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.


  1. Yet another good idea gone bad. Darn.

  2. lol
    I think it’s safe to say I’ve shot more guns than anybody else here, and absolutely none of them felt like I was using the NES zapper. sorry sean, city slicker I take it?

  3. Actually, I live on a ranch – a city slicker I am not. I’m also from a line of NRA life members, and have pictures of me handling firearms from before my first days at school. Your saying may not be as safe as you think.

    Think about that NES zapper trigger for a second – and then think about all of the modern “gun” toys you see for consoles. What is the difference? Resistance. It’s the spring in the NES Zapper that makes it, to me, the most realistic firearm analog available, even after 25 years. Go pick your Zapper up, and then an unloaded handgun. On both of them, when you pull the trigger back – when the Zapper “fires,” the resistance is gone – just as on a real pistol when the hammer falls.

    Now compare that to the Wii Zapper, or any of the other “gun” toys for videogames these days – pull the trigger back – until it “clicks.” No resistance. No hammer to fall (Queen song!), nothing. Just a click. How many pistols have you fired that end with a stanch “click” in the trigger? None of mine do that.

    Think twice before you call me a city slicker boy, I live on a ranch. 4 dogs, 17 horses, 1 mule, 1 goat, and one hell of a lot of guns in a giant safe. Yee-haw.

  4. Where do you plug in the freakin’ nunchuk?? This gadget looks beautiful, but I’m afraid the nunchuck might make it a bit difficult to handle…

  5. I can’t believe i forgot to mention that. I’ll edit it in. The nunchuck plugs in where the “clip” would go on the gun, on the bottom. It’s non obtrusive and comfortable. It also comes with a “Motion Plus” converter, and worked well enough for playing Golf. With a gun. That was odd.

  6. @Sean B.
    I know what your saying a little bit about the resistance. Their is definitely more resistance in a real trigger than a wii button (unless your using a set trigger, in which case a button would have MORE resistance). But the NES zapper is a but too resistant and really spongy. The real difference between a real firearm and a video game one is the recoil. It’s not really the resistance on a trigger that causes the hesitation, it’s the anticipation of recoil. I think it would be awesome for video games guns to kick. It would be more realistic and put people on edge when playing shooters, not to mention you would have to re-aim instead of just click the button as fast as you can. While it wouldn’t be easy, they could probably just modify a rumble motor to go one direction. And just like rumble, they could adjust the severity and frequency of it. So if your using a magnum it would be a single full throttle punch, and if you were using an assault rifle it would have a low constant chopping.

    P.S. happy to hear that you’re not a city slicker. Most people these days think you should teach kids to be afraid of guns and hate them. If they would educate people about guns instead of pretending they don’t exist, there would be less accident and less gun crime.

  7. I know what you mean, but after years of NES Zapper, I’ve come to love that resistance. It’s not perfect, but no other “light gun” tries to replicate that resistance. It’s not really about replicating the “hesitation” for me, but the method – because of the afformentioned recoil, one needs to squeeze the trigger slowly to get off a clean shot. Sure, that doesn’t MATTER without recoil – but a trigger without any resistance always felt wrong.

    But you’re right, recoil would make a much larger gameplay difference, but it’s rarely representing in gaming. There are a few arcade units that replicate it by having a moving “action” on top of the pistol. It provides enough of a kick so you can “feel” it, and it feels good – but that kind of motion wears out – and would probably stop functioning after just a few years..

    PS to the PS: Yeah, I agree. I was raised in a firearm family, and education was paramount. I was never taught to be afraid of guns in the sense that they were evil, but I was taught that they are very dangerous, but very fun tools and toys. They need to be respected and you should never touch one unless you fully understand what they are capable of and you are prepared for the responsibility of handling one. You can’t be firearm safe unless you understand and respect firearms. Fear and general statements of “this is a bad and evil thing, because it is” will do nothing to protect you, and does nothing to create a safe environment. Panic maybe.