Hands-on / Novint Falcon

I’ve never experienced, nor seen a controller quite like this before. At first I thought it was some type of weird contraption that a doctor would use for some sort of life-saving surgery, but after spending some time with the Novint Falcon, I was blown away – this innovative controller rules! Then, when I heard that this has been out for about a year already, I kicked myself for not hearing about it sooner.

The Novint Falcon is an interesting twist to the modern PC controller, being a semi-spherical base with a ball attached to it by three arms. But it isn’t only the shape that gives it its uniqueness, it’s the way the controller handles. Using the controller to move a hand on-screen around a sphere, I was given samples of different textures to feel around, like sandpaper, thick maple syrup, and ice, among a few others, and it really felt like I was touching the actual objects. The sandpaper felt rigid and rough, the syrup was very thick and was difficult to navigate the hand through, and the ice felt smooth, but a bit bumpy at the same time.

One of the games I got to try out was Half-Life 2. As I was playing, every shot I dealt to the enemies would send recoil through the controller and into my hand. Players use the little ball to control their gun (there’s even a gun grip that can be attached to the actual controller for all of you FPS lovers), and use the buttons to bring up the menu and actually fire the gun. If players get shot, rest assured that the recoil from that will be just as noticeable. Heck, if players make their characters jump they will even be able to feel that (and trust me, it’s actually pretty fun to do that). It was very easy to control gunfire, and the reactions for shooting or being shot made the experience feel all the more real, or at least as real as it can get.

Another game I got to have fun with was Gish, an indie game that, along with Half-Life 2, will be coming in a bundle pack later this month. Gish is a side-scroller in which you control a blob through different levels. Now, although a cool little game, I felt it was a little difficult to handle. It was hard making that little blog jump and grip where it had to. Sometimes I felt like I really had to jerk on the controller, to the point where I was getting scared of breaking it.

But if you’re going to buy the Falcon then Gish likely won’t be the reason. It’s more likely that games like Half-Life 2 (and Battlefield 2, Battlefield 2142 and Counter-Strike Source) will draw you in, and for that, Novint has a tempting bundle coming up — for $189 you’ll be able to get the Falcon in either black(pictured) or white, a pistol grip, a copy of The Orange Box which of course includes Half-Life 2, and Gish. The bundle is available for reserve on Novint’s site here.

To sum it up, the Falcon offers a new way to control games, and with the list of games that are integrated with this controller growing, is something you’re probably going to want to experience for yourself sooner or later.

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