3dRudder review (PSVR)

One of the best Playstation VR-specific pieces of hardware is the 3dRudder, which we’ve recently been testing. Find out why it’s a (potential) gamechanger for the platform in our review below.

Ever since VR became a thing, we’ve seen “VR hardware” pop up. A lot of those products are VR headphones/earbuds and the like, where the benefits are small (if they exist at all) over existing products that do the job just as well. At this year’s Gamescom, however, we got to go hands-on (though we should say feet-on) with something that actually made a large impact – the 3dRudder controller for Playstation VR.

First impressions

A version for PC-based headsets had already been out for a while, but the new PSVR edition only came out a few months ago. We recently got a unit ourselves for some extensive testing, and we were ready to go in a manner of minutes. Opening the box reveals the controller itself, which looks a bit like a lolo ball without a ball on top (some of you probably have to look that reference up). There are two foot bars to install, but this is just a matter of clicking the plastic guards into place – which is so easy you’ll probably have done it before you even see the manual. After that, it’s pretty much plug and play, since the controller works on a wired connection to your PS4.

For those unfamiliar with the 3dRudder foot controller, the way it works it that after placing your feet on top you can tilt the controller in all directions as it pivots on the domed underside of the 3dRudder. In-game, depending on the control setup, this usually results in forward, backward and (strafing) sideways motion. Turning is also possible, and achieved by rotating the controlling clockwise or counter-clockwise. It can take a bit of getting used to, but it becomes intuitive rather quickly.

One thing that can happen is that your 3dRudder might move out of place, especially on a smooth or even slightly slippery floor. This is something to experiment with, because putting down a nice little rug can make all the difference here. Alternatively, 3dRudder is also putting out a special gripper unit that will lock the controller in place – pivoting on a rod that inserts into the bottom of the unit. We tested this at Gamescom and it works great, so if you find your 3dRudder getting out from under you that is something to consider.

3drudder

It’s still easy to just maneuver your controller back into place with your feet though, even without looking when you’re wearing the VR headset – the special grips and anti-slip material on the top of the controller help you do so. The anti-slip mat is blue, giving the unit a nice black/blue look with a large Playstation logo in the middle and the 3dRudder logo situated in between the footrests at the top.

In-game testing

While the hardware setup phase for the 3dRudder is incredibly easy, using it with PSVR games will depend on whether or not the game has support for the controller built into it. Luckily, some developers have also gone back to previously released titles and have implemented support retroactively. As a result, about 30 games now support the controller, and we were able to test it with games like Wolfenstein: Cyber Pilot, Sairento VR, Space Junkies, Telefrag VR, Red Matter, Contagion VR and The Wizards.

What makes the 3dRudder a great match for Playstation VR is the fact that it gets around the lack of thumbsticks on the Move controllers. This lack of thumbsticks always makes your control options feel like a trade-off on PSVR, either going with the DualShock option and having a less immersive experience or going with the Move controller and struggling with often awkward controls for locomotion (or having to use teleportation as a mechanic). We can easily name a handful of games where the lack of proper movement controls seriously hurt the experience (The Inpatient would have been a lot better with smoother controls as well), and the 3dRudder would have made a big difference.

Having said that, the controller doesn’t replace the sensation of actually walking around. It’s far more immersive than using a teleportation system or some of the more creative uses of the Move controllers, but the experience does feel a little bit like you’re on a hoverboard rather than walking around. This isn’t a problem, but it’s worth mentioning. In fact, it’s far from a problem when you consider futuristic titles like Space Junkies and Telefrag, which both benefit a lot from the 3dRudder. Another great example is Cyber Pilot, where you naturally feel a little detached from the mech you’re controlling and the immersion is great. We’re kind of hoping that Golem will also get 3dRudder support in the future.

3drudder2

Using the 3dRudder is a seated affair, but we found that it helps to make sure you’re seated at almost a standing position. Not only does this increase the sense of immersion in most games, you’re also applying less pressure on the controller which makes it less likely to shift out of position. Of course your gaming room would have to be able to accommodate such a setup, but it’s worth noting.

The best games to enjoy the 3dRudder with are the ones where moving around freely in an environment is crucial. The games we mentioned above are great examples of this, but other highlights include the excellent Red Matter and Sairento VR, as well as The Mage’s Tale and Contagion VR – all experiences where only needing your Move controllers for hand control is liberating.

Conclusion

Whether or not the 3dRudder controller is worth it for you depends entirely on how big your library of supported titles is (or will be). Fact is that, for supported titles, it provides the best way to play them – and it’s great to see someone has finally gotten around the biggest limitation that Sony’s Move controllers have. If developers embrace the hoverboard-like nature of the controls and base a game around it then we can really channel our inner Marty McFly, so we’ll be keeping on the lookout for upcoming games and patches.

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