While motion controllers are becoming a staple for console gamers with the release of the Wii, PlayStation Move and Microsoft Kinect, PC gamers have been left wanting. Razer is looking to change that with its Hydra motion controller which has been developed specifically for PC gamers. Unlike other console-based motion control systems, the Hydra uses magnetic tracking technology by way of a base station that emits a magnetic field that Razer says allows the exact location and orientation of the handheld controllers to be detected with millimeter and degree accuracy.
The Hydra first popped up at CES 2010 when it was known as the Sixense, after the company that originally developed it. While still powered by the same Sixense technology, the company has since partnered with Razer to bring the device to market. Valve has also come to the party with some exclusive Hydra-specific levels for Portal 2 that are designed to showcase the potential of the peripheral.
The Hydra consists of the magnetic field-emitting base station and two nunchuk-like controllers. These controllers each sport an analogue thumbstick, four numbered face buttons, trigger and bumper button. As the system was designed to be used in the typical seated in front of a PC set up, the controllers aren't wireless and are connected to the base station by an anti-tangle braided cable, which means no need for batteries and a lighter device in your hand.
Razer says the magnetic field put out by the Hydra base station is 20 times weaker than the Earth's magnetic field, so it shouldn't affect objects such as credit cards, HDDs or speakers in the surrounding area. However, objects that emit their own magnetic field, such as some CRT TVs, may cause interference between the controllers and the base station. For the same reason, only one Hydra can be connected to the one PC at a time.
To overcome the problem of a lack of motion compatible PC games, Razer has optimized the Hydra for compatibility with over 125 games out of the box, including Battlefield Bad Company 2, Bulletstorm, COD: Black Ops, Crysis 2, Resident Evil 5 and World of Goo, just to name a few. A full list is available here.
Additionally, Razer says it will release downloadable game configurations for future titles and plans to release configuration software that will allow users to configure movements and map buttons to suit their preferences and allow the Hydra to be used for virtually any game.
The Razer Hydra will be available standalone or as part of a special edition Portal 2 Bundle that includes the Hydra system, that Portal 2 game and some Hydra-specific DLC. The Portal 2 Bundle will retail for US$139.99 and EUR139.99 – which seems a little unfair to European buyers – while the standalone Hydra is expected to go for under US$100. Pre-orders will start in May, with shipping due to commence in June, 2011.