Console gamers have long be derided by PC playing counterparts when it comes to FPS titles. They bemoan to lack of finesse possible via the dual analogue set up, and lord over us just how accurate and intuitive a mouse and keyboard set up is. While I’ve dabbled in the past with K&M here and there, I’ve always fallen on the side of controller for its comfort and ease of use (plus, watching high level Halo or COD players on controller is a strong argument that there really isn’t that much disparity). Modern consoles have slowly adopted a more flexible approach though, with some titles supporting K&M support should you wish, but the list is fairly small. In the age of cross platform play though, it’s conceivable that some may feel left behind when playing, for example, COD:Warzone against PC players. This is something that the Gamesir VX2 looks to address, but will it have you head-shotting with the best of ‘em?
First impressions are solid. It’s a bit bigger than I imagined it would be, though no bigger than a standard size keyboard – well, the left half of it! It’s got a good weight too, so there are no worries about it sliding about the place while you’re playing. The finish on the casing and surrounds is perfectly smooth, but not in a slippery way; rather, it just feels nice to rest the arm on, even without a sleeve. The mechanical keys have a satisfying click to them, and enough travel to prevent accidental presses, while not being so high that any action feels delayed. A little nub to the bottom right fills in d-pad duty, though can also be used as an analogue stick should you desire. There are various indicators along the top of the unit to signify each function, such as controller connectivity, Bluetooth, and battery level, while a solid feeling power switch is recessed to the left side of the unit preventing accidental touches. Charging is taken care of via a USB-C connection, though in the weeks I’ve had it I’ve only had to charge it twice despite almost daily use.
The accompanying mouse feels solid too; the honeycomb-like design may look like it would feel weird under the hand, but in reality there’s no such issue. A pair of thumb click buttons rest on the side, and a smaller button just below the mouse wheel allows us to change the sensitivity on the fly. It’s wired into the Gamesir VX2 unit, with the cable itself a nice fabric covering rather than the rubbery cable I’d usually expect. All in all, it’s a lovely looking bit of kit, especially when powered on – I’m a bit of a sucker for backlights in things like this and the keyboard has several presets to choose from, while the mouse can be cycled through too for a large range of colour schemes.
So, part of the premium price is certainly justified by its appearance, but naturally it’s all about the performance. Happily, for my money I think the rest of the price is more than justified here – provided you’re willing to put a bit of adjustment time in.
As mentioned above, some titles natively support K&M controls already, but the majority do not. Metro Exodus, for example, was preferable to me over standard controller, but that’s just one of a handful of titles that support it. The Gamesir VX2 operates in a different manner, and allows us to use it for any and all titles on the console, though some work better than others. It’s clearly focussed on FPS titles, and it’s great for those, but in theory this should allow for alternate control options across the board.
Setting it up is easy enough; a USB dongle is plugged into the console, which in turn is plugged into the micro-USB port on the top of the controller. Turn on the Gamesir VX2 and you’re ready to go. Simple. From there, we use WASD to replace the left analogue stick, while the space bar acts as A for selecting things. These feel in line with how a standard K&M would work, and – taking Apex Legends as our example game – allow us to move and jump around with ease. From there, it did take a little experimenting though to get used to button layouts. As far as I am aware, there are no titles that actively recognise the Gamesir VX2 – the console is still for all intents and purposes communicating with the controller – so customising the button layout isn’t the simplest of tasks. There is though a companion app available that lets us customise presets to be switched between with hotkeys, which is a nice touch.
At present, there are various “Official” presets for some of the biggest titles such as Fortnite, Gears 5, and COD: Warzone, but from digging through them they currently all seem to have the exact same layout. These can be customised extensively, though again it’s a little bit fiddly as we need to pair the Gamesir to our smartphone to do any customising which un-pairs it from the controller. If you really want to get into the nitty gritty of sensitivity or button layouts though it’s a nice touch. Perhaps players more familiar with K&M setups might get to grips with the layout more easily, but if you’re new to this set up there’s a definite learning curve. Once I got to grips with it mind, I must say that I don’t see myself going back to controller during my semi-regular Apex sessions anytime soon.
Slightly more challenging was finding the right set up for the mouse. I’m a True Gamer *TM*, so naturally play inverted on controller – that was the first option to turn off! Next up, adjusting the sensitivity; using the button on the mouse itself, we can go from 400DPI through to 12000DPI, indicated by a different colour as we cycle through. It’s all about personal preference, but I ended up setting the in-game slider to my usual fairly high setting and using the 3200DPI mouse setting, which felt the most controllable to me. The highest setting is insane, and seeing as this set is aimed at e-sport level players will likely be more than welcomed. Again, it would have been nice to have the mouse recognised by games and only have to worry about one sensitivity setting, but all it requires is a little experimentation to find the right balance.
Even being unfamiliar with using the K&M set-up to an extent, I still found settling into the rhythm of it nice and easy. After a disastrous first round of Rainbow 6: Siege (which I was never very good at anyway), I soon started to settle into the groove. My first rounds of the excellent Halo 5 in some months saw me topping the leader boards by quite a margin, and while I consider myself decent at Halo anyway, using the Gamesir made hitting headshots and lobbing sticky grenades much easier to execute. Apex Legends, Far Cry 5 and others fared just as well too, with the increase in input freedom and accuracy letting me really nail some great shots. If you’re into FPS titles – especially over Xbox Live – then the Gamesir is a, albeit pricey, tool that will noticeably up your game.
What about other titles though? Well, I tried to sample as broad a range as my library would allow and rarely encountered anything I think worked much better on the gamepad. Perhaps my only main issue was with titles like recent farming sim/bullet hell shooter Atomicrops. Here, we need to hold to the right analogue stick in one direction to aim, and using the mouse meant I’d need to constantly ‘flick’ the mouse in order to hold the aim – which not only was uncomfortable, but also didn’t really allow for any degree of accuracy. Similar with Trine 4: A Nightmare Prince, where aiming Zoya’s bow was far more awkward than on the gamepad. It’s certainly not a one size fits all solution, but then it’s not meant to be. Other titles I tried, from 3rd Person action to strategy and more worked just fine, and will come down to preference more than anything. For shooters, especially in a competitive environment, this is an excellent bit of kit.
The price may be a sticking factor for some – coming in at £130 means this is for the truly dedicated more than casual fans – but it’s also cheaper than an Elite Controller and, in my opinion, does what that controller does, but better. You’ll also need to be mindful of space; it’s not something you can pop on your lap while in use. I’m lucky enough to have a table I built that doubles up as a great place to use this, but it’s something to consider before dropping the cash.
Should you have the room and budget though, the Gamesir VX2 is an excellent bit of kit that really does make playing FPS titles much more enjoyable. It may take a little while to adjust to if you’ve not tried K&M before, and it’s a little too fiddly to really refine quickly, but these breadth of options are there for those that want to get every setting just perfect. I honestly don’t see myself going back to standard pads for my sessions of Halo, Apex or the like ever again. Just be prepared for some salty remarks when you’re kicking everyone’s ass over, and over, again.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Hardware provided by the Manufacturer.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.