Keyboard-and-mouse gaming on your PlayStation 3

I spent some time over the weekend toying with a couple of novel gaming accessories. One worked surprisingly well. The other left me wondering how such a product could possibly make it all the way to market.

We’ll start with the one I liked: Penguin United’s Eagle Eye, a US$59.99 add-on for PlayStation 3 that allows gamers to use a standard USB mouse and keyboard in place of Sony’s DualShock controller.

I’ve known about gizmos like this for a while now, but I’ve never made much of an effort to evaluate one, partially because I’m at home with a traditional gamepad, but more because I just assumed they wouldn’t work very well. Turns out this one does.

Setup is simple. Just plug the sandwich-sized box into your computer and assign keys to each PS3 controller button and trigger. It’s no harder than setting up a custom layout for a PC game. Turbo switches for the eight primary inputs plus a quartet of programmable combo keys offer a slight advantage for players fond of such functions.

Once you’ve sent your setting to the device, simply plug it into a USB port on your PS3, jack your keyboard and mouse into the Eagle Eye, and you’re ready to play.

I tried a couple of PlayStation 3 exclusives that PC gamers who can’t abide standard controllers have been missing out on: Resistance 2 and Killzone 2.

It worked very well with the former. I had to crank look sensitivity to the max to replicate PC-style speed, and there was the faintest hint of mouse lag, but that’s it; no deal-breaking issues. As a console gamer I missed the ability to control speed of movement (an advantage analog joysticks hold over keyboards), but die-hard PC players probably won’t even know what they’re missing.

Killzone 2 was playable as well, though I was a bit disappointed with mouse performance. Even with sensitivity jacked all the way up I found I still couldn’t turn as quickly as I’d have expected.

However, the problem may have been with the mouse I was using. I’ve got more than a dozen mice-wireless, Bluetooth, P2-port, ergonomic, portable, gaming, and more-and none of them worked with the Eagle Eye. United Penguin’s website clearly states that the Eagle Eye requires a standard USB mouse (read: not wireless) and that high-end peripherals that require their own drivers won’t work (read: no gaming mice). Sadly, those restrictions ruled out every mouse I owned. I was forced to buy a cheap generic USB optical mouse. I assume it has a pretty low resolution (DPI), which could account for my sensitivity problems.

However, even with a bottom-of-the-barrel optical mouse I’m pretty confident that PC players who’ve avoided consoles because of their controllers would have a lot more fun playing PlayStation 3 shooters using the Eagle Eye.

The final piece of the puzzle will simply be finding a way to get comfortable using a keyboard and mouse on your couch.

Now for the peripheral I didn’t dig: RealView’s Deep Screen depth enhancing screen accessory.

Here’s what the manufacturer claims it will do: Add a sense of depth to 2-D content without requiring users to buy a 3-D screen, supporting video card, and stereoscopic spectacles. It’s not 3-D, but rather a means of detecting and enhancing “depth cues” found in 2-D images.

It’s basically a box a couple of inches thick that attaches to the front of your monitor via a pair of straps. The side nearest the viewer looks to be just a plain piece of clear plastic, while the side nearest the screen is slightly bowl-shaped with lots of tiny, almost imperceptible concentric circular ridges that create the illusion of…well, something. I wouldn’t call it depth. More like distortion.

The edges of the 23-inch display to which I attached the deep screen were noticeably skewed. In the centre of the screen I could see thin oval rings that appeared to be composed of magnified pixels. And ghosting-shadows of objects-was evident everywhere. You do feel as though you can reach into the screen, but that’s because there is a couple of inches of space between the real screen and the front of this add-on. The image itself has no real sense of depth.

It sounds awful, but it wasn’t un-viewable. Rather, it was kind of like watching games and movies displayed under a very weak magnifying glass. Certain things were enhanced, and colours sometimes appeared exceptionally vivid. But the image artefacts combined with the unnaturalness of the resulting picture make the Deep Screen little more than a novel experiment.

Clearly, manufacturers are frantic for a way to give customers depth minus the bulky glasses, which is maybe the greatest obstacle to 3-D adoption in the home. All I know is that this isn’t the answer. Avoid.

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