Maximum 3D (Award & Review)
SEPT-09-2002 - Maximum3D / Reviews / ACT Labs PC USB PC Light Gun by Scott

The return of Duck Hunt

I like to shoot things. Maybe it is because I was raised on the original 8-bit Nintendo, and wore out my light gun playing Duck Hunt for hours each day. Perhaps the endless sessions of Time Crisis addicted me to the genre. Either way, I have always been fond of the arcade shooters. PC users have not had much luck when it comes to finding a controller for this type of game, and typically relied on a mouse for aiming and shooting. This works fine for Quake-style games, but for a rail shooter, nothing beats the feel of a light gun in your hand, blasting away at the screen.

ACT LABS new PC USB Light Gun brings arcade style shooting to the desktop, with a simple, inexpensive controller. We received our review unit a week ago, and have been testing it heavily, with several different users trying their hand at the games. Countless hours and several thousand virtual rounds later, the verdict is in: This gun is cool.

The system requirements for the PC USB Light Gun are low, needing only a Pentium 166, Windows 9x, ME, or 2000, 5MB of disk space, and a USB port. The light gun is attached to a VGA pass-though box, that connects to the video card and the monitor cable. A USB cable runs from this box to an available USB port, completing the installation. The USB cable is somewhat short, and forces you to use one of the ports on the back of your system. This was a problem on my test system, since both of the onboard USB ports were in use by my wireless Logitech keyboard and Game Theater XP. I added an additional USB header to the motherboard, and gained the needed port, but for some users this option may not be available. There is no driver installation to contend with, as the gun emulates mouse functions, including left and right clicks on the screen.

After making the appropriate connections, the gun is ready to play. Calibration is accomplished by placing the Calibrate switch to ON, then moving the light gun around the perimeter of the monitor. This can be done in-game, or from the desktop. The gun itself has a six foot cord, which allows the gamer to sit at a comfortable distance from the PC.

The included CD-ROM has a short game to test the gun, which involves shooting annoying aliens. The main menu of the gun setup has a link to several dozen online shooting games, but sadly, many of the links were not working at the time of this review. Some of the websites no longer hosted the titles, or did no exist. The online games that do work give examples of how the gun operates, but hardly compare to the actual gameplay found in a retail title. ACT Labs lists eight retail games as compatible, including classics like Area 51 and House of the Dead 2. The PC USB Light Gun also includes support for variety of MAME titles. For many gamers, arcade emulation alone will be worth the price of the controller. The list of MAME supported games includes many of the most popular shooters of all time, including one of my favorites Police Trainer. Of course using ROMs is subject to restrictions of ownership, so be sure to read the warnings before downloading games you do not own.

The gun’s accuracy is quite good, and we were able to hit 17 of 20 shots into the center of the training targets at a range about five feet. The grip of the gun has rubberized inserts for sure handling, and the trigger has a positive click when pressed. Right mouse button emulation is accomplished with a button on the right side of the gun frame. The only other button on the gun is a calibration switch, which sits on the right side of the frame. Front and rear sights are molded into the gun, and are somewhat accurate. I found the gun fired slightly below the actual sight picture, but they were still serviceable for gaming.

Overall, we liked the PC USB Light Gun, if only for the fact that it allowed us to play many of our old arcade favorites the way they were meant to be played. With a retail price of only $30, the PC USB Light Gun is inexpensive enough to buy just for fun, without investing a large amount of cash in such a specialized controller. Don't let the low price fool you, though. The gun is highly accurate, and feels solid in your hand. Installation is foolproof. We were told that the Light Gun shipped without any retail games to cut costs to the end user, which is something most gamers can appreciate. ACT Labs will be updating their site with the latest information on compatible games, but if you have MAME and few minutes of time, there are dozens of games readily available to play. For fans of the rail shooter genre, this is the next best thing to the arcade itself.

Final Score and last comments


-Great arcade action
-Simple installation


-Limited game support (for now)

The bottom line:

The ACT Labs PC USB Light Gun fills a niche in the PC controller market, offering gamers a solid controller for the rail shooter. Installation of the controller could not be easier, and calibration was equally simple. Support for the gun is good, with full use of MAME and several retail titles, along with dozens of free online games. If you enjoy a good rail shooter, or want to relive bygone days in front of the TV playing Duck Hunt, the PC USB Light Gun is the answer.

Questions, comments, feedback? send your mail to Scott Myers