Razer Battlefield 3 Onza Tournament Edition Review
When I first received Razer’s Highly Praised Onza Tournament edition controller for the Xbox 360 late last month, I was taken away by the elegant design; praising its unique approach to d-pad design and its responsive action buttons. While my original assessment stands it is an awesome controller I have since found a few minor problems, albeit shallow, issues.
The Onza is Razer’s first endeavour into the world of console controllers, and a project that was in the works for over a year. While the design is based largely on Microsoft’s first-party controller, it tweaks some elements of the original and adds a number of new features of its own, specifically a set of bumpers which can be digitally mapped to perform the function of any other button, manually adjustable tension mechanisms on the thumb sticks to fine tune sensitivity to your liking , low-profile hyper-responsive action buttons, and a d-pad that blends the form of the Xbox 360 controller’s with the four-button configuration of the PlayStation 3′s.
There are two different Onza models, the base version, which forgoes the adjustable thumb stick tension mechanisms and LED backlighting in exchange for a $10 discount off of the full-featured Tournament Edition, which retails for $49.99.
I was given the Battlefield 3 Tournament Edition Onza to check out, and although I can’t attest to the performance of the standard version’s thumb sticks, I can speak to the quality of just about everything else.
In terms of ergonomics, the design is largely similar to the first-party solution from Microsoft, though it is a lot lighter and the build feels a little cheaper. Still the handles feel great, and the textured finish gives players a solid grip during lengthy game sessions with very little irritation. The low-profile buttons are easier to access, and through their use of mechanical switches instead of standard membrane require less force to register activation. The mechanical design makes quick, lightning actions more effective and multiple taps register faster.
The same can be said for the Onza’s unique d-pad, which although uses a traditional membrane mechanism, is leaps and bounds over mushy Microsoft design, great for the Xbox’s retro games. With one button per each of the four core directions, quick taps are registered instantaneously, and since the buttons are wide and positioned closely together, it is also simple to depress two at once and achieve a diagonal command, making it versatile enough for both fighting games and retro platformers.
The triggers have also been designed to protrude further outward and upward, in theory to make them easier to hold onto. Although this feels rather uncomfortable to begin with they start to feel very natural after a short period, they also react significantly faster than its first party equivalent. During testing, my fingers more naturally gravitated toward the ends of the triggers, extending my index further than usual but this helped with rapid fire activation.
Then, of course, there is the adjustment system itself, which works pretty well. Just below each concave thumb stick pad is a twistable wheel with roughly 30 increments of tension, identified with a distinct click. Though one click to the left or right will not result in an immediately recognizable decrease or increase in tension, five or more can have a noticeable difference. The sticks start with a similar level of fluidity to the original 360 controller, but with the tension maxed out it can be pretty rigid.
Most importantly, though the utility of the physical tension adjustment system may clear for competitive players, it isn’t immediately apparent to the average gamer. In-game sensitivity settings are pretty much a standard feature for games at this point but in most cases they only provide a general option rather than individual sticks and don’t provide any actual physical difference.
As for the two additional remappable shoulder buttons, Razer has done a great job of positioning them in a way that preserves the accessibility of the two standard buttons, but making them near enough for speedy taps. Both sets of shoulder buttons have a distinct click, much like the action buttons, albeit a bit taller and more rounded. Though it does feel a little crowded at first much like most things on the Onza players will get used to it very quickly
The mapping system itself is also extremely easy to use. Underneath the controller there are two buttons along with an array of LED-illuminated indicators, which identify the function assigned to the mappable shoulder buttons. By default, the secondary buttons are assigned the same function as the regular bumpers, but they can also be programmed to function as A, B, X, Y, left or right stick buttons, either trigger, start, and back.
The remapping system also benefits one technical shortcoming of the tension adjustment system its impact on the left and right stick buttons. While the thumb sticks have a distinct inward click when centred, depressions are harder to identify when either stick is tilted in any direction, which can have an impact on your ability to melee while moving. Since chasing your prey is inherently tied to the subsequent stabbing or punching that follows, not being able to quickly push inwards can drastically impact your combat effectiveness.
Though the reduced responsiveness of the thumb stick buttons is certainly worrisome, the remapping system does compensate to a degree.
Some players may also find issue with the fact that the Onza is a wired controller, but it has been an official statement by Microsoft that they will not allow any third-party manufacturer to produce wireless controllers for the Xbox 360. Fortunately, however, Razer was kind enough to give players roughly 15 feet of USB cabling for plenty of room to roam.
Through it all, the Onza controller is easily one of my favourite Xbox 360 controller alternatives, but there are definitely some issues preventing it from being truly great. Competitive players will certainly gravitate to its high-performance, adjustable design, and there’s plenty to offer casual players as well, but most will likely prefer the comfort and familiarity of the first-party solution.