Could This Be The Best Way To Play ‘Portal 2’?

By Brian Phares

I am Beethoven, wielding my two grand masters wands and controlling an orchestra of portals and evil robots. That is essentially what I look like as I play the first “Portal 2″ pack DLC with Razer’s motion-sensing Hydra controller. Want to know how it stacks up to the good old keyboard and mouse? Check after the break to find out.

The Hydra is a new controller from Razer that brings motion sensing game play to the PC. The Hydra is essentially made up of two controllers that are held in each hand and are hardwired into a central base station. You heard it right, the Hydra is NOT wireless. Though at first glance they may resemble Wiimotes, a closer look reveals that the controllers are identical, with 4 buttons on the top nestled below a joystick, and the standard two triggers on the back side.

The first thing I noted immediately upon picking up the controllers is the lack of response from the buttons themselves. There is something flimsy and cheap about them, and I wish they had a little less give. Another grievance I have is that the controllers are so identical it is often hard to know which is which until you play a game with them. And lastly, the button placement on the top can be frustrating at times, as I often find it feels awkward to reach the two upper buttons without my thumbs bumping into the joysticks; the controller could definitely benefit from spacing out the buttons a bit.

Set up was easy, I simply plugged in the controller and my computer recognized it immediately. I then went to the Steam website and entered in my promotional code to get the new DLC. While I was waiting for the download to complete I decided to take the Hydra for a quick test run with “Super Meat Boy,” only to find to my chagrin that I could not customize the button assignments in game. I ran into the same problem with “Portal 2″ and I hope this is something that is fixed in the future as more games support the controller.

Despite that, the Hydra controller lets you do a number of actions that would be impossible with a mouse, at least in the specifically-designed “Portal 2″ DLC maps created for it. It allows you to push boxes away from you and pull them back in, stretch them to multiple sizes, rotate boxes without picking them up (awesome for lasers) and lastly, you can drag and rotate portals.

The applications of this are awesome. Now you can stretch a box to become a wall and use it as a shield against those pesky machine gun drones, you can turn it into a bridge, or a giant box to break through glass. Remember how annoying those paint puzzles were in “Portal 2″? Now they’ve never been easier. Simply put a portal under the paint and another portal on a wall and you can drag and rotate the portal to spray paint anywhere you want. You’re a modern day Michaelangelo.

These added elements make the “Portal 2″ Hydra-specific DLC some of the hardest and most confounding puzzles so far. To complete the two stages (one easy and one hard) takes a little over two hours, depending on how crafty you are.

All in all it’s a great DLC bundle, but I’m not sure it’s worth the steep $140 price tag. True, the interface works great with “Portal 2,” but for hardcore PC gamers, I don’t see how this controller could ever compete against a keyboard and mouse in a game like “Counter-Strike.” I would hold off on purchasing this controller until there are more games out for PC that can fully take advantage of its capabilities, but as for the motion-control itself, it’s an impressive feat.