Reviewed: May 3, 2003
Check out the Silent Scope Rifle in Action
Whenever a hardware manufacturer designs a controller for a limited genre there is always some risk involved. When that genre is light gun games things get even riskier due to the hostile political climate of violence in games and the ever-watchful eyes of Senators and parents. But perhaps the ultimate risk is making a gun for a single game.
Admittedly, the Pelican Silent Scope Light Rifle will work with any Xbox light gun supported game but there is no mistaking the name or the obvious promotional tie-ins to Konamiís recent release of Silent Scope Complete. Both the game and the light gun cross-reference themselves in the media, on the boxes, and even in the manuals. These two products were so designed to go together that Iím surprised they arenít bundled together, although there is a $10 off deal going on when you buy them both.
Call it fate or pure irony, but the very game this rifle was designed to go with is probably one of the worst light gun games ever released. Donít get me wrong Ė the game is plenty of fun, just not with a light gun, and this is not Pelicanís fault. The Mad Catz gun doesnít work either. So here I am with perhaps the coolest looking controller ever designed and nothing to use it withÖalmost.
Installation - 9
The Silent Scope Light Rifle comes in a compact box in four main components, the body, the barrel, the stock, and the scope. I have to admit I felt a bit like Leon: The Professional as I sat their assembling my new weapon even though the neon-green molded plastic would get me laughed out of any assassinsí guild. The green color is an obvious attempt to keep kids from trying to hold-up liquor stores using this gun, but the rifle already looks like a prop from Star Wars so I doubt anyone would mistake this for a real weapon.
By design, the weaponís multiple pieces allow for a variety of configurations. By omitting the stock, barrel and scope you have a cool looking blaster that looks like it might be slung on Han Soloís hip. Add the military-style stock and you have a pump-action shotgun and the barrel and scope complete the design for a futuristic sniper rifle. With a twist-lock barrel and quick-release buttons for the stock, the gun comes apart just as easy as it goes together for quick reconfiguration or storage.
Unlike PS2 light guns that rely on a video pass-through cable rendering your S-Video or component video connections useless, this weapon connects to a standard controller port so you are free to continue using any advanced video connections you already have including full support for HDTV modes.
Even though my version of the light rifle shipped with an extension cable I should probably mention that earlier versions of the gun did not include this cable and there are some problems with the gun actually being recognized by the Xbox. This is a power issue and Pelican has a FREE cable ready to send out to anyone who asks. Itís a shame this slipped through initial QA but they were quick to admit and fix the problem.
Aesthetics - 9
All of the gamepad buttons are conveniently located along the sides of the main part of the gun. The sliding grip doubles as the reload button and gives you the stylish pump-action reload. There are also some special switches specifically used for the scope including an activation toggle and a sensitivity dial.
Those of you that have played Silent Scope in the arcades will know that the scope is the coolest aspect of the game. The arcade version actually has a screen inside the scope that shows a magnified version of the game screen. While putting a miniature LCD inside this gun would have been cost prohibitive, Pelican has done the next best thing.
Their scope is simply a pass-through ďtubeĒ that is motion activated, so when you move your head down to look through the scope you trip a motion sensor that serves the same purpose as if you had hit the button to activate the scope in the game. If you are the proper distance from the TV the magnified view on the screen will fit the view of the scope and give you the illusion of a working scope.
Itís a clever system but full of fallacies, again, mostly due to the game and not the gun design. The only small problem with the actual gun design would be the poor placement of the memory card slot just beneath the scope. An inserted memory card could potentially interfere with your chin when sighting through the scope, but then again, does anybody really use a memory card, especially with either of the two light gun games youíd be using the gun with?
The Silent Scope Light Rifle features all the expected functions like auto-fire, auto-reload, and burst mode. These functions donít really fit with the type of play in Silent Scope Complete but they do work in House of the Dead III to some extent. The scope is an exclusive feature that currently only works with Silent Scope Complete, assuming you can get it to work at all.
Durability - 10
The Silent Scope Light Rifle is a sturdy controller. Everything snaps and locks firmly into place and the buttons are all solid with nothing loose or ready to break. Even the trigger seems surprisingly durable and should last the life of the gun. There is a substantial weight to the rifle that might have you seeking out methods of propping yourself or the weapon up on something for prolonged gaming sessions.
Performance - 6
I tested the Silent Scope Light Rifle with both Silent Scope Complete, and House of the Dead III, and then I brought out my Mad Catz Blaster from last year to make some comparisons. The results were surprising.
Silent Scope Complete
Considering this is the game that will probably have you rushing out to buy this weapon all I can say is ďdonítĒ, at least for this game alone. I had nothing but problems and after extensive research on newsgroups and popular forums I have found that I am in the majority of users that have found this gun virtually useless with this game.
The problems begin and end with calibration. A light gun game requires precise calibration and smooth movement, especially when you are trying to snipe targets at long range. For the record, I was testing this game and rifle on a 35Ē standard TV using an S-Video connection. For some reason, which is entirely the gameís fault, the sniper rifle only became functional at a point where the game became unpleasant to look at.
During calibration you are told to increase the brightness (either through your TV or using the in-game gamma settings) until your crosshair is moving smoothing within the calibration box. My TV was already perfectly calibrated using a product called Video Essentials so I wasnít about to tweak those settings. Instead, I chose to start increasing the gameís gamma, which is on a scale of 1-50. The crosshair didnít even start to move until 38 and it didnít move smoothly until I maxed out at 50, and even then it was jumpy and imprecise.
I attempted to play the game at this point despite the fact that it looked like somebody had fogged my television screen. The game looked really bad, so bad that I didnít even want to play it anymore. The fact that the targeting system was still jumpy made it impossible to accurately hit anything and the washed out screen made it hard to tell an enemy from a friendly target.
The zoomed in scope view, which is supposed to slide slowly around the screen, was jumping all over the place making it impossible to line up in the actual scope. This meant the scope was useless and I had to use the B button and simple look at the scope view on the actual screen.
The good news for Pelican is that none of this is their fault. I plugged in my Mad Catz Blaster and that gun didnít even work at all, even at a 50 gamma. So while itís a shame that the light rifle doesnít work with the game it was named after there is a light at the end of the barrel.
House of the Dead III
This gun worked flawlessly with this title, and while the Mad Catz Blaster is probably the more comfortable and slightly better performer here there is something undeniably cool about holding onto a pump-action shotgun and blasting zombies. The kickback is only a fraction of the recoil of a real shotgun but the physical act of pump reloading and the feel of the weapon in your hand could be worth the price of admission.
Value - 6
When you have a $50 controller and only two games that could possibly be used with it you are officially classified as a novelty or niche market. When only one of those two games actually work with your controller Ė and the one that doesnít is likely the reason you bought the gun - you are reclassified as a high-risk purchase.
If you have $50 kicking around your wallet and you want an Xbox light gun, and you already own House of the Dead III, and you want the novelty of wielding a pump-action shotgun then by all means go for it. If you just purchased Silent Scope Complete and are trying to recapture the novelty of the arcade version then be warned. You have about a 1 in 20 chance of the gun even working well enough to play the game and chances are you will have to make extreme visual sacrifices to do so.
Overall Ė 7.0
As of this review there are only two light gun games currently available for the Xbox, Silent Scope Complete, and House of the Dead III. Given the nature of all of the above problems, I am surprised this product wasnít released as the House of the Dead Pump Action Shotgun controller rather than a sniper rifle. Thatís the only use Iím getting out of it, and from the general consensus on the Internet Iím not alone.
Hopefully, there will be more light gun games in the future that will take advantage of the rifle and scope configuration, and hopefully they will actually work. Until then, this is a very risky investment that only diehard gamers and novelty controller collectors will likely consider.