Let’s be clear from the outset that this review is based on my experience of using KontrolFreek FPSFreek nubbins. I’m not under any obligation to say nice things about KontrolFreek or their products, I’m not paid or endorsed by them. As I maintained when I first started this blog if I ever link to something that financially benefits me then I’ll make it very clear that it is a commercial link.
The guys at KontrolFreek did send me FPSFreeks and SpeedFreeks to check out though. This was after I posted about my own cheap version that I made to test the concept. (That post can be found here). Thank you Trevor and co. @ Kontrol Freek!
So here’s my take on the FPSFreeks.
Looks and Build
There are currently three different colour schemes. There’s the original Classic white and grey ensemble (ideal for Xbox360), Viper Black which are… black (groovy for the PS3) and Viper Ultra which I believe are black and gunmetal. The colour schemes are probably subject to change so those options are available at the time of writing (07-07-2010).
The build quality is good – tough plastic. The rubberised nubbin on the top is similar to that of the Xbox360 controller: concave and dimpled. This apparently can be alien for PS3 users…. but I think that’s splitting hairs. If concave vs convex nubbins is such a big deal for someone then I think that they belong in the “never satisfied” category. I’m sure that unless the shape of the nubbin was something ludicrous like a tiny replica of the Taj Mahal most normal people will be able to get used to them.
In terms of the design and quality of construction they are good, and definitely fit for purpose.
Fitting and Fit
Fitting and the actual fit is something that a number of people have commented on on the KontrolFreek forums. I use a PS3 and this is my experience of the fitting: the right nubbin went on no problem, but the left was a little more problematic. It was difficult to get on and when it did, it was at a funny angle so I had to re-fit it. Apparently if you use “rubbing alcohol” (whatever that is – in the UK we prefer the runny drinky type) they go on easier. But, like everything else that requires “assembly” your mileage may vary. I totally accept that the issue I had could be down to the fact that my controller is….. two years old and broken in in all the right places. So fitting is no biggie.
But the fit on the PS3 is slightly different kettle o’ kippers. The Kontrol Freeks, from what I can gather, were designed on the Xbox controller. For anyone who is not aware, the PS3 controller is a different shape to that of the Xbox. The issue is the casing area around the analogue sticks on the PS3 controller. When the stick is pushed to the extreme the crenellations that hold Freek to stick touch the casing. It doesn’t limit the movement, but if you are playing a game that requires the sticks to move around in a circular motion you can feel it bump-bump-bumping around as you rotate the stick. Again, this is another issue that is mentions on the KF forums and the solution is some DIY to shave off a millimetre or so off the crenellations. This issue is not present in Xbox users.
This is probably the most important and most discussed topic in regard to Kontrol Freek FPS. Do they work? That all depends on what you take to mean by “work”. I’m pragmatic and analytical in my approach to performance and the interpretation of statistics. Just to play Devil’s Advocate for a moment I am going to use the ultimate benchmark statistic for skill and ability in FPS gaming: KDR. A good KDR (Kill/Death Ratio) obviously proves how skilled you area at a game. By looking at my KDR stat history it would appear that since I started using the Kontrol Freek FPS my stats have taken a nose dive.
Fortunately for KF I don’t give a toss about my KDR – sure it would be nice if it went positive at some point, but as I mainly play objective game types my goal is the objective and not whoring my KDR by hiding in a bush for an entire game. So I don’t consider KDR to be a legitimate measure of…. anything really. Instead I measure on how well they work in the area which they are supposed to aid you.
The clue here is in the name: ‘K(c)ontrol’! The toughest thing for anyone playing FPS games on a console is control, or learning it. And if you’ve come from PC gaming…. well, changing from keyboard and mouse to controller is like learning to type with your feet.
The FPSFreeks give back some of that control. When I did my CheapFreaks experiment I explained how the concept worked and the increased lever increases your control over aiming. So YES, FPSFreeks do work.
No. I mentioned the crenellation collision on the PS3 controller, but that’s minor and not really a problem. I have removed the Freek from the left stick however as it wasn’t necessary for me. I’m not the only person to do that – Oplim77 (DCRU Colin) mentioned FPSFreeks in one of his recent videos and that he only uses the right stick now. This is more likely to happen with BFBC2 players as the nubbin gets in the way of pressing the Select or Back button when attempting to spot in game. That’s not a problem that Kontrol Freek can do anything about but is mentioned for information.
Getting Used to Them?
When they are initially used the Freeks can feel odd. Both Sony and Microsoft have put a lot of time and money in to the design of their controllers to ensure that they are as universally ergonomic as possible, so adding an extra half an inch of plastic on top is going to be unusual. For me, the first couple of games were difficult as I adjusted to the new additions, but after about two hours of play (over two days) they became accepted by my thumbs. If you don’t have them and are thinking of buying some then I’ll tell you straight – when you first put them on you’ll probably say to yourself “What the hell! This is too weird, I’ll never get used to this….” – if you do then stick with it. Give it a couple of days and it’ll be great.
Should You Buy Them?
Of all the peripherals and add-ons that you can buy these are probably the best option for performance/cash results. Next to a decent headset, in my opinion, these give the best legal in-game advantage you can have. Should you buy them? Well, that’s a decision that you have to make yourself. I’ve given you my experience and opinion of them, the decision…… is yours.
Here’s a link to their site: KontrolFreek.com
And just to reiterate: this review is completely unbiased. You should all know by now that if I don’t like something then I say so. I’m still using the FPSFreek and I don’t intend on removing it (singular – right stick).
Pricing – I was going to avoid the topic of pricing as it’s subject to change and cost is a personal and subject issue. But Donncha mentioned how much it would cost to get them over here. Well I did a quick check and direct from KF they work out at: £9.58/€11.48 (at exchange rates current at time of writing) including shipping:
Currently I think the only people selling them in the UK is Lime (who I consider to be pricey anyway) and they’re charging £11.58/€13.87 including delivery within the UK (don’t know if they send to Eire or elsewhere)
In this case it would seem it is actually cheaper to buy them direct from the US (delivery probably takes about a week though depending on how much of a delay in customs there is). And Lime! Are you reading this Lime? Stop changing the $ into a £ – I consider that tactic very insulting.
Peas and loaves
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