PlayStation Pro 2.0 - SmartJoy FRAG Review

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SmartJoy FRAG
By: Matt C. on November 18, 2004

Product Description
SmartJoy FRAG is a unique adapter that allows you to connect standard PS/2 compatible mice and keyboards to your PlayStation 2 or Xbox console. You will be able to enjoy First Person Shooters (FPS), or any other game where targeting is important, the way they are meant to be played.

Both versions of the SmartJoy FRAG are fully programmable and come with pre-installed key configurations for the best games available on PlayStation 2 and Xbox. Advanced features such as Deadzone adjustments and mouse control inversion guarantee best gaming experience with your favorite titles.

The Review
It's no secret that some games are easier to play with a mouse and keyboard than a game controller, especially first-person shooters (FPS). However, for reasons I do not understand, most PlayStation 2 FPS titles do not allow you to use your own keyboard and mouse. With two USB ports, it's not like the PS2 cannot handle such a setup. In fact, one of the first FPS game released for the PS2, Unreal Tournament, offered players the ability to use keyboards and mice. It hinted that other upcoming shooters would allow such features, but it never happened.

Fortunately, SmartJoy, the people responsible for a large range of adapters for various controllers across all the major console systems, has recently released a device dubbed the SmartJoy FRAG, which allows anyone to connect keyboards and mice to his or her PlayStation 2 (doesn't matter what region it is from) and use them for ANY game that takes input from controllers or joysticks. In reality, you'll still want to use a game pad for most PS2 games, but it's still nice to know that the SmartJoy FRAG isn't limited to first-person and third-person titles.

When you look at the SmartJoy FRAG, you'll notice that it has two PS/2 ports (not the same as PS2). PS/2 ports are for older keyboards and mice, but don't worry if you only have USB input devices, because the SmartJoy FRAG works completely fine with USB to PS/2 adaptors. In fact, I used the USB to PS/2 adapter that came with my USB keyboard on my Logitech optical cordless laptop mouse, and it worked just fine despite being a wireless device (no lag at all). Your USB keyboard and/or mouse should have also came with a USB to PS/2 adapter, but if you lost it or threw it away, you can buy the adaptor(s) at any PC store for a couple dollars.

Setting up the SmartJoy FRAG is very, very easy. Simply plug it into an empty controller port and attach your keyboard and mouse. When you start up a game, the LEDs on the keyboard will light up and tell you if your input devices are recognized. Before you actually start to play, you should set key assignments. If you are playing SOCOM II: U.S. Navy Seals, Medal of Honor: Frontline, TimeSplitters 2, James Bond 007: Nightfire, Rainbow Six 3, Ghost Recon: Jungle Storm, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, or REZ, then you can use the SmartJoy FRAG's preset control schemes for the games I just listed by pressing F1 - F8. For example, the F1 key loads the SOCOM II button scheme, which binds the jump button to the spacebar, the change stance command to the left shift key, and so on.

Luckily, you can switch buttons around and assign them to any key or mouse button (even the scroll wheel) you want, except for escape and F1 - F12 keys because they are needed to program the SmartJoy FRAG. Configuring your controls is amazingly easy. Just hold the escape key, press the button you want to change, press the new button you want to change it to and then release the escape key. The best part is that you can overwrite and save your personal button assignments for up to eight games (or several for one game if you want since there are eight slots), so you'll probably never have to configure your controls for a specific game more than once -- unless you reset the SmartJoy to its factory default settings.

Once button assignments are out of the way, you will need to tweak the aiming system. For most titles, I recommend going into the options menu of the game and cranking up the controller sensitivity for aiming/looking, because the default setting is usually way too slow. In addition, you will probably need to adjust the deadzone, which is basically the amount of pressure/movement needed to register on-screen. For instance, very, very slight mouse movements usually shouldn't move the screen in the game. Some games don't allow you to mess around with the deadzone, but you can easily adjust it using the SmartJoy FRAG. These adjustments can be saved along with your key assignments. Other nice features include the ability to invert the mouse's Y axis if needed (even if the game doesn't allow it on its own) and being able to switch the mouse to the left analog stick. It's obvious that the SmartJoy team actually sat down and thought of things that gamers would need for certain games and for convenience.

For instance, switching mouse movement to the left analog stick can be useful for flying games, such as Ace Combat 5. And could you imagine having to adjust the control keys everything you booted up a game? (By the way, settings are stored in EEPROM, not in your memory card). One thing to note, however, is that you cannot map movement keys (such as WASD and the cursor/arrow buttons) to the mouse. The mouse is mostly used to look/aim, but some people also like to use it to move his or her character, so this can be a problem. Apparently, this was done on purpose to avoid conflicts and the only way around it is to open up your keyboard and make some modifications. If you only use the keyboard to move around, you don't need to worry.

With all this potential and nice features, does the SmartJoy FRAG actually work? Well, there are people out there who would rather use a Dual Shock 2 or Xbox controller when playing first-person shooters than use a mouse and keyboard, and then there are people who would love to use a mouse/keyboard combo, but simply put up with a standard console controller because they didn't have much choice. And of course, there are folks who avoid console shooters altogether because they cannot tolerate fiddling around with a gamepad. Which category do I fall under? Well, as a person who grew up playing PC and console first person shooters, I can do well using both methods, but I definitely feel more at home with a mouse and keyboard.

The point I am trying to make is that the SmartJoy FRAG is designed to allow people to use keyboards and mice with any PlayStation 2 and Xbox first-person or third-person shooter, and it accomplishes this task beautifully. It does what it is advertised to do. However, how useful this device is dependant on the player's preference and the game he or she is playing. Each game has different options and controls a bit different than each other. For example, Killzone works great with a keyboard/mouse, while TimeSplitters 2 was merely "okay". Although you might disagree, I found aiming in TimeSplitters 2 to be easier using a Dual Shock 2. As for the ever popular SOCOM II -- it worked just fine with the SmartJoy FRAG. In fact, I like SOCOM II better using a mouse and keyboard. The only problem I noticed is that keyboard keys are not analog, so if you want to move slow, you have to tap the movement keys.

Bottom Line
Almost all the problems I encountered when testing the SmartJoy FRAG originated from the games, and not the actual device. Like I said, PS2 games were not designed with the SmartJoy FRAG in mind, so aiming won't always be perfect and you may find using a mouse to be awkward. However, if you stick with it and practice, chances are you will find the SmartJoy FRAG to be very rewarding. Highly recommended for casual and hardcore FPS gamers who are tired of using a Dual Shock 2 for their shooting games -- especially considering the product is priced reasonably at $28.90 USD.


The SmartJoy FRAG ($28.90) can be purchased from PayPal is accepted.

© Copyright 2010 PlayStation Pro 2.0
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Performance 9
Ingenuity 9
Value 9
Overall Score 9

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