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I’ve never been one to stray off the path of the proprietary console controller, but recently I had the opportunity to test out the Thrustmaster Limited Edition Ferrari PS3/PC Gamepad.  While I enjoyed a couple key aspects of this gamepad, I think PC gamers will have a better time with this than controller, but that is probably based on sheer lack of better available controllers for that platform.

First off, the controller requires a USB dongle in addition to two AAA batteries to operate.  One or the other would have been cooler, but both is a little lame.  Without Bluetooth functionality you can’t turn on the PS3 so you’ve got to either turn the PS3 on through an additional controller, the Bluetooth remote or at the console itself.

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The contours of the Ferrari Gamepad were sleek and welcomed, and the overall aesthetic is a red and black metallic gleam mixed with brand names and symbols.  The top half of the gamepad is constructed of a glossy smooth plastic, whereas the bottom half had a light sticky grip that was easy and comfortable to hold.  With the AAA batteries in place the controller felt a little front heavy but nothing that would really hamper gameplay.

What does hamper game play is the button layout.  The Shoulder buttons are too thin and the triggers are a bit too curved.  You can hear the trigger springs after each pull and it makes you think that they just might break if you get too excited.  Beyond that they were responsive enough, just a little too ramshackle for my tastes.

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The analog sticks probably felt the nicest of the bunch.  While overly sensitive, they really felt at home under your thumb and played great across a variety of games.  Clicking them was tougher than on the Sony Ps3 controller, but it’s nothing you couldn’t get used to.  You could see the inner workings of each analog stick in terms of pieces and while it looked kind of cool, they are left wide open for liquid spills, dust, and boogers.

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The symbol buttons (which are also numbered on the Ferrari Gamepad) are very round and bulbous.  They reacted fine but don’t give you the action as found in the original PS3 controller – I ended up just missing the flatter ones from the PS3 gamepad.  The “press distance” is about the same as the PS3 controller but it feels longer because the button is essentially taller and much more rotund.

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The D pad, which is way nicer than the Xbox 360 isn’t nearly as responsive as the PS3 gamepad.  It’s loosely connected and requires concerted presses to get the action you want.  It doesn’t feel all that bad but in the end it just winds up being more frustrating than anything else.  The Home, Map, and Set buttons are tiny LED lights that bring you to the PS3′s function menu and the other two direct programming commands.  More on them later.

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The Thrustmaster Limited Edition Ferrari PS3/PC Gamepad does have some controls that you won’t find on any other game controller.  Surrounding the D pad and off to the left is a trigger wheel with two paddles.  It’s basically used as an additional steering wheel and was quite responsive.  I wouldn’t say that it’s a better alternative to the analog stick, but what’s cool about it is that you can program it to act as shifters in racing games.  There’s also two extra buttons tucked into a not that convenient place underneath the controller.  They’re apable of being programmed as well, but are kind of worthless since they are jammed so close to the protruding battery compartment.

That brings me to the next section.  The programming should be way more intuitive.  The instruction manual isn’t clear and it took me a bunch of trial and errors until I got the buttons to perform as I wished them to.  More annoying than anything it was easy to give up on the programmable controls because I ended up just not caring enough.

What was cool about the gamepad – I wished PS3 and Xbox 360 controllers would do this – is that they do a great job of conserving the batteries’ juice.  They automatically sense when nothing’s going on and shut down in a couple minutes, unlike the PS3 and Xbox 360 controller which are content to to let the batteries drain on.

Well, that’s about it.  Upon unboxing the Thrustmaster, I was really excited to try a 3rd party controller.  Unfortunately, I was ultimately disappointed by the design and performance and didn’t really enjoy any of the games I played with it.  I tried sports, racing, action/adventure and in the end of it all I really just wanted to pick up my trusty PS3 controller.

If you so happen to hate the PS3 pad or need a game controller for your PC then I’d say give the Thrustmaster Limited Edition Ferrari Gamepad a try.  Oh, the limited edition part is just a silver sticker with a number plastered on the back.  However, buy a couple boxed ones, and you could maybe make some money on eBay in 30 or so years.

Pros:

  • Relatively lightweight
  • Nice contours
  • Great auto shut off

Cons:

  • Weak programming
  • Odd button placement
  • Needs batteries and dongle

Buy the Thrustmaster Limited Edition Ferrari PS3/PC Gamepad for $38!



Jeff B