I admit it; I’m that clumsy guy at gaming parties who’s always tripping over the controller cables. I can’t help it, it’s not intentional, but those danged controller tentacles just seem to jump out and attack my ankles every time I stand up. So when wireless controllers started rearing their heads, I was mighty happy to say the least. After all, now I would just be embarrassed by my lack of skill, rather than by my habit of ruining games for everyone by pulling all the controller cables out my accident. And since I’m so happy to hear about wireless controllers, it was put to me to review two of Pelican’s latest wireless PlayStation 2 offerings; the Chameleon Wireless and the Predator controllers.
Out of the box, the Predator wireless controller seems like it would be the better of the two. It sports a 50’ operating distance, rumble support and is fully analog. It’s also configured to allow you to use up to four controllers at the same time without them interfering with one another. On top of all that, the wireless receiver unit also allows you to use Sony and Pelican DVD remotes to control the DVD functionality of the PS2, which is a nice little addition to be sure. Overall, this controller performs wonderfully, with fast button responses, smooth analog control and nearly interference-free play. The problem? It looks and feels cheap.
While Pelican might have thought the silver color and protective clear coat would make it look hi-tech, they serve instead to make it look and feel slippery and flimsy. Thanks to the clear coat finish, the Predator will slip around in your hands like a stick of cold butter. And the buttons on my review unit wore out after just two hours of play, making a sound I can only describe as “click and spoing.” If this review unit is any indication of the quality of the entire product line, I don’t see this controller lasting for long in the hands of more aggressive gamers. And Heaven forbid that it’s ever on the receiving end of a controller throwing moment, because it’ll probably shatter into glossy little pieces.
Now, I hate to totally trash this controller just because it “felt cheap” (and turned into a lemon after just a few hours, after all, it might have just been my particular unit) so I do want to mention a few high points. First off, there’s the wireless functionality, which performs as promised and then some. Pelican gives the Predator an estimated operating range of at least 50’, and while I wasn’t able to test it from that far away, at a range of 30’, it worked fine, without a spot of lag. When testing it, I left the room with controller in hand, and then fired off dozens of button presses from behind a closed door. My faithful assistant noted that everything moved quickly and as directed, proving Pelican’s definitely got wireless down pat.
The other bonus of the Predator is the rumble support, which can be disabled to extend battery (two AAs) life. With rumble support active, Pelican says you can expect 120 or so hours of battery life. With rumble turned off, Pelican says you should expect 200 hours of play. To be honest, I probably knocked out about 50 hours of time with the controller using rumble, and had no battery problems, so I’m willing to trust Pelican with their promises of extended battery life.
When it comes down to brass tacks, the Predator performs exactly as promised. Unfortunately, it tries to be cool looking, but ends up looking like something Fisher-Price might have designed, and my review unit’s buttons gave up the ship after just a few hours. Personally, I’d say save your $39.99 (suggested MSRP) add another ten bucks to it and pick up the double pack of Pelican Chameleon Wireless controllers, which are up next.
Now here’s the big score when it comes to Pelican’s wireless offerings for the PlayStation 2. For a mere $49.99 US (suggested retail), you get not one, but two outstanding wireless controllers. That’s right, for the price of one game, you get two wireless controllers that do everything as promised, and are built to last.
The Chameleon Wireless (not to be confused with Pelican’s “wired” Chameleon product) is a straight-up piece of gaming kit. This guy is smaller than the Predator, putting it more in-line with the Dual Shock when it comes to size, and is built from a heftier plastic than the Predator. And as the images show, the controller is clear, which will catch the eye of more than one of your friends the first time you pull it out of the box to play. If you can deal without rumble support, this is a great low-cost controller with its 50’ range, an estimated 300+ hour battery life and full analog support. I’ve tried a lot of wireless controllers, and have found this one to be among the best, which is funny when you consider it’s meant to be part of the “low end” of the Pelican wireless lineup.
As far as performance goes, the Chameleon Wireless is top notch. Just like its more expensive sibling, its wireless functionality performed spotlessly, even when tested through a closed door. Quick button response, smooth analog sticks and a nice D-pad ensure you get your money’s worth with this unit. And unlike its pricier sibling, I was never able to wear out the buttons, sticks or D-pad, even after dozens of hours of gameplay. It’s just good stuff all around.
If you’re one of those people who just can’t believe something this inexpensive can’t be perfect, I guess you can take issue with the batteries, which are stored in the rubberized handgrips. To open the battery compartments, you need a tiny Phillips-head screwdriver, which Pelican is kind enough to provide. You unscrew the battery covers, drop in new batteries, and reassemble the whole thing, losing a mere five minutes of your prime gaming time. And while this isn’t as quick as some other battery change outs on other controllers, just remember that with the superior battery life of the Chameleon, you won’t be changing them out very often.
Overall, the Chameleon Wireless is a good product that performs just as well as the more expensive wireless controllers on the market today. And with its sturdy construction, it’ll probably survive at least one controller-throwing gaming moment in my house.
Wrapping it up
Both the Chameleon Wireless and the Predator perform as promised, there’s no doubt about that. The wireless range and battery life are great, while the controls themselves are responsive and well designed. The big weakness of the Predator is its flimsy feeling, which had me worried about dropping even from a short height. And the fact that the Predator’s buttons suffered from a “click and spoing” effect after just a few hours of play, makes me hard-pressed to recommend it unless you can be sure you can exchange it for something else should the same thing happen to you. The Chameleon Wireless, on the other hand, proves that inexpensive doesn’t mean “garbage” and is something I’d easily recommend to anyone wanting to do away with controller cords.
- Predator: 7
- Performs as promised, but in testing, wore out quickly.
- Chameleon: 9
- A great wireless controller with a sweet price. A bit of a pain to get batteries loaded into though.
— Craig Falstaff