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First Impressions: Flex-Fire

Posted by Christopher Ingram

Outperforming the Sharp Shooter?

Has there ever been a time in your life when you thought, ‘I could do or make that better’? But what do we normally do at this point? We go on with our lives, as the thought passes on and whatever it was we thought we could do better... well, it just never comes to be. But what would happen if you actually tried to make one of these changes? And what’s with all these questions and how does any of this relate to the Flex-Fire? It has everything to do with the new accessory and how one man’s idea of ‘I can make that better’ became reality.

Flex-Fire: History

Before we dive head-on into our impressions of Flex-Fire itself, let’s take a small trip back a few years before PlayStation Move was even thought about; a time when Nintendo’s Wii was new on the market and FPS gamers were snatching up Call of Duty 3, to see if the genre could be improved with motion controls. One such gamer, Adam Wickam, quickly realised that motion controlled FPS gaming on Wii had some major technical issues with controlling the field of view, gestures, character movements and so on, and he snatched up the Wii Zapper in hope of a quick fix to some of these issues. Sadly, he felt that it multiplied these issues instead, and that’s when he first thought: ‘I can make this better!’

Paying his way through college as a plumber, Wickam had a few plumbing supplies nestled up in his garage and after tinkering around for a while he devised a contraption that was similar to the Wii Zapper, but with some modifications. In his playtest his aiming was slightly off and he bent the barrel of the contraption to fix the sights: instantly he realised that what the Zapper was truly missing was the ability to ‘flex’ the barrel, alleviating the wide, tiring movements necessary to pan the camera. This idea sparked a surge of inspiration in Adam, and one that would push him for years to produce a revolutionary gun peripheral that could change the way we think of playing FPS games with motion controls.

12 different prototypes later, the formation of the company ProdaGen, PlayStation Move releasing and years of hard work and determination have finally come to fruition, and the end result is Flex-Fire. Wickam’s Flexible Aiming System Technology that he simply calls “F.A.S.T.” is readily equipped and with the power and precision that PlayStation Move offers, Move was a perfect fit for his invention. He chose the 2011 E3 convention to unveil Flex-Fire to the public eye with much success and has now sent his creation for its toughest test so far: the PlayStation Move experts right here at Movemodo.

Flex-Fire: Impressions

Placing our hands on Flex-Fire for the first time came with initial ‘wows’ all around. The red and black colours immediately make a bold statement that this is a confident competitor to Sony’s own Sharp Shooter. Not only does Flex-Fire house the Move and Navigation controllers to bring an actual gun feel to the shooter franchises just as the Sharp Shooter does, but the F.A.S.T. technology outfitted on the barrel of the gun is the ace up its sleeve (or should we say barrel?) But, does it actually stand up to Sony’s own Sharp Shooter? Well, we’ve put Flex-Fire through rigorous testing already, so let’s dig into our analysis.

It's designed similarly to a SMG/bolt action rifle hybrid, with the right side of the gun featuring a spring-loaded bolt to lock the flexible barrel in place, but still retaining the smaller SMG size for comfort. Inserting the Move controller into the barrel, sliding the Navi into the handle and using Flex-Fire is basically like using any other SMG gun peripheral for Move, but as soon as the bolt is disengaged the innovation becomes apparent.

Flex-Fire's barrel does just that: it flexes, but it's a sturdy flex that's neither too loose nor too tight. This ability comes with multiple advantages over the rest of its competitors – including Sharp Shooter – that make Flex-Fire worth adding to your Move collection. Previous SMG gun peripherals require the user to hold the gun up in the air and twist the body when making the wide horizontal movements to pan the camera, tiring the user and making extended playtime near impossible. But with Flex-Fire you can kick back and relax by simply flexing the barrel to pan the on-screen cursor — even pan the camera with the right settings — but for our preferred settings, it takes small horizontal movements to pan the camera with a slight flex, which is easily performed with Flex-Fire propped up on a knee for added stability.

For those familiar with other SMG Move peripherals, Flex-Fire will be easy to pick up and play, but for those well versed in Sharp Shooter, there is a steep learning curve here. While the flex elements are easily picked up, the lack of button bypass and the fact that many shooters for Move don’t currently allow for customisable controls means that the Trigger isn’t found on the Navi, but instead on the Move controller. While all of the buttons on both controllers are easily accessible – those with small hands can simply twist the barrel to the side for easy access (see image) – it still takes time to relearn which button(s) to press to aim and shoot appropriately. But the learning curve is definitely worth it, as being able to play for extended sessions with a gun peripheral is now possible, as well as other advantages that the flexible barrel bring as well: faster aiming, easier camera panning, lighter weight and an almost natural feel when aiming at an onscreen enemy are but a few examples, and of course, Flex-Fire's fearsome appearance makes you want to dominate online as well.

Outside of the flexible barrel and the spring-loaded bolt to lock the barrel into place, everything else on Flex-Fire is pretty much what’s to be expected: extendable stock, adjustable handle, etc. While we wish the stock was a bit tighter when extended, the overall quality is high, with the controllers fitting in their slots extremely snugly and a sturdy build to the gun itself. The flexible barrel is well designed and with all of our playtime, it’s just as sturdy now as it was in our initial playtest, so you’re definitely getting your money’s worth.

Are you tired of being exhausted from playing online shooters with the other PlayStation Move gun peripherals? Are you looking for a gun peripheral that has the competitive gamer in mind? Well, look no further than Flex-Fire. What started out as one man's sparked idea of “I can do that better,” has become a revolution for PlayStation Move. Head over to Flex-Fire's official website to place your order today ($29.99 + shipping) with shipping due to start on October 1st, 2011. We're told pre-orders are stacking up quickly, so if you’re itching to get flexin’, then get your order in sooner rather than later.

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User Comments (8)

hamispink

#1

hamispink said:

It certainly looks interesting, but if I'm going to be moving the move controller with my hand, then I would rather just use it on its own with my right hand controlling movement(I'm right handed).
I would personally rather have the sharpshooter as it would be a largely different way of playing then with the move on its own, and the digitally mapped buttons are a bit plus.

Slapshot

#2

Slapshot said:

@hamispink The controller can be used with either hand forward, so there's no worries there at all. The Sharp Shooter is a great option as well, but it's very tiring and quite difficult to use for long gaming sessions and still remain competitive, and that's where Flex-Fire's 'flex' ability is so great.

Also, Resistance 3 will feature a control scheme that can be fully customized, and that will be a huge benefit for Flex-Fire, but even without it, it's not too hard to get used to the change in the button layouts.

Ichabod

#3

Ichabod said:

It looks interesting, but my problems has been that you have to change your control style all together to use any of the gun peripherals.

Normally, a person uses the Navigation controller in their left hand, and uses the Move controller in their right to aim. This can be the reverse if you are left handed, but let's keep it simply for righties at the moment.

Now, when you hold a rifle, as a righty, you put it against your right shoulder, with your left hand steadying the gun and your right pulling the trigger. In the case of these guns, that means that you are now moving your guy with your right thumb and aiming with your left.

That's where I can't enjoy it. Either I'm throwing off my aim because I'm aiming with my off hand (my left), or even if I switch it around and aim with my right, the stock is now on my left shoulder and I'm holding the gun in a very uncomfortable way that doesn't feel the slightest bit natural.

This can all work for lefties, as well, because they do everything I've said above, but with opposite hands.

If I am ever going to enjoy a gun peripheral, a design is going to have to be made to take that all into account (which I can't really see how that's possible). The ability for the barrel and grip to "flex" is a neat idea, but for the vast majority of us that aren't ambidextrous in even the slightest way, it still just means another useless piece of plastic sitting in our entertainment cabinet because we've learned to hate the thing.

Slapshot

#4

Slapshot said:

@Ichabod Thanks so much for the comment and posting you concerns. Your same concern was a major issue for myself as well. I'm not ambidextrous in the slightness, and a right-handed person as well, and it took me a lot of practice to get used to it. It has a major learning curve for us that are used to using the Move controller in our right hands, but as I stated in the article, the time put into it was well worth it.

I don't think I could ever use any gun peripheral and match my stats that I can pull off when I use just the Move/Navi setup, but when I want to get that 'real gun feel' and use a gun peripheral, Flex-Fire does a great job of letting me come close to those stats, and it doesn't tire me out either, and there is definitely something to be said for that. :)

autogolazzo

#5

autogolazzo said:

I just think that it is silly. That's all: A gun with a curved barrel. More power to the people who use it.

Ichabod

#7

Ichabod said:

@Slapshot

I forgot to mention that there are a few "wierdos" out there that can actually manage to use the guns well. I have a buddy I used to play Reflex with on the Wii, and no matter how hard I tried, the guy owned me every time. lol

Though I'm not one to use the peripherals, I have to give congrats to those that do use it (and fear those that use it well!) :D

Slapshot

#8

Slapshot said:

@Ichabod For myself, I own the leader boards with the Move/Navi setup. But, the Flex-Fire and Sharp Shooter are fun peripherals make the games feel more realistic with a gun peripheral in hand. It's not something I grab every time, but I always enjoy the feeling of using these in online matches, and still being able to be competitive at the same time.

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