When Sony announced that the PlayStation 3 Sixaxis controller wouldn't include the same force feedback feature found on the PS2, it looked as if we might have to endure the PlayStation 3's entire life cycle without the satisfying rumble effects we've become so familiar with. Sony has since announced (September 2007) and released (April 2008) a rumble-compatible controller called--predictably--the DualShock 3. But the DualShock 3 wasn't the first rumble controller for the PS3. Beating it by at least a few weeks was the Nyko Zero Wireless Controller. On the surface, it delivers the same features (rumble plus six-axis motion control) as the DualShock--despite retailing for as much as $10 less than the official Sony controller. Setting up the Zero Wireless was completely painless. Just take the included USB dongle and attach it to your PlayStation 3. Turn on your Zero Wireless and once the LED indicator light shows a solid red on both the dongle and your controller, you're connected and ready to start playing.
When you first pick up the Zero Wireless, you'll immediately notice its long grips that fit nicely in your hands. For those who are familiar with the DualShock design, you'll feel that the controller forces your hands closer together than with the Dual Shock's, which can be awkward at first and may take some getting used to. You'll also notice the weight of the Zero Wireless. At 9.6 ounces, it's noticeably heavier than the original Sixaxis (5 ounces) and the DualShock 3 (7 ounces).
The Zero Wireless has two analog sticks--also closer together than on the DualShock. While we liked the rubber grip covers on the Nyko better than the DualShock, the analog sticks on the Zero Wireless are much springier than with the Sony. Thus, you'll get a much more accurate control using the DualShock than with the Zero Wireless. We did have a complaint regarding the placement of the rear L and R buttons as well. While we enjoyed the fact that both L2 and R2 are more tradition trigger buttons than on the DualShock, their placement is awkward in regard to the overly large L1 and R1 buttons. It requires a less natural movement of the fingers than compared with a DualShock controller. But our biggest problem with the Zero Wireless is the controller's dreaded D-pad. We didn't think it was possible, but it's even worse than the Xbox 360 controller's D-pad. Not only is it very loose, but also the plastic covering piece is such that you'll accidentally hit two directions at once. The Nyko controller also has four backlit buttons which looked especially cool when we dimmed our testing room's lights.
We were happy to see that--unlike the DualShock 3--the Zero Wireless controller has a removable rechargeable battery pack. Also, Nyko includes a AA battery pack in case you don't want to play while recharging (which means being tethered to your PlayStation 3). Nyko even threw in an extra-long 10-foot USB cable for good measure.
We tested the Zero Wireless with Heavenly Sword, Condemned 2, and MLB 08: The Show. (The rumble feature is only available in a limited number of supported titles--though it's been retroactively added to some older games.) While the vibration wasn't as effective with a beat-em-up action game such as Heavenly Sword, the motion control worked just as well as the DualShock when we used it to direct the trajectory of an archer's arrow. The Nyko controller was also able to deliver varying amounts of feedback as needed in MLB 08 to distinguish the strike zone when pitching. The vibration was most satisfying when it was coupled with that of a gunshot, as in Condemned 2.
While Nyko prices the Zero Wireless at $60 on their company site, you'll have no problem finding it in stores for about $45, which is about $10 cheaper than the DualShock 3's retail price. If Nyko had been able to deliver the Zero a year earlier, it would've found a receptive audience. But now that the official DualShock 3 is out, the Zero is far less attractive, even with its slightly lower price (the street price is about $45.) As it stands, we'd recommend the Zero Wireless as a secondary controller only, as it can't match the comfort and performance of the Sony-branded DualShock 3.