Hey! You look just like an old friend of mine.
Okay, here's the situation: You just fought your way through your local shopping center. Babies are screaming, gorgeous young women are everywhere and Mom says you need to meet her back at the lingerie section of Macy's in 15 minutes. Distractions galore, yet you stay focused. In the far distance, past a veritable sea of happy consumers, you spy the video game store.
You rush in, go directly to the PC section and YOINK! Motor City Online is now in your possession. While making your purchase you throw up your Cone of Silence to mute the holier-than-thou rantings of the video game store clerk. See, he played the Beta before the game was released and of course he has meticulously documented all the games faults and shortcomings. Extremely impatient, you wisely opt not to buy his perfectly bound and collated: The Many Faults of MCO for $5.95 (my, what happens when the resources at Kinko's fall into the wrong hands) and proceed to make your way back to Mom.
Fast forward a bit; now you're home. The game has finished it's massive install and it's time to grab that mouse and keyboard for some hardcore car customizations, trash-talking and rubber burning. You try it a couple times only to realize driving a car with a mouse and keyboard just ain't gonna cut it. What's a guy or gal to do? You don't really have the room or money for a good steering wheel. Man, if only you could find a PC controller that worked like those useful console ones...
Enter Belkin and their Nostromo N45 dual analog PC controller. Grab a seat and a Big Grab Bag of cheesy powdered goodness and listen to us sing its praises and bash it's alleged stabilizer bar. Onward!
But before I continue, a quick word about naming things.Try using actual NAMES. N45? What the hell is an N45? Trying to remember the name of this peripheral is like trying to remember the person who sat two rows behind me in my 4th grade science class. Belkin, let's drop the numbering system and start using actual words. It works much better.
The N45 (sheesh) is very similar to a Playstation dual analog controller. You get the standard D-pad, four main buttons, four shoulder buttons and two analog sticks that can be pressed in and used like the L3 and R3 buttons that PSX & PS2 owners have become familiar with. Three other buttons labeled 'Esc' 'Mouse' and 'Enter' are placed where you would find Start and Select. This makes for a very slight learning curve. And the mouse button lets the N45 navigate Windows. Nice!
Using the Nostromo Array Programming Software, every single button can be programmed. The N45 is so flexible it even allows you to assign one of the buttons as a type of shift function. This gives the player the option to double and even triple up key assignments, leading to a max of 70(!) programmable functions.
The N45 is comfortable. It's a tad larger than your average PSX controller, but not by much. The buttons are well placed and easy to access. The analog sticks are firm and responsive, and the D-pad is comfy and accurate. Using this with games like Heavy Metal F.A.K.K.2 and Motor City Online is great. It's much better than that accursed keyboard and mouse.
But we critics tend to critique and in doing so we found a faux pas or two. First and foremost, the thing has no force feedback or Immersion technology. This was surprising, since a few of the Nostromo devices do in fact rumble. It only made sense that a device modeled after Playstation's dual shock controller would have some sort of rumble feature. Well, apparently it only made sense to us. Hopefully, future N45s will include this feature.
Our other gripe is regarding the "Action Stabilizer Bar" at the bottom of the N45. The literature states that the ACB offers steadier play and more balanced positioning. We state, "Hooey!" It doesn't stabilize a thing! But don't misunderstand, there is nothing functionally wrong with the ACB. It doesn't hinder gameplay at all. It really doesn't do anything, other than assure that Belkin doesn't infringe on Sony's copyright and patent laws for the design of the Dual Shock controllers. I totally understand. We all understand. So don't try to feed us some malarky about stability and precision.
With that said (steps down off soapbox), the N45 is a fine peripheral. For a mere $25 you get a comfortable controller with an array of programming possibilities. If you own any PC games that just defies the mouse and keyboard, check Belkin's N45. I think you'll be pleased.