Razer Hydra Review – I’ve always wanted to play my PC Games “Wii-style” or in a more technical term, with motion sensing controllers. The idea of having to exercise while playing games definitely hits the spot for me. Not to mention the fun of having to wiggle your arm or doing both silly yet creative movements. They add to the excitement.
Razer Hydra, powered by Sixense, has brought up more than just fun and excitement. It also brings creativity and more flexibility in playing PC games. I’m not a console gamer (maybe when I have a family one day) so what I want is having motion sensing controllers to play my current & future PC games in my tiny bedroom.
Razer Hydra Unboxing Video
My Razer Hydra review unit package contains the Razer Hydra motion sensing controllers (two of them; one for your left hand and the other for the right), the base station to compute the exact location and orientation of controllers in your hands, and the cables to connect them all into a single seamless motion sensing system.
Each controller has a thumb-ergonomic analog stick, 4 action buttons, and rapid-fire trigger and bumpers. In a way, there are lots of buttons being cramped into the controllers. Whether a game is using all of them or not, it’s up to the developers (or up to you when you customize them personally). Suffice to say, there are enough buttons to map every core key needed when you are playing a game.
Overall, I like the comfort of the controller, thanks to the ergonomic design and the contour of the controller.
The controller is also very light with an anti-tangle braided cable, making it easy to store and connect the devices together. The cable is also long enough so you can stay in quite a distance from your computer desk.
Swinging the controllers around is smooth and the grip surface is also non-slippery. Sweats can be wiped out easily if you play for too long and get sweaty.
The Razer Hydra controllers are not wireless though – I believe I saw a wireless prototype video sometime ago but there might be some latency issues so they are sticking to a wired solution for now. So far I have no complain with the wired solution as I find that the cable is long enough from the desk that I can still have my freedom of movement. I’m sure one day we’ll hear a wireless Razer Hydra. Just a matter of time :)
Base station design
The Razer Hydra base station specs:
- Low-power magnetic field, low power consumption
- Ultra precise sensor for 1mm and 1 degree tracking
- No line of sight to controllers required
- Low latency feedback
The size of Razer Hydra’s base station is not too big but still requires a space on your computer desk. It also has a glowing light (it’s not Razer if they don’t put a fancy light in!), though of a green color (I was expecting blue). There is nothing else to set-up apart from having to install the Razer Hydra driver into your computer and connect the USB and controllers to the base station.
The base station has a magnetic field but thankfully it doesn’t seem to interfere with any of my other devices nearby (as you may have known, I have so many reviewed gadgets in my house and haven’t had any magnetic interference problems so far).
Impressions and experience
One thing that you need to know first, games need to be updated to fully utilize Razer Hydra’s motion sensing. At the moment, only Portal 2 (which is included with the Razer Hydra) has the most optimized motion sensing support, thanks to the partnership between Valve and Razer Hydra. Left 4 Dead 2 and possibly other games are still being updated/developed (you may have seen the videos) so you cannot start whacking those zombies with your arm swing just yet. You can still kill those pesky zombies with motion sensing, but aiming the crosshair around requires some work, unlike Portal 2 because Valve needs to release an update to fully optimize the aiming with motion sensing. At the moment, you need to use “racheting” technique to look around with the right controller – which is quite difficult to master.
There are over 125 games supported (check out Razer Hydra supported games list) by Razer Hydra, meaning, you don’t have to configure the supported game buttons one by one. There is a preconfigured action, for example, by pushing the left controller down to crouch (in Left 4 Dead 2 and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 when I tested).
Left 4 Dead 2 default configurations:
You can even play The Witcher 2 with Razer Hydra:
You can change the pre-configured buttons if you wish. More configurations will be released and can be downloaded over at Razer Hydra Sixense Forum. I wasn’t too happy with the way they map the buttons when I played Dungeon Siege III but of course, I can change them myself in the configuration file.
Unfortunately at this stage, changing the configurations can only be done manually by editing the configuration files with a text editor. Razer is planning to release a GUI (Graphical User Interface) tool some time soon though (if not already by the time you are reading this Razer Hydra review article) to make it simpler.
Even with an optimized motion sensing, it will still be a challenge to play any First Person Shooter games with Razer Hydra competitively online. The fun is there, don’t get me wrong (especially whacking zombies with my “virtual axe”) but seriously, I can see myself at the bottom of the scoreboard if I stop using my gaming mouse. We all know that we can aim more accurately and quickly with our mouse compared to a motion sensing controller. Playing a single player campaign, however, can be fun and worth a try with Razer Hydra.
Razer Hydra Review – Playing Portal 2 with Razer Hydra
I really love playing Portal 2 (with the Sixense MotionPack DLC) with Razer Hydra. It’s definitely more fun than using a traditional mouse and keyboard. There are also more actions that you can do with the Razer Hydra in Portal 2 that do not exist if you were hooked up with a mouse and a keyboard, such as:
- By extending your arm to the front, you can move the Cube further away from you. Similarly, retracting your arm towards you will pull the Cube closer.
- You can also press and hold the portal creation button on the Hydra, then move your controller around to move the created portal on the wall.
- Not to mention there are also Portal 2 exclusive levels for Razer Hydra players ;) I haven’t tried these yet but I’m sure they are more fun than the regular levels since the levels were designed specifically to take advantage of the motion sensing.
Overall, playing Portal 2 feels more natural as you move the Cubes around and feels more fun, compared to the traditional mouse and keyboard. Motion sensing tutorial levels are included so you don’t have to figure things out by yourselves.
Razer Hydra Review Conclusion
This brings my Razer Hydra review post to its conclusion. Razer Hydra brings gaming to the next level, assuming the game developers take it seriously and start updating their games to fully support motion sensing. The partnership with Valve definitely means serious business and that they see Razer Hydra’s true potential seriously. It is only a matter of time before other game developers start to see the potential too and release updates to their games.
With or without a true motion sensing support though, playing online FPS games with Razer Hydra is quite difficult. Even with an optimized motion sensing support, you probably wouldn’t want to part with your keyboard + mouse combo.
But imagine whacking zombies using your arm on Left 4 Dead 2, blocking a blow by lifting your left hand equipped with a “virtual shield” in the upcoming Elder Scrolls: Skyrim *fingers crossed*, or some quick fun punches. The fun is endless. Let’s hope that there will be more games developed solely for having fun with Razer Hydra.
Note: Razer Hydra review unit was provided for the review
Razer Hydra Review – Pros
+ Wii on the PC? Five thumbs up!
+ Brings fun to the next level in PC Gaming
+ Long cable, plenty of movement
+ Pre-default button configurations for other games
+ Comes with Portal 2 motion sensing support
+ Ergonomic controllers
Razer Hydra Review – Cons
– Relying on game developers to release full motion sensing support
– Non dual-shock controller
– Not wireless (yet)
– Can’t stay too far from the base station (2-3 foot radius)
Own a Razer Hydra? Feel free to contribute to this Razer Hydra Review post below.