The Tech Zone (Review) Posted: 2002-10-24, Written By: Nex, Price:
$29.99 USD, Provided By: Act Labs
For all you gamers out there wishing for an arcade/console
gun shooter experience on your PC, Act Labs has the answer to
your prayers. Act Labs, makers of many highly acclaimed peripherals
for the demanding PC gamer, has done it again with their PC
USB Light Gun peripheral. The PC USB Light Gun is an excellent
way to experience the thrill of light gun shooting games right
on your very own desktop PC.
Aside from the immersing experience given to you
by the light gun, the actual hardware itself is also very well
constructed. It is comfortable to hold, highly accurate, and
extremely easy to install. And for all you gun lovers out there,
you can even use it with your regular Windows desktop programs
as the light gun itself can somewhat substitute as a mouse.
Contents & Hardware
The contents include the light gun, a VGA adaptor
box that is attached to the gun, a VGA cable, and an installation
CD. The light gun has a 6-foot cable attached to the VGA adapter
box and is used to connect your gun to your monitor.
There are no drivers required for this gun. The
gun mimics a mouse, so your OS thinks you’re just plugging
in another mouse. The concept of the gun is simple, when you
fire on the screen, it acts as a left click on that position.
When you fire outside of the screen area, then it is a right
click. This works well for games like House of the Dead 2, since
the default mouse control is set to left click for shoot, and
right click for reload.
On the light gun, there is a button on the left
hand side and a slider switch on the right hand side.
The left side button acts as a right mouse click,
and the slider switch on the right activates the light gun calibration
mode. Since the slider switch is not labeled, you may accidentally
switch the gun into calibration mode when you first install
it, which will cause your entire monitor to go white.
No respectable light gun should come without a line of sight
to aid you in accurate shooting. Act Lab’s light gun is
The tactile feedback on the trigger is firm and
does not give a hint of the trigger mechanism loosening up or
breaking anytime soon. Every time you squeeze and release the
trigger, you get a nice satisfying audible click feedback.
For you “hobby enthusiasts” out there
who like to tinker with the hardware, you can slide off the
back top half of the gun to reveal the last 2 remaining screws
to unscrew the gun.
Also, for all you tense shooters, squeezing the
light gun does not cause it to creak like a cheaply made plastic
contraption. To top things off, the light gun has a comfortable
and smooth rubber grip for you to grasp the light gun firmly.
There are even additional rubber grips for holding
the gun with two hands.
The term “plug and play” defines the
ease of the light gun setup precisely. For those of you who
have installed USB devices, this light gun installation is no
different. To sum up the installation quickly, you just plug
the monitor’s VGA cable into the VGA adaptor box and then
plug the VGA cable from the adapter box directly into the video
card. Then you plug in the USB cord and Windows will automatically
detect the light gun and complete the installation. Power is
drawn from the USB port.
The CD-ROM contains very easy and intuitive instructions
for the uninitiated. You simply the onscreen instructions as
you install your light gun. Calibration of the gun, which will
be discussed next, will be required before you can use it for
the very first time. The installation CD comes with a video
that shows you how to perform a proper calibration.
Due to the technology of the light gun, calibration of the hardware
is mandatory. Calibration is required whenever the monitor’s
resolution or refresh rate is changed. For example, if the game
you are playing has a resolution different from your desktop,
you must recalibrate the gun before playing or else the gun
will not work properly. Recalibration should be done on a regular
and frequent basis depending on how often settings change. If
you want to ensure you are getting the best accuracy out of
your light gun, then recalibration should be done often.
The accuracy of the light gun is impressive. Whether I was aiming
from up close or from the maximum length of the light gun’s
cord, I was able to consistently hit my intended target. The
line of sight on the gun adds a degree of accuracy should you
choose to use it. Routine calibration may seem like a hassle
at first, but I found it as a small price to pay for the accuracy
I enjoyed. The weight of the light gun is quite light, so it
should not be a fatigue factor when playing for long periods
The only caution I have about this product is due to the way
this technology is implemented. For each and everytime you squeeze
the trigger, whether you are pointing on screen or not, the
screen gives off a quick white flash to calculate where you
are aiming. People who are susceptible to epilepsy may find
this a problem or a cause for concern. While testing the light
gun with many games, especially with House of the Dead 2, I
did not find the flashing white screen bothering me at all as
the flash seems to blend in quite well with the action of actually
firing a gun. Especially in the heat of a battle, in a game
like House of the Dead 2, you should not conscientiously notice
the constant white flashes. This is not to say that that it
will not bother some people, but it certainly did not bother
Disconnecting and reconnecting the light gun per use will be
a hassle. For those of you who are conscientious about leaving
your monitor connected through the VGA adapter box regularly,
fear not. I have found no degradation in the monitor’s
signal quality whatsoever by leaving the VGA box connected permanently.
It would take the most discriminating person to identify any
degradation in terms of color, sharpness, or brightness that
may be compromised by leaving the VGA box adapter plugged in.
Since the gun is design to mimic a mouse, you cannot set up
two guns on a single computer. We enjoyed playing House of the
Dead 2 so much with this gun, we were considering about buying
a second gun to network two computers. The folks at Act-labs
were nice enough to send us an additional gun to review when
we asked if we could have another one! Playing multiplayer side-by-side
makes you really feel like you’re at the arcade with your
Software Support The first game that should come to mind when
thinking of shooting games is Sega’s famous House of The
Dead series, specifically House of the Dead 2. House of the
Dead 2 is perhaps the best light gun game to be enjoyed with
Act Lab’s light gun. The installation CD also comes with
links to play games on the web created with Macromedia and Shockwave
technology. Act-Lab’s web site also provides links to
games and all the information on game compatibilities.
At an affordable price, you can make no mistake
in picking up an Act Lab’s USB Light Gun. For less then
30 US dollars, you will be bringing home the arcade/console
shooter experience without much compromise. Small, lightweight,
comfortable grip, great accuracy, affordability, ease of installation,
what more can you possibly ask for?