It boggles the mind how some products ever make it past that first eureka moment and become a real, physical thing that sits on store shelves. Whether it's the Virtual Boy, the iPotty, or the notorious Shake Weight, there are some ideas best left in the dark recesses of a designer's head. That's especially true of the MAG II Gun, a motion controller for the PlayStation 3 and PC that's one of the most frustrating peripherals to have graced this console generation.
You can see the logic here: gamers like shooters, shooters feature guns, so why not have a controller that is a gun? Unfortunately, playing shooters like Call of Duty and Killzone with the MAG II is more difficult and less fun than playing with a control pad, a keyboard and mouse, or even the Move. The MAG II works wirelessly via a small USB dongle and is compatible with most PC and PS3 games, although it's primarily designed for use with Call of Duty. Essentially, the peripheral replaces the right analogue stick, or mouse, allowing you to aim by pointing it at your target. On top of the trigger grip are the four standard X, square, circle, and triangle buttons for reloading and swapping weapons, while the second grip houses an analogue stick for character movement, along with a D-pad.
The layout is surprisingly comfortable. The buttons themselves have a nice reassuring feel to them, while the main trigger is neatly spring-loaded. There's also a calibration button affixed to the front of the gun, while the top houses a dial for changing modes and a battery pack that satisfyingly slides in like an ammo clip. The gun feels well made, despite its plastic construction, but it's a tad on the small side: you don't know whether to hold it like a rifle with the butt on your shoulder or out in front like a pistol.
Still, that becomes the least of your worries when you plug the MAG II in. For starters, the manual is woefully light, particularly when it comes to the mode dial on top of the unit. As it's described, it changes the sensitivity of the gun, with low, medium, and high settings available. The trouble is that those modes seemingly do absolutely nothing to the sensitivity of the gun. There are also a myriad of other options that work only with Call of Duty, such as a melee mode that's supposed to result in faster melee combat, and a mode that reduces weapon noise for weapons without a silencer. However, none of them had the desired effect in the game.
Then there's the way you calibrate the gun by holding down the calibration button and pointing it at the center of the screen, which is a process that works only about half the time. Even when you do get it to work, things get very bad, very quickly. Trying to navigate menus is a nightmare. Even a slight tilt of the gun causes the highlighted option to change, resulting in an epic battle between the game, the gun, and your sanity as you try to hold the gun in a motionless pose while gingerly prodding at the D-pad.
But the very worst thing about the MAG II is how it makes playing your favourite shooters unbearable. We tried it with Call of Duty: Black Ops II on the PC, as well as with Killzone 3 and Spec Ops: The Line on the PS3, and found numerous issues. First, there's a lag between your movements and those of the reticle onscreen, which is hardly what you want when you're in the middle of a heated firefight. Then there's the fact that turning your character is painfully slow. Forget about those quick, sharp 180-degree turns that you need in order to compete online. With the MAG II, the only thing you can do is pan the camera across the screen at a snail's pace, by which time you'll have already been shot, blown up, and teabagged by every other player in the match.
To even get to that slow turning speed you have to point the gun offscreen. By the time you point it back, the calibration is off, which results in all manner of weird and contorted shape pulling as you struggle to find the right angle to shoot. Sure, you could pause for calibration, but by the time you do that, you're already dead. Even in a noncompetitive single-player environment, the MAG II is just far too frustrating to bother with.
And to top it all off, the MAG II costs around £100 ($139 in the US). For that kind of money you could buy five Shake Weights, or three iPotties, or one Virtual Boy, all of which would be a far better value, way more pleasurable, and infinitely more useful than the MAG II.
Have you ever spent money on a terrible gaming peripheral? Let us know in the comments below.