Play a first-person shooter on a PC and you get the precision of a mouse. Play a first-person shooter on a console and you get the precision of a small plastic thumbstick, which is nowhere near as precise as a mouse.
For years hardware manufacturers have tried to bridge this gap, coming up with all manner of innovative (and awful) contraptions. The latest to give it a swing is famed Japanese peripheral makers Hori.
They've designed the Tactical Assault Commander 3, which comprises on the left a small keyboard, and on the right, a mouse. You use the keys to move, reload and open stuff, while you use the mouse to aim and shoot.
The TAC3 certainly looks promising. Unlike many other entrants in this kooky market, there's a professional appearance to the peripheral, with both keyboard and mouse decked out in alternating digital urban camo and black rubber/plastic (there's also a plain black version available).
On the keyboard, you're given arrow keys for player movement and most face buttons on the DualShock are represented. The main buttons you'll use in a shooter, "X" (for actions or jumping) and "L3" (for sprinting or crouching) are larger, and located so your index finger and thumb (not used to move) can easily reach them. There's also a PlayStation Guide button and d-pad.
If the keyboard's default controls work for you or the game you're playing, great! If not, each button can be easily customised with a switch on the top. Two more switches toggle the sensitivity of the attached mouse.
And yes, it's attached. There's no screwing around with wireless technology here. The mouse is tethered to the keyboard via cable, and the keyboard plugs into your PS3's USB port. It may seem a little old-fashioned, but it means you won't ever be recharging the thing or having to synch a new controller every time you dig this out.
While this means you can't use the mouse on a PC or Mac (many competing products allow this), the mouse is comfortable in hand (both it and the keyboard's surface is covered in soft rubber) and is nice and heavy.
In terms of the hardware on offer, then, this is pretty great.
Here's the thing, though. It's a wasted effort. All these companies releasing these mice-and-pad devices for the PS3 are Sisyphus rolling a boulder up a hill. They just don't know it. The TAC3 doesn't work for the same reason none of the other attempts at cracking this supposed problem work: The issue isn't with the hardware. It's with the games themselves.
PC games are designed with mouse control is mind. PS3 games are not. What this means is that simply plugging a mouse into a PS3 does not give you PC-like control; it means the mouse is replicating the movements of the PS3's thumbstick. So for the most part it's as slow and "sluggish" as it always has been.
Which is fine! That's how these games are designed. Everything from your reticle to the speed of your enemies has been coded with the assumption the player will be using a DualShock controller, so it's not really sluggish at all. It's normal.
Using a mouse, then, doesn't really add anything to the process. Sure, Hori at least tries a few neat tricks, like letting you hold a special mouse button down triggering "full speed mouse movement" for those times you need to whip your gun around but can't whip a mouse around fast enough, but on the whole it really doesn't feel any different to using a control pad.
Indeed, in some instances it can be worse; it takes a while to train yourself on using the buttons and keys instead of reaching for a face button that's not there, and the fact you're using a mouse and keyboard means you need to be near a flat surface to rest it all on, as trying to balance the mouse pad on your knee is more trouble than it's worth.
As you can tell, I'm not a believer in these kinds of products. The last one I reviewed didn't really do anything for me, nor does this one. They ask a lot of you and give very little in return.
This one is at least slick and very well put-together, though, so if you feel like you can get something out of a mouse and keyboard setup on a PS3, you may as well give this one a look. If you're like me, though, you'll likely agree that the Hori TAC3 is simply a great execution of a terrible idea.
TheTAC3 retails for $99. Available in black and urban camo (Best Buy exclusive). Available at retailers and online.