July 5, 2007 - The PlayStation 3 has received somewhat less support than the Xbox 360 in terms of third party peripheral releases, which is a shame really, as Sony is at least kind enough to allow such designers to release wireless products, a feature Microsoft hoards for itself. Thus far we've had our hands on the rather standard Logitech Cordless Precision PS3 (review) and rather sweet SplitFish FragFX PS3 (review). Today we've got a third entry in the market, the Thrustmaster Run N Drive for PlayStation 3 (it also works with the PS2 and PC).
Styled rather similarly to the original boomerang design of prototype PS3 controllers, Thrustmaster's Run N Drive rocks a couple of unique design innovations. While the standard analog sticks, d-pad, and face buttons remain rather typical, Thrustmaster added an optical jog-dial that surrounds the d-pad and replicates the left-right input from the analog stick so as to offer an alternative means of control in driving and other games. Thrustmaster also decided to move the L2 and R2 buttons from the shoulders to the back of the pad where a user's middle fingers generally reside. Oddly, there are buttons where one would traditionally expect L2 and R2, but they aren't mapped to anything useful in the Run N Drive's unmodified layout. In hand the controller is pretty comfortable, though it doesn't feel quite as natural as a SIXAXIS or 360 pad. The back-mounted L2 and R2 buttons take the most getting used to, and the d-pad has a lot of travel that is not suited to tap-tap fighting games like the Tekken series.
The real selling point of the controller is the optical jog-dial, which, in our testing, proved itself to be a capable and interesting alternative means of control. The dial twists about 45-degrees in both directions from its neutral resting state and is easy to manipulate with one's thumb. Its practical effect in driving games is greater accuracy in holding a turn at less-than-full input. Maintaining a steady 70% input for a left turn on an analog stick can be tricky, and generally is a study in over-steering followed by counter-steering that winds up slowing down the car dramatically. The Run N Drive's optical jog-dial makes holding a steady less-than-full input turn a lot easier. It's also good for making small corrections in straight-aways. Such benefits are primarily noticeable in road racing titles, however. While testing with Motor Storm we realized that the jog-dial was a lot less useful when rather severe corrections have to be made constantly as our vehicles bounced and bumped over the terrain.
In other aspects the controller is somewhat limited. The Run N Drive has no SIXAXIS-style tilt-sensitivity, and cannot function with PlayStation 2 titles played on the PS3. It also lacks a PS button. Its rumble only works on PS2 titles. The only analog buttons on the controller are what would be the R2 and L2 buttons, were they mapped as such. Though the controller does have rather extensive mapping capabilities and internal memory for saving a user's configuration, we're still shocked that a controller that purports to have driving games in mind would require manual re-mapping to make the analog shoulder buttons available for gas and break functions.
The very best aspect of the Thrustmaster's Run N Drive PS3 is its price of $24.99. Coupled with its wide compatibility (PS3, PS2, PC), the controller is a relatively competitive candidate for gamers looking for an extra controller but aiming to avoid spending almost as much as a game.
IGN's Ratings for Thrustmaster Run N Drive RatingDescription out of 10
Optical jog dial is useful in road racing games, and other aspects of the controller perform pretty well. Odd layout for R2 and L2 buttons is a downside, as is lack of analog buttons.
7.0 Build Quality
Cleanly molded and put together.
$24.99 is a great price for an extra controller, expecially one that works on several platforms, in this case PS3, PS2, and PC.