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[Product Review] - Razer Onza Tournament Edition gamepad

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The Razer Onza is Razer's first proper attempt at making a gamepad for consoles. Can this gamepad created by a company known for making some of the fanciest PC gaming peripherals around live up to the hype, or is it not the godly, k/d count enhancing, reaction boosting uber controller that everyone makes it out to be?

The Razer Onza comes in two varieties. The first is the $50 Razer Onza Tournament Edition which has everything the standard Xbox 360 controller has (aside from chatpad compatibility), with added features including: two extra multi-function buttons on the shoulder that can be mapped to any other button on the controller (excluding the d-pad), adjustable resistance on the analog sticks to increase or decrease their tension on the fly, a redesigned d-pad that helps to prevent pressing the wrong button, backlit face buttons (the A, B, X, and Y buttons), a rubberized grip on it's surface, and a 15 foot braided (cloth-covered) USB cable. Being wired means that the controller is also PC compatible. The second variety is the $40 basic Razer Onza, having most of the same features except for the adjustable resistance analog sticks, rubberized grip, and backlighting. In this review I have used the Tournament Edition.

Probably the most obvious and useful feature of the Razer Onza is having the ability to map any two extra buttons to the shoulder of the controller, next to the standard left and right bumpers. While not very necessary in some games, it can be extremely useful in other games such as first person shooters. When you have to be ready to aim and shoot at something at a moment's notice, moving your thumb from the right analog stick to jump or sprint can be deadly. With the Razer Onza you can do the impossible and aim as you jump, giving you a slight edge and a much smoother feel to the gameplay.

The d-pad also has a very nice feel to it. While it may not be ideal for sliding moves in some fighting games (why wouldn't you just use the analog sticks these days anyways?), having each button separate from eachother and larger makes it easier to not bump the wrong one when you're, for example, choosing a weapon or ability. The new positioning of the back and start buttons on the other hand, isn't so great. The positioning was fine on the standard controller, I never found myself bumping them on accident and they were easily accessed by moving your thumbs inwards slightly. On the Razer Onza the back and start buttons are placed on the bottom of the controller for no apparent reason. This simply makes them a bit harder to press when you have to practically adjust your grip to reach them below the analog sticks.

The analog sticks on the Onza can be adjusted to make them more or less tense. They can go from feeling like a controller that's been heavily used for the past five years, very loose and ideal for quick aiming in shooters, to being much harder to turn, which works well for racing games. The tension adjustment works great and can really change the feel of the controller depending on what you are playing.

All of this sounds great, but there is one very big problem. This thing is noisy as hell! I've always wondered why computer mice have to make that loud sound with every press of the button. You might not notice it when you're just browsing the internet, but if you play a PC game it can get a bit annoying. Now imagine playing a game with a dozen buttons, all of which (excluding the triggers) click louder than a mouse click. When you start playing something hectic like Marvel vs. Capcom 3 it becomes a frenzy of clicking. The standard Xbox 360 controller uses membrane style clicking on most of its buttons, and is easily less than half as loud as the Razer Onza. Though the idea of the clicking style button presses is that they activate faster, I never noticed any real controller related button lag with the standard controller.

On top of that, when there is a lot of force feedback and the controller vibrates hard enough, the entire controller rattles loudly like an earthquake is tearing it apart. If you grip it tight enough it will vibrate normally without sounding like it's about to explode, but using the excuse that you're holding it wrong didn't work out so well for the iPhone, did it? Some games have the option to lower the force feedback intensity, which helps, but it shouldn't be an issue to begin with. It just feels loose and cheaply made when you hear the almighty death rattle coming out of it. I even tightened all of the screws on the back of the controller (after having to remove some rubber don't-mess-with-the-internal-components caps blocking access to them) and the problem persisted.

Overall the Razer Onza Tournament Edition was a bit of a disappointment for me. Functionally it's a great controller with some pretty cool features, but the overall 'clickiness' of it is highly irritating. For a controller that's been hyped up for over a year, and took an entire month and a half to get from the preordering period (which only lasted a few short days before it sold out), I had expected the overall feel of it to be a little better. If noise isn't an issue and you're looking for a new controller that might give you an edge online, then by all means try preordering one here when they next become available in the coming months. Otherwise I don't believe this will truly be a replacement for the standard Xbox 360 controller as some have claimed. The standard controller still has the best overall feel compared to third party brands. Also it doesn't generate earthquakes whenever your game gets too intense.


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