This grouping of buttons, along with the centered Home button, form their own little Bat-symbol on the face of the controller which is a nice touch. Each button press cycles the controller through one of the featured colors and eventually turns the feature off all together.
The other new button is a welcome addition to the controller in the form of a battery sensor. The Batarang controller is powered by an internal rechargeable battery and a small light gauge on the upper left corner of the controller’s face will tell you the percentage of your battery’s charge. This is a lot more convenient than having to access the cross-media bar in order to check on your charge levels. Charging is done through the standard process of connecting the controller to the system via a standard USB cable, which is included with the controller.
The controller features its own power switch which can be toggled on and off. This is something that takes some getting used to as most gamers are probably used to their controllers turning their selves off rather than having to manually shut them down. Thankfully, the controller has the ability to shut itself off after an extended period of time with no inputs being detected. The battery life is pretty much on par with the standard Sony controller although you will notice increased battery usage when using the back-lighting feature.
The only area of concern that I have with the controller is the decision to utilize a USB RF receiver for connection to your console rather than the PS3-standard Bluetooth connection. Thankfully, the RF connection of the Batarang is much more reliable than those that I experienced with the Power A Mini Pro Elite controller I reviewed
a little while back. I never experienced an issues with either the range or the reliability of the connection, despite my concerns with the technology used.
During my time with the Batarang controller, I have run it through its paces on a variety of games, including first person shooters, fighting games, and pretty much everything in between. Performance-wise, I don’t have a single complaint to register. The controller works like a charm and is extremely comfortable. As far as third party controllers go, you cannot bet much better than Power A’s Batarang Wireless controller. Plus, if you happen to be a Batman fan, it looks incredibly cool!