Ah the good old days. I remember
when I used to play Duck Hunt on my Nofriendo back when I was
a wee lad. The click-sproing sound of the trigger as I shot
duck, after duck, after duck, was enough to annoy any parent.
I remember clearly how much I shot at that stupid dog that mocked
me when I missed. Stop it! Stop laughing!!! Um………er……I’m
ok now, heh.
With the quality of games jumping ahead by leaps
and bounds, hardware is also keeping up the pace. No more big,
clunky light gun with a stiff trigger to cause your thumb to
go numb. Enter the Act-Labs USB PC light gun. How does it compare
with the good old NES clunker? We shall see….
First I will spill the goods on what it comes
with, and what it has to offer all you trigger-happy gamers.
My Test System:
Athon Thoroughbred 2400+ @ 2.2GHz
ASUS A7N8X w/BIOS 1001e
ATI 9700 Pro
Samsung SyncMaster 900NF
Act-Labs USB Light Gun Requirements:
The requirements are rather modest for the Act-Labs
gun so almost any machine can make use of it.
IBM PC Running Windows 98se/ME/2000/XP
VGA CRT Monitor. The Light Gun is NOT compatible
with LCD or Plasma Screen Monitors.
VGA Video Card with DirectX 7 or Higher
Pentium 166 or Higher
5MB Disk Space
I opened the box to be greeted by the light gun, complete with
the USB and VGA connection box. Also included was a CD with
setup and calibration information, a mini game to test it out,
and a link to several games that can make use of the Act-Labs
The gun is easily set up and takes only a few
minutes. The USB connection on the box just plugs into a standard
USB port as any USB connection does. The VGA adaptor is slightly
more complicated yet almost as easy. Firstly, unhook your monitor
from the connector on your video card. Then connect the monitor
to the patch-through box that is included, and connect the input
cable on the box to the output on your video card where you
originally unhooked your monitor. When you fire up Windows,
the USB Light Gun is automatically installed and requires no
third party drivers to install. Plug and Play; you gotta love
Configuration: When you fire in the included CD, you are greeted
with several options. Firstly, you can be walked through the
installation of the Light Gun if need be. Just pick your particular
operating system – in my case Windows XP – and then
it will give you instructions complete with diagrams. Secondly,
you can see a quick list of supported games that are currently
available. Games that currently make use of the Act-Labs USB
Light Gun are: “The House of the Dead” from Empire
Interactive, “Mad Dog MacRee” and “Who Shot
Johnny Rock?” from Digital Leisure, “Art is Dead”
from Small Rockets, “Area 51” from GT Interactive,
and lastly “GT Hunter” from Synthetic Dimensions.
The Light Gun is also fully compatible with MAME and if you
check the Act-Labs website, you can find updated information
on what games make use of it, as well as MAME downloads, the
SDK (Software Development Kit) for the Light Gun and other goodies.
If needed, you can also select the “How to Use”
option from the main menu on the included CD. It will step through
the calibration of the Light Gun using an included video clip.
Calibration is not necessary, but recommended for maximum accuracy.
To calibrate the light gun just flip the calibration switch
located on the right side of the gun and move the gun across
the screen in a + pattern, top to bottom, then left to right.
When done, just switch off the calibration switch and you are
set to go. The calibration can be done in-game as well as in
windows. It is recommended to recalibrate the light gun every
time you change resolution. They have also thrown in a mini
Shoot-the-Aliens game to test out your light gun after setting
it up. It’s cute but gets boring fast.
Also included on the CD is a list of free online
Flash based games that can be played using the Act-Labs USB
Light Gun. The list is rather out-dated though, as I had hard
time finding very many game links that were still active.
Now that we have the goodies and specs out of
the way, let's take a look at the actual unit next, as well
as the fun part....testing.
The Gun Itself:
The first thing I noticed about the USB Light
Gun from Act-Labs is the fact that it is small and very light,
so light in fact that it almost seems cheap. That is not saying
that is in fact cheap, but it just has that feel to it. The
Light Gun is ergonomically shaped very well and has rubber grips,
and as a result, fits comfortably in the hand. It also has non
adjustable sights on it to add to the realism when shooting.
There are two buttons as well as a calibration switch located
on the gun. The trigger has a smooth micro switch which I rather
like compared to the clunky old triggers of old. The trigger
has the same function as the left mouse button when gaming.
There is also a button located on the left side
of the Light Gun which serves the same function as the right
mouse button. One thing to note is that shooting off-screen
also emulates hitting the right mouse button. This can be used
to reload in games like House of the Dead 2. The calibration
switch is mounted on the right side across from the secondary
button. The Act-Labs gun is not cordless, but does give you
six feet of cord to allow you to shoot from a respectable distance.
Let the shooting begin:
The only game I had available to me at the time
of this review is the aging Mad Dog MacRee. I tried to get a
hold of House of the Dead 2 because shooting Zombies is a national
gaming past time, hehehe. But alas no, a copy could not be found.
I fired up Mad Dog and started shooting, and not very well.
I personally had a very hard time getting the gun calibrated
accurately. I could get it close, but not perfect. I found it
was actually MORE accurate if you just eyeballed it rather than
try using the gun mounted sights.
As I am a shooter of real firearms, NOT using
the sights was hard to get used to. The screen has the unavoidable
flashes when the trigger is pulled. Those cannot be helped though
as that is how the gun ‘knows’ where you are aiming.
I shot corrupt gunslingers for quite a while before I noticed
my arms getting tired. That I can assume is due to the lightness
of the Light Gun………um yea, did that make sense?
I really wish I could have found House of the Dead 2, because
that would have been great with this Light Gun. Sigh…no
zombie fragging for me.
I guess I am done whining about not being able
to shoot zombies now, so head to the next page for the summary
of my experiences with the Act-Labs USB Light Gun.
UPDATE: I just finished a House of the Dead 2
marathon. I would like to thank Ken Francisco for emailing me
and letting me know that there are indeed copies out there if
you look hard enough. I did some searching and was able to come
up with a copy, and now I am hooked.
After firing it up, all I can say is wow. The
Act-Labs USB Light Gun really shines in this title. If you have
ever played House of the Dead 2, it is fast paced and non stop.
I think I am going to wear out the trigger switch on this game.
I was able to get the accuracy down pretty well in HoTD2 and
that's good because you need it.
Anyways, enough talk.................Time to squeeze
the trigger a few hundred more times.
The Act-Labs USB Light Gun is great for satisfying your need
to squeeze a trigger and play some PC games at the same time.
Those of you who – like me – grew up on Duck Hunt
will like this gun. The lack of weight combined with excellent
ergonomics makes it easy to play for long periods of time. The
6 feet of provided cable allow you to choose your shooting distance
nicely. The plug-it-in-and-use feature is great for those who
do not like fumbling around with driver installations and complicated
setup. I had a hard time getting the Light Gun accurate, even
after several calibrations, but I guess the accuracy would depend
on your particular monitor.
I would have liked to see at least ONE full version included
considering the hassle I had finding compatible games, and to
justify the price. Although I did eventually find House of the
Dead 2 which really suited The Act-Labs Light Gun, I wish there
were more titles readily available to make use of it. That is
not saying that the games are not out there, just FINDING them
was a pain. All in all the Act-Labs USB Light Gun exceeds it’s
predecessors in the Light Gun market, although it is not perfect.
Nice and Light
Easy to Set Up
Comfortable to Hold
No Driver Installation Needed
Had Hard Time Finding Supported Games
No Bundled Game(s)