Hardware Review: HKS Racing Controller

As a huge fan of racing games, it’s understandable that I wanted to give the HKS Racing Controller a try. I used to love experimenting with controllers that had unique designs, such as the mammoth Barracuda controller for the original Playstation. While most controllers and gamepads that I’ve tried out over the years have been forgettable for the most part, the HKS Racing Controller stands out as one worth a test drive.

The shape of the HKS Racing Controller is identical to a standard PS3 Sixaxis controller, so what makes it different? Well, the D-Pad is now located where the right analog stick used to be, and the right analog stick has moved to the left side of the controller. The original left stick, which has been swapped out for a sort of diagional wheel-like disc and is located where the D-Pad used to be. The X and square buttons have also been replaced with pedals. That’s right, pedals.

If my description is confusing anyone, then this picture should make things more clear.

Pretty snazzy, huh? What isn’t clear in the picture is what the digital display is in the middle, which I’ll explain. It apparently tells you how hard you are accelerating or braking, but I haven’t paid much attention to the display because, when I’m racing, the last place I’m going to be looking is at my hands rather than the TV screen. It’s still a cool addition though. Nobody should ever object to having a digital display on their controller!

There are two switches on the back of the controller. One switch changes the configuration of the controls while the other one allows you to use L2 and R2 for braking and accelerating. These switches are probably great for some people, but after playing with the controller using the default settings, I really can’t imagine altering the control scheme at all.

How does the diagional “wheel” feel for driving? In all honesty, it’s the best anyone’s going to get without buying a wheel. The controller’s steering wheel reacts with excellent precision, and performing various driving maneuvers are executed with silky smooth accuracy and control. Never before have I been able to overtake or weave in such a fluid manner. You really do feel like you’re controlling your vehicle, not just telling it where to go.

The pedals are just as impressive. I found that pressing and holding down the pedals rather than the buttons on the standard Sixaxis was much easier on my fingers than I could have ever anticipated. Unlike with the Sixaxis’ buttons, you do not have to hold the pedals down tightly to achieve satisfactory results. There is a bit of feedback to the pedals and you really to have to use a bit of effort to push them in all the way, but this is the way it should be. Overall, the pedals felt great and gently pressing them down was very relaxing in comparison to the buttons on the Sixaxis controller. Your fingers are definitely less likely to get sore after extended periods of play with this controller.

The surface of the controller also feels fantastic. The plastic is definitely a higher quality than what we get with the Sixaxis and, as a result, the HKS Racing Controller is extremely unlikely to become clammy after long periods of play, or when passing the controller around in a room full of several players. It feels smooth and retains a dry texture the entire time you are using it.

The only problem I have with the controller is that it is not cordless. Still, the wire is at least ten feet long, so unless you play your Playstation 3 from across the entire room, you shouldn’t have any issues at all with the cord.

So, is the controller worth it? In one word, definitely. Gamers who want a little more control and precision when playing racing games but do not want to lay down a few hundred dollars for an actual racing wheel may want to invest in this affordable controller instead. In terms of effectiveness, the HKS Racing Controller probably sits somewhere between a racing wheel and the Sixaxis, but with the steering precision of a wheel and the small size of a Sixaxis controller, how can you possibly go wrong for fifty bucks? Overall, this is a mighty fine controller.

Hardware Rating: B+