The Adrenaline Vault (Review)
Review by: Patrick D. Cox Published: October 9, 2002

System Requirements:

- Windows® 98/Me/2000/XP
- Available USB port

Technical Specifications:

- Adaptor box connections: USB cable, VGA cable which attaches to your video card, and a female VGA port which your monitor connects to
- Product requires an external power supply
- Gun includes calibration function to setup light gun for different screen resolutions and refresh rates
- Tested screen resolution support up 2048 x 1940.
- Compatible with VGA video cards and CRT monitors
- 3D video accelerator support
- Compatible with a wide array of gaming software
- MAME compatible


- Easy USB plug and play setup, no drivers required
- Compatible with Windows 98SE / ME / 2000 / and XP
- No expansion card needed
- Extreme pixel accuracy
- Screen resolution support up to 1600 x 1200
- Compatible with VGA video cards and CRT monitors
- 3D Accelerator support
- Compatible with a wide array of gaming software
- Trigger - Left mouse button signal
- Left side gun button - Right mouse button signal
- Right side 2-position switch - Calibration ON/OFF
- Shoot Off screen - Right mouse button signal

Have you ever been to the arcade and played a coin-op game with a pistol?

Do you remember how fun it was to blast away at zombies, aliens, and other assorted bad guys by simply pointing the pistol at the screen and pulling the trigger with an eager grin on your face, that stack of quarters burning a hole in your pocket ready to feed the hungry slot every time you missed a shot?

How about all those long hours on the original Nintendo console, blasting away at bad guys in cowboy hats or pesky pixilated ducks?

I know I did, and this has been something I have missed over the years on my PC. Sure, some of these great games make their way to the PC as some kind of coin-op to computer port, or on some kind of emulator like MAME, but the fun factor was never there because a mouse is no substitute for a light gun. While there have been a long list of consoles with light guns over the years, there haven't been too many options for PC gamers.

Well, that is until ACT Labs came onto the scene in 1999 with the GS Gun system. While innovative and award winning, the GS Gun system has never gotten much market penetration or support by software developers, thanks for the need of extensive code additions or changes needed to enable support for the pistols. A few titles have been released with GS support, and a few third party developers produced significant modifications for major titles like Quake 2 and Half Life, but the overall availability of products that support the GS system has been low.

Worse still, the GS system was never really meant to be used for arcade ports and console emulators. The GS system included functionality for 3D FPS games and a steep price tag that put it in a class far above the owners and fans of simple arcade shooters. To meet the growing demand of game enthusiasts, ACT Labs has taken the basic pistol design found in the GS Gun System and produced a second, far less expensive product targeted squarely at arcade and console enthusiasts.

Dubbed the USB PC Light Gun, the new system sports a USB interface without a hand held secondary controller. Better still, it requires no driver support in a modern OS and has a price tag that is only 1/3 of the original GS Gun System.
Out of the Box

The ACT Labs USB PC Light Gun comes well packaged in corrugated material inside a simple box. Empty the box and you will find a CD as well as the gun itself. The PC Light Gun is tethered to a control interface box on a long cable that gives you plenty of reach, accommodating a wide range of possible setups.

The interface box has additional cabling for the USB connection and the go between plugs that intercepts your monitor line. Everything is built of solid materials and feels able to take a moderate amount of abuse. The gun has large no-slip grips and adequate sights, as well as a curious and unexplained detachable compartment cover at the top rear of the pistol body.

The PC Light Gun requires no drivers so installation is simple and very straightforward. You start by powering down your PC and disconnecting your monitor from the video card; then connect the monitor to the Light Gun adapter. The adapter sports an analog VGA cable that you plug in to your video card. The last connection is the USB cable itself, which of course plugs into an available port on your PC or hub.

Lined Up in Your Sights:

Before you can shoot at your targets of choice, you have to calibrate the PC Light Gun system. To calibrate the gun you simply activate the screen calibration routine using the slider switch on the right side of the pistol. Calibration is achieved by pulling the trigger and holding it while waving it in a cross-shaped pattern that encompasses the four screen edges, then releasing the trigger and switching back to normal mode.

The actual calibration process is documented in video format on both the provided CD and on the ACT Labs website. It took me only a few attempts at calibration the first time to get it right and once you have it down it's a simple matter to do before your gaming session. Failing to calibrate the light pistol, or calibrating it incorrectly, will result in horrible inaccuracy and lackluster gaming performance so it's important to remember to do this before you get into the game!

The only real fault with the PC Light Gun is how often you have to calibrate the system to achieve accuracy when shooting at your onscreen targets. The system does not remember its calibration from session to session, which can be frustrating if you forget to calibrate before entering a new game. I don't see this as a design flaw, but rather a limitation of this older technology.

Gaming Experience:

Web Titles: There is a linked list of over 80 available titles hosted on the Internet that are fully functional with the PC Light Gun. The Game Support Listing page hosts a full linked list of offerings that can be played. Most are Shockwave, although there are some Flash and Java titles as well.

Pretty much all of the games that I tried out worked well with the PC Light Gun. Obviously some titles are better than others, with some being more of a curiosity than a real game. A few games that were linked led to dead pages, and a few links actually produced questionable or inappropriate banner advertisements or pop-ups.

House of the Dead 2: I bought HotD2 about a year ago for my wife who really loves these kinds of games in the arcade. Playing House of the Dead 2 and similar titles on your home PC with a mouse is very boring, a fact that my wife and I both concluded soon after our enthusiastic purchase.

When I received the PC Light Gun from ACT Labs, I thought that it would be a natural for HotD2. The ACT Labs provided documentation is certainly adamant about how great the two go together. The claims are true and now House of the Dead 2 fills our home with the sounds of hungry zombies and bad voice acting, much to the delight of my wife and the chagrin of our two cats.

The PC Light Gun is perfectly suited to gameplay in titles like HotD2. After a quick, if repetitive, calibration of the gun system you are off on a city wide zombie shooting spree. The gun is very accurate when calibrated correctly, and it greatly enhances the arcade feel of this title. Most important is the fun factor, and the PC Light Gun gives HotD2 a new lease on life when compared to playing it with a mouse.

Other Offerings: While I don't any own other appropriate or supported titles for the PC Light Gun, I thought I would mention some games that are currently supported.

- Art Is Dead
- Cyberia
- Ed Hunter
- Mad Dog McCree
- Rebel Assault 2
- Who Shot Johnny Rock?

Unfortunately the original House of the Dead, along with games like Virtua Squad and Top Shot, are not supported by the PC Light Gun due to a software issue that cannot be resolved. ACT Labs insists that most future titles in this genre should be fully compatible with the PC Light Gun, but it's a shame these venerable releases are not supported as many people still have them sitting on their shelves.

MAME Support: I have no means of testing MAME support as I do not own a copy of MAME or any console games for it. However, ACT Labs has an extensive listing of supported games here.


Overall: This is a great product that harkens back to the early Nintendo console and games like Hogan's Alley. With MAME support for popular titles, dozens of simple but fun Shockwave and Flash games on the web, and mainstream PC titles in an ever growing list, you won't soon run out of things to shoot at with the ACT Labs USB PC Light Gun. My only real gripe, and a minor one at that, is that you have to calibrate the gun before each game session.

If you are looking to revitalize your arcade ports like House of the Dead 2, or relive your old school memories of classics like Duck Hunt or Wild Gunman, look no further than the ACT Labs USB PC Light Gun. This is money well spent if you want an authentic arcade or console experience on your home PC.