Razer Hydra Review

By on August 6, 2011
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The motion sensing of the hardcore.

Good: ergonomic, extremely precise, plenty of buttons to compensate for a keyboard, Portal 2 feels natural with it
Bad: Lack of native game support, wired solution can get quite messy
Price: AED 550 (approx.)
* The price is the Suggested Retail Price at the time of review. Please call a retailer to confirm the latest price for this product.

Portal 2
Not only is Valve’s puzzler an incredible game on its own, regardless of how it’s played, but it also happens to be the perfect game to demonstrate the capabilities of the Hydra. No wonder then, that the game comes with the package, but that’s not the extent of it. It’s a special version of Portal 2, one that comes with a separate set of test chambers specifically designed to be used with the Hydra. Like the traditional DLC naming system goes, it’s called the ‘Sixense Pack’, but it is not sold separately.

Using Hydra certainly needs some time to get used to. If you are experienced with the Wii, you might pick up on the controls easily, though. One mistake I made (if it is) during my initial time with the Hydra was trying to play the game standing up. That’s how you do it right? With the Wii, with the Move? Not with the Hydra apparently. Taking a cue from Portal 2′s introduction tutorial, I seated myself and found that I was way more precise than I was standing up! How’s that? I have no idea, but I seemed to make a lot of sense while seated.

Portal 2 is a different game with the Hydra, certainly. Taking ‘direct’ control over the character and the portal gun felt unique and quite fun. Plus, Valve has thrown in a few designs that helps showcase the Hydra even more. For example, now you can carry and move the Companion Cube away from the portal gun by extending your arm out from your body. It helps to reach far away switches and adds a completely new dimension to solving the puzzles. You can even move the cube in 3D space to snug it away in tight corners.

More such tricks are unlocked as your progress through the levels. One of them is ability to slide and manipulate portals around walls and other able places by just holding a button and twisting the wrist.

After a couple of hours with Portal 2, the controls came to be quite natural (I had to rest regularly or a slight pain in the wrist kept creeping up). The new tricks added changed how I solved puzzles in the game, and it was quite a challenge.

But was it better than the keyboard and mouse? Not really, but it was different. The new ways to play is just not possible without the Hydra and this is just the beginning of it.

How about other games?
I had a couple of shooters on me, namely Crysis 2, F.E.A.R 3, Duke Nukem Forever (what, I am a fan!) and Team Fortress 2.

Each one of them was unplayable. No amount of tinkering with the setting would give me the proper, natural feel that Portal 2 did. I could barely aim, and when I could, pulling the trigger button would cause the cursor to move, because it’s so damn precise!

Another predicament that I faced was with the camera movement. To move the camera, you are required to move the cursor either to right or left, you know, like on the consoles. However, this wouldn’t work with Team Fortress 2 or Crysis 2. I had to perform a full, physical 360 degrees for the character to turn to his backside. Not in for that much reality, thank you very much.

But the fault lies not on the Hydra, but the games. There is no native support, without which Hydra would work, but not optimally. Out of the box, Hydra supports 125 games, but how many supports Hydra? Not a lot.

Razer Hydra is pretty damn cool, I have to say. Portal 2 was a lot more engaging in its puzzles and environmental interactivity. However, at the moment, the Hydra isn’t worth the purchase, much like the Kinect or PS Move, actually. Software maketh the hardware, and neither of the controllers have a whole lot of them to boast about. At $150, it is certainly an investment. This one is for the early adopters, those who would like to take a leap of faith with Razer and trust them to pursue developers to incorporate native support with their games. Others, who likes instant gratification on their purchase, they will be hardly pleased.

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Mufaddal Fakhruddin is the Editor for IGN ME and thinks writing in third person about himself in an about me section is weird.

  • Danny

    Hi Mufaddal, my name is Danny Woodall and I work with Sixense Entertainment Inc. Our technology is what drives the Razer Hydra.  We wanted to make sure that you were aware of a few fundamental features in “non-native” games when played with the Razer Hydra.

    “Ratcheting” will allow you to freeze the view so you can reorient your wrist, which is analogous to lifting the mouse when you run out of mouse pad. This is accomplished by pressing button 1 on the right controller.

    It also sounds like you may have had you in game sensitivity higher than what the game default is. We recommend restoring all settings to their defaults before trying to play with the hydra. In fact you will probably have better results by adjusting the fps sensitivity in the Razer Hydra Configuration page.

    Sixense Razer Hydra FPS Tutorial

    Also, we do have more control modes in the works that are more simlar to what you experienced with portal. Here is Crysis 2 using a freelook camera mode, which is basically Portal 2 freeaim without the cursor movement.

    Thanks for taking the time to review the hardware and if you have any more questions please stop by our forums.

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