The Razer Hydra: Take Full Control

Wii for the PC. This was my first thought upon catching a glimpse of the Razer Hydra in action at E3 2011. A working demo of Portal 2 and Call of Duty: Black Ops were the two games that it was being run with. I was equally impressed by both, but upon testing this breakthrough in gaming hardware, did we realize this is so much more.

The Razer Hydra, a new toy from one of the top PC gaming accessory companies in the world, is a must have for anybody that is tired of using a standard mouse and keyboard. We tested it, and tested it, then tested it some more.

Lets begin with the aesthetics. As with all Razer products, it glows. Well to be more exact, the station glows. The device is separated into two parts. The two controllers you hold in your hands, and the Orb station sits sturdily underneath your monitor or television. The controllers are very comfortable to hold for anyone with small or large hands. The joysticks pertrude far enough not to interfere with the buttons, but still sit close enough not to stretch your thumb too far out. I was surprised that the triggers were digital, but it works pretty well with the design since you end up using your middle finger for them unless you have large hands. The rest of the buttons are analog and have great feedback. This all comes in the standard Razer black matte finish. I was quite sad that the controllers were NOT WIRELESS. I am unsure as to why Razer decided this, since most motion detection products these days are wireless. It could always be part of Razer’s future marketing plan, and in this case I am hoping it is. This being of course, that an *Epic* version will be release that is wireless and has a recharging station, so keep your fingers crossed.

I was able to test the Hydra with 8 different games. One of which is not supported by the software, but i found ways around that. First, the Hydra comes bundled with Portal 2. Yes, you receive a free copy of Portal 2 with all purchases of the Hydra. Unfortunately though, if you already have the game on your Steam account, you will not get a refund, but instead an option to *Gift* the game to a friend on Steam, which you do not have to do right away. The controls for Portal 2 were seamless and ran perfectly, but this was expected for a game that comes bundled with the hardware. The next game it was demoed with at E3, was Black Ops and it too also ran very well. I saw a great improvement in my response time once I was more adjusted to using the Hydra, even managing a nuke in 4 out of 7 matches. Sniping is what this baby helps with. You see an insane difference in your accuracy; being able to slow your movements instantaneously, makes you a God among men in the FPS world, and the Hydra is your almighty tool of smiting. The next game we tested this with, was Assasin’s Creed: Brotherhood. Although this doesn’t seem like an obvious choice for this type of hardware, I have to admit that it was very fun to be able to turn around on the dot. The Hydra didn’t help much with combat, but kept the game more entertaining. On a side note, the Hydra can also be used as a three button mouse while not in game. It is done so by pressing the “4” on the right controller. With this in mind, I decided to try something new.

For those that have not already creamed themselves, the game of choice was called League of Legends, and yes, it does work. The only problem I ran into, was button mapping for the Hydra, forcing me to use a keyboard with my left hand and the Hydra with my right. Another annoying thing, was that scrolling around the map proved a little more difficult, but still possible. One thing that annoys me about the Hydra, is the horrible software drivers that it comes with (manually installed from the Razer site). Custom button remapping is impossible inside or outside of games that the Hydra does not directly support. And even then, it is extremely difficult to remap actions such as side turning and flicks.

Here are the tech specs.

(Per controller)

  • Thumb-ergonomic analog stick for fluid control
  • 4 Hyperesponse action buttons
  • Rapid-fire trigger and bumper for faster in-game response
  • Non-slip satin grip surface
  • True six degree-of-freedom magnetic motion tracking
  • Lightweight, anti-tangle braided cable

(Base station)

  • 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

System Requirements

PC with 35MB free disk space
USB Port
Windows XP/Vista/7

Price: 139.99

Final Pros and Cons.

Pros –

  • Full 360 motion provides a definite edge in FPS and third person gaming.
  • No batteries or recharging required.
  • Glows.
  • Makes you want to replay many old games with an entirely new experience.
  • Comes with a free copy of Portal 2 with exclusive levels only playable with the Hydra

Cons –

  • Not Wireless
  • Buttons are difficult to remap for any software that isn’t directly supported, and even then still proves annoying.
  • Is a little difficult to get used to since its 1:1 movement and not direct point.
  • … not wireless … i mean come on, why?
  • A bit pricey, 139.99, and its not wireless? really?

Final Grade : A –

(Mostly for not being wireless)

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Adam "Kharakov" Kharatian
Adam "Kharakov" Kharatian 397 posts

Adam "kharakov" Kharat is part nerd, part geek, and full awesome. With deadly writing skills and the sleeping habits of a jackrabbit, late night gaming sessions are all but mandatory.