Crossfire Pistol Elegantly Designed, but Misfires

Wii owners are long since familiar with the “Plastic Plague” of crappy gaming peripherals that have come our way.  Even Nintendo themselves are guilty, creating a plastic wheel, and the infamous “zapper,” both little more than plastic molds to cram your remote into.  For me, the former always left something to be desired – the official plastic shell places the trigger at the front of the weapon, and moves most of the remote’s buttons out of the player’s reach. Why didn’t they do a better job? Why doesn’t somebody else do a better job?

Well, somebody did.  Sort of.

Penguin United’s Crossfire Wii-Remote pistol is no mere plastic mold – it’s a full wii-remote pistol – all of the technology you find in your regular remote, molded into a comfortable pistol shape. It boasts not only the form factor of a pistol, but full motion capability. It has a smarter design too – placing most of the buttons within instant reach.  The trigger of course, takes the place of the “B” button, while 1, 2, A, and the D-pad can all be reached with relative ease on the pistol’s grip.  The plus and minus buttons are still out of reach, making games such as The Conduit or Metroid Prime Trilogy difficult to play, but it’s still an improvement over reaching to the top of the “Zapper” for button access.  Overall, the design of the controller is quite pleasing – it’s comfortable to hold, it looks like a pistol, and it’s expanded button access is a delight.  Unfortunately, the difficulty of access to the plus and minus buttons make it difficult to play some games, and although the trigger is a marked improvement over the physical lever used in many of the molded plastic alternatives, it lacks the “springy resistance” of the NES Zapper that more accurately replicates the feel of a real firearm trigger.

When it comes to gameplay however, your mileage may vary.  I tested two different Crossfire units, and each had a different problem.  The first unit I tested had remarkable motion control – during tests with “The Force Unleashed,” the Crossfire proved to be at least, if not more effective at registering some moves than official Wii Remote. Sure, jumping by pulling a trigger was a little awkward, but the motion sensitivity was great.  Unfortunately, the first unit I had suffered a fatal flaw – it’s IR pointer was woefully inaccurate: In trials with House of the Dead 1+2, I found the controller unable to calibrate for the games “no cross-hair” mode – the IR receiver was off by nearly half a foot on both of the televisions I tested it on. Despite I solid delivery on motion, I had to mark the first unit a failure in performance – but that didn’t seem right – How could a gun peripheral fail to function as intended? I contacted our PR rep to ask about the error, and was quickly informed that the first unit we received was a pre-production unit, and the flaw hadn’t come to the production team’s attention until it was already sent out.  A new unit was on the way.


The second unit arrived with an added bonus – an adaptor that rotated extension port, located on underside of the grip, to a position compatible with motion plus accessories, allowing me to use it as a strangely comfortable Golf Club. The IR problem was gone – the new crossfire calibrated without issue, and proved itself a solid, comfortable, and thoroughly enjoyable implement of Zombie pacification.  Unfortunately, this unit was also flawed – although the motion control for forward, left, right, and upward movements were still quite good, all downward movement seemed to register as an “up” movement.  In most “waggle” games this flaw would go unnoticed, but in a directional specific game like “The Force Unleashed,” this kind of performance was unacceptable. This time around, I opted to write to customer support, as a regular consumer might have to, to find a solution.  Regrettably, I never received a response, despite waiting several weeks after sending Penguin United’s Customer Support an email detailing my controller’s issue.

The verdict?  Again, your mileage may vary.  I still like the Crossfire pistol a lot, if for no other reason than they took the time to design a Wii “Zapper” that actually made sense – I never liked the official Zapper, or any of the third party alternatives that isolated the player from the majority of the controller’s buttons.  Even though I really like the idea of the crossfire, I simply can’t recommend it whole heatedly.  The units I tested clearly had build quality issues – and while the second unit still functions perfectly for on-rails-shooters, the products is advertised as a “fully functional” Wii controller.  If you’re a die-hard purist fan of on-rails titles and you want a controller that makes a little more sense – look into this product – but keep your receipt – you may have to play return roulette.