Reviewed: June 27, 2003
Online gaming is still relatively new to the PS2, but as more and more people upgrade their PS2’s for online support and as more games are released to take advantage of the Internet its only a matter of time before you are going to find yourself in need of a keyboard. Even if you don’t play online games or have no intention of doing so in the future, you might be surprised at how many single player games can benefit from a keyboard – namely FPS (first-person shooters) and games that have so many commands you could never map them all to a gamepad.
Logitech combines the ease of typing with the traditional gameplay of a Dual Shock controller with their new Netplay Controller, a unique hybrid of gamepad and keyboard. Imagine that someone split your gamepad in half and stuck a keyboard in the middle. And while the design may be a bit intimidating at first, it’s certainly a better alternative than having to switch between a standalone keyboard and a traditional gamepad.
Installation - 10
Installing the Netplay Controller is a breeze. Simply plug in the standard game port plug and the USB keyboard connector and you are in business. Since the keyboard and the gamepad have their own connections you can use these items independent of each other. The 8-foot cable could have been longer – it seems that 10-feet is the norm for third-party controllers these days and I did find the cable stretched across the room, suspended in air.
Aesthetics - 8
The Netplay Controller may look intimidating at first but once you have it out of the box and in front of you it can only be described as “wickedly cool”. The bottom is molded to fit on your lap or rest firmly on a flat table. The curved grips on either end allow you to get a good hold on the gamepad portion of the device and both the analog sticks are in excellent locations as are the face buttons and D-pad. My only concern is with the shoulder buttons that seem to be recessed way too far beneath the controller to reach comfortably.
Ideally, if you are playing a game like EverQuest where you will be typing then you are going to have you keep this controller in your lap or on a desk. You simply can’t hold it and type at the same time. The same goes for those of you wanting to use this with FPS games. The WADS cluster and the right stick are excellent for these kinds of games but you can’t hold it and play.
The compact keyboard is about the size of a typical laptop keyboard so a few of the buttons are smaller than normal and your numpad is overlaid over the right group of letters. If you’re coming from a PC it may be a bit awkward but anyone who is used to a notebook will feel right at home.
Durability - 9
This is one solid controller. Right out of the box it had a quality look and feel to it. Nothing rattled, the sticks were all firm and responsive and the buttons felt great. Even the triggers felt good despite their awkward positioning. The keyboard was a bit mushy for my taste. I prefer a solid click when I press a key and this one was totally silent but still very accurate. The locking system for the keyboard is flawless and provides an easy but secure way to detach and reattach your keyboard whenever you like.
Performance - 7
I put this controller through some rigorous testing with games like Voyager: Elite Force and Red Faction II. I had previously played RF2 with a conventional USB mouse and keyboard and the gameplay was nearly identical to the PC version. The Netplay Controller offers the same level of precise moving using the WADS cluster plus you now have instant one-button access to your weapons using the number keys.
The analog stick is still a bit twitchy for aiming – I’m afraid nothing is precise as a mouse – but most PS2 games make up for imprecise aiming with an auto-lock or at least a more forgiving targeting cursor. Bottom line – the Netplay Controller is better than a Dual Shock for FPS games but still not as good as a traditional keyboard/mouse combo.
The dual motors provided some excellent vibration effects that carried through the keyboard and even down onto my lap. There’s a lot more controller to be vibrated here so the effects aren’t quite as strong as a conventional gamepad, but at least you can still work the keyboard while its vibrating.
Value - 7
The Netplay Controller is definitely a niche controller targeted toward online and FPS gamers. Right now there aren’t a lot of online games that require a keyboard, but the list of FPS titles that can benefit from one of these is growing each month. If you’re addicted to EverQuest or you’ve just been thinking about buying a USB keyboard for your PS2 then you will certainly want to consider this. The price is more than fair for the quality and functions that you get, and the convenience of having a keyboard and gamepad in one vibrating unit is unparalleled by anything else currently available.
Overall – 7.5
I have to commend Logitech for creating such a quality controller for what is admittedly a very niche market – at least for the time being. As more and more online games are released and the PS2 becomes more web-friendly people are going to want to type during and between games and the Netplay Controller is the perfect device to get the job done.