Any third-party controller that improves on a console’s proprietary offering is OK in my book. Nyko’s Raven series of wireless controllers for the PlayStation 3 do this and more, at least in most areas, and even offer Sony fans a tantalizing way to ferry over 360 fans to Sony’s media behemoth – a PS3 controller with the layout of a 360 controller. Available in both Standard (DualShock layout) and Alternate (Xbox 360 layout) designs, the Raven is a formidable third-party alternative to the standard-issue Sony choices in terms of design and the way the controller feels while gaming, but it does possess a few hiccups that may make those strapped for cash think twice before committing.
Perhaps the first aspect of the Raven I marveled over was its smooth, satiny rubberized exterior. Gaming at the end of a long work day is a pastime of mine, and the cold plastic of my Sony controller gets a little uncomfortable during the cold winter nights, and in the summer my palms tend to get a little sweaty – the Raven’s finish alleviated these issues and felt like a dream in my hands. Smooth, indented analog sticks with a beveled grip mirrored the look and feel of the stock Xbox 360 controller spectacularly, though the face buttons felt a little more plasticy than I would have liked. The stenciled-white designs on the buttons are attractive and svelte, but not soft enough for me, and I found that I vastly preferred the 360 and pack-in PS3 controller to these awkward buttons. Also, the slightly raised height of the analog sticks was a bit bothersome; I prefer them a bit lower, but this is easily gotten used to and not any real reason to strike off as a demerit.
The Raven has a nice heft to it, which is great for gamers with large and even smaller hands alike, since the surface material has a nice supporting grip to it. I was reminded of several different Logitech PC gamepads I had used in the past, especially when it came to the shoulder buttons. I loved the silky feeling of pumping them, thanks to the finish, and the “bumpers” felt similarly comfortable. There was no real “spring-back” as I like to say that you see with third-party products (a GameStop brand, for one), and it felt like a dream to take aim and fire on several shooters like Killzone 2 or Call of Duty: Black Ops. As far as the d-pad goes, it’s a solid cross, quite unlike the DualShock’s “broken” style and completely different from the troublesome 360 d-pad. I found that it worked quite well for games that didn’t rely too much on non-analog stick controls, as it just didn’t have the accurate feel of the “broken” d-pad found on the standard DualShock.
The controller charges through its mini-USB port and syncs up with a USB dongle, which is one feature I didn’t enjoy so much. I experienced several interruptions when attempting to play at a friend’s house, particularly when playing around with Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game. Since the device isn’t Bluetooth (common among third-party controllers on the console), that’s probably to be expected, though it begs the question, why couldn’t it have been? I don’t particularly like being unable to turn the system on with the Home button, either, which is a feature I’ve grown accustomed to since becoming a PS3 owner a couple of years ago.
Force feedback seems adequate, though a little milder than what you might feel on the 360 with the similar design and all. I also found Sixaxis (motion-control) play to be quite decent, playing through Flower with no hampered accuracy or noticeable flaws. Despite the dropouts in connection seen while playing through some gameplay sessions, I found Nyko’s Raven to be a particularly interesting and formidable controller. It’s soft to the touch, durable, and feels great in the hands, and makes the transition to the PlayStation 3 console for 360 junkies a seamless one. You may prefer the Standard version design, which retains the DualShock analog layout. But if you’re looking for a way to spice up your gaming on the PS3, you could do a lot worse than Nyko’s Raven series.