Reviewed: June 16, 2003
Type: Gamepad Controller
What's in the box
I can count the number of games I have played on my PC that have required a gamepad on one hand, maybe two. Part of that may just be because of my preferred genres that rely on keyboard and mouse combos, joysticks, or steering wheels. If a game plays better with a gamepad then chances are itís a console game and Iím playing it on a console.
For this reason I have become quite set in my ways when it comes to PC gamepads and have never had any reason to stray very far from my Gravis Xterminator with those rare exceptions when I was reviewing a competitorís product. Even though my Gravis pad uses a game port (how quaint) and doesnít even rumble itís been plugged into my computer for the past five years, even when itís sat under the desk collecting dust.
Saitek recently sent me their new USB P2500 Rumble Force and I am happy to say my Gravis is now going into permanent retirement. Even though I still donít have a huge need for a PC gamepad when I do itís nice to know I have a controller as solid, comfortable, and fully functional as the P2500.
Installation - 8
USB makes life a whole lot easier but you still need to read the directions or at least the big yellow warning sticker on the USB cable telling you to install the software BEFORE plugging in the controller. I followed the rules explicitly but still had a few problems that required a visit to the FAQ section of the Saitek support page. For some reason (still unknown) the installation chose Windows 2000 drivers rather than the ones on the CD, so while the gamepad worked via the Control Panel the Saitek software couldnít see the device or be used to program the keys.
A quick manual update of the drivers by forcing it to look on the CD fixed the problem and everything was fineÖalmost. My IntelliMouse was now acting up and my mouse buttons 4 and 5 were no longer working. Another visit to the website provided me with the info necessary to disable the Saitek Magic Mouse software and restore my mouse to normal operations. Normally, with this many install issues I would be more critical of this score, but Saitek had instant answers in a very accessible format for all of my problems.
I should also note that if you donít want to use the Saitek software to map custom commands to the various buttons that you can skip this portion of the software installation and install the drivers only. This only takes 8mb of drive space and youíll still get a normal control panel interface.
Aesthetics - 9
The P2500 is a near perfect replica of Sonyís Dual Shock pad, at least in size and shape. In some ways I actually prefer this design to the Dual Shock. Featuring twin analog sticks, a D-pad that redefines comfort, 6 buttons that slip right under your thumb, two large shoulder buttons, and textured rubber handgrips, you wonít find a more comfortable gamepad for your PC.
The black and silver color scheme is quite stylish and all the buttons are engraved with their respective numbers with the exception of the vertical clicks on the sticks, which act as buttons 9 and 10. Two mode select buttons toggle digital/analog and the rumble features while a Shift key allows you to program alternate commands to each button for up to 16 functions.
Durability - 9
The P2500 is of solid construction with a comfortable weight. The buttons all have a good feel and the sticks are quite responsive with a nice snap-to-center that persists, even after more than 40 hours of intense gameplay. The only thing that feels a bit off are the two shoulder triggers that feel just a little loose.
Performance - 10
My P2500 couldnít have come at a better time as I was just sitting down to review Grand Theft Auto: Vice City for the PC. What better game to test a gamepad with than one I had already spent more than 80 hours playing on the PS2. I felt right at home playing Vice City on the PC using the P2500 and the game played nearly identical to its console counterpart. Strange as it may seem, that is perhaps the highest compliment I can pay this controller.
I wanted to try Saitekís new gamepad out on a few other games and I really had to dig deep to find some. Fortunately I still had Mafia installed, so I took a spin around 1938 and was totally impressed with the handling and feel this gamepad offered. I then fired up Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project and gave this side scrolling action game a whirl. Given the choice I would probably still play this game with a keyboard, but the P2500 did offer a console-like alternative for those who would want it.
My final test was with the recently released Knight Rider, a PC racing game that was ported from the PS2. Normally, I prefer to play racing games with a wheel but this particular title was better suited toward a gamepad and the P2500 did a fantastic job moving my black Trans Am around at blinding speeds while the numerous buttons gave me instant access to all of Kitts many features.
The rumble effects were quite good thanks to Immersionís TouchSense Rumble technology. Admittedly, itís not true force feedback but the effect is still quite convincing and adds a bit of extra flair to the games that support vibration effects.
Value - 9
For only $30 I canít think of a better gamepad that you can buy for your PC, especially if you are a veteran of the PS2 and are already comfortable with the Dual Shock. Itís a solid controller that is both comfortable and functional and relatively easy to install. The optional software will allow you to map keyboard commands and use this gamepad even with games that normally wouldnít support one.
Overall Ė 9.0
Thereís not a lot of PC games that really require a gamepad these days but when you do need one you want a good one and the Saitek P2500 Rumble Force is one of the best Iíve tried in almost four years. If your style of gaming has you looking for a gamepad then look no further. It doesnít get much better than this.