Destructoid review: Wildfire Wireless Controller

Mortal Kombat II turned me on to third-party peripherals.

When I was a young lad, I couldn’t beat Shang Tsung. My memory is fuzzy, but I’m pretty sure that I rarely even progressed past the first round of our confrontations. Whenever Tsung would take my life, I would fly into a rage and toss my controller across the room. (One time I ripped the cartridge out of the machine without hitting ‘eject.’) Needless to say, the Nicholson household went through a ton of different and cheap SNES controllers through the years.

There were turbo controllers, controllers with button layouts similar to the Genesis, and I even had one with knobs. Each one was broken in much the same manner.

But out of this blind fury — I don’t throw controllers anymore, I swear — came an appreciation for solid craftsmanship. Even if the controller rarely lasted more than a month before it met its doom.

Recently, I had the opportunity to review Datel’s PlayStation 3 controller, the Wildfire. Hit the break for the review.

Wildfire Wireless Controller (PlayStation 3)
Company: Datel
MSRP: $39.99

I don’t want to run the risk of sounding like a broken record, but once again, I’m facing a bit of a technological barrier while reviewing Datel’s Wildfire Wireless Controller. I’m not familiar with the innards of a controller. I don’t know why one controller’s face buttons feel stickier than another model’s. I’m not absolutely certain how D-pad membranes differ, nor do I understand why button response times vary. And while I would love to learn, I don’t think the technical stuff aids these reviews.

I’m a gamer. I’ve handled many different controllers during my lifetime — many more third-party controllers than I would like — and I’ve come to recognize what I identify as quality. A controller needs to feel good — it needs to be shaped in a way that contours to my hands and gives me access to all the buttons. A controller needs to have responsive sticks and buttons so I can effectively riddle a Brute’s head with bullets or jump across a chasm predictably. A controller also needs to be stylish, unobtrusive. And finally, a controller needs to work as advertised.

And yes, the Wildfire works. Datel’s PlayStation 3 controller is essentially a Sony DualShock 3 with turbo (or ‘rapid fire’) functionality. It has a different look and feel from Sony’s controller, but it packs the same kind of Bluetooth, rumble, and motion detection technologies out of the box.

Since this controller is all about turbo, I’ll cover that portion of the controller before hitting the buttons, design, and cosmetics.

The Wildfire controller is named as such because it promises to open up a world of cheating possibilities. The controller has three different modes of rapid fire. A red LED in the center of the controller denotes the intensity of the turbo with intermittent flashes of light. It’s a cute and simple little addition. Unfortunately, the process of setting up turbo isn’t so simple.

To engage rapid fire, you need to hold down the Start button, then hold push the PS button in the middle of the controller. After this, you can let go of the start button and assign one of the eight traditional buttons as the rapid fire button.

It’s an unintuitive process and definitely not something you want to try in the middle of a game. I have a feeling that most Street Fighter IV competitors won’t pause so you can assign kick as rapid fire. Aside from the bulky assignment, I have two problems with the functionality: (1) you can’t choose more than one button, and (2) you control the rapidity of the turbo by pushing the PS button outside of the programming. Number two is an issue particularly because an accidental press (this is a small controller) can cause the turbo to slow. The worst-case scenario with this — and, yes, this is a bit nit-picky — is that once you scroll through the two turbo options, you’re forced to reassign the button again with the process.

It also has some clunk in the trunk in regards to its buttons, sticks, and D-pad. The buttons are sticky and hard to press down. The sticks are insanely loose and make an unholy clacking sound during furious play. And the d-pad feels gunky, like its membrane is submerged in stiff quicksand. Now, I never experienced a single problem with response, but I don’t appreciate the smorgasbord of different-feeling components. I like plain hamburgers just fine, thank you.

My biggest qualm with the controller is its design. The face buttons and joysticks are in their usual positions, but the D-pad and L2 and R2 buttons have been shifted. The D-pad rests in the upper left-hand corner of the controller, while the two back shoulder buttons have been moved into trigger positions (think Xbox S-type controller). I wouldn’t have a problem with this move — hell, I would prefer it — if Datel decided to off-center the left analog stick and kick the smallish design.

The controller resembles a small and tight horseshoe, which only aggravates me with the button positioning. Because I don’t have infantile hands, I’m not able to push the shoulder buttons and the triggers at the same time. Also, most games on the PS3 don’t allow full button reassignment. Playing Killzone 2 is a mess with this thing.

For what it’s worth, the controller looks damn good for a third-party controller. The black matte paint job is sharp, and the bright white and red buttons offer a nice contrast. And the grey rubber thing on the wings complements, but also fails at the same time. I can’t get my palms aligned with the controller because of its size.

If you’re in the market for a cheaper PlayStation 3 controller with turbo functionality and you have wicked tiny hands, then the Wildfire might be worth a glance. But I can’t tolerate the Hobbit design and schizophrenic components. I suggest you steer clear and wait for another contender.

Brad BradNicholson