Back in the good old days, first-person shooters were for PC gamers only, and the titles were designed around the holy grail of gaming controllers: the keyboard and mouse. We didn't need any of those flimsy analogue sticks or autoaim - and darn it, we liked it that way. Just give us a trusty ball mouse and a standard 104-key Windows keyboard, and we could take over the world.
Nowadays, if you want to blow up your friends in some good old-fashioned virtual gunplay, you likely have to do it on a game console, which means you're stuck with a woefully inferior gamepad that has clumsy thumbsticks and awful button placement. Enter the Hori Tactical Assault Commander 3 for the PlayStation 3, a USB mouse and minikeyboard combo designed specifically for PC gamers looking to level the playing field. In theory, it's a great idea - but in practice, it doesn't work as well as it should.
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The Hori TAC3 controller consists of a normal optical USB mouse connected to a minikeyboard designed to mimic the standard WASD keyboard layout that most PC first-person shooter games use by default. You rest your hand on the arrow keys, and from that position you have ready access to L3 and X buttons (which PS3 games often use for running and jumping) and triangle/circle/square buttons (for reloading, swapping weapons, and so on).
In addition, the keyboard holds the directional pad and Start/Select/PlayStation buttons, though they're comfortably tucked out of the way so that you don't hit them accidentally. Also available is a walk button that lets you toggle your walk speed to something slower (for sneaking up on the enemy), since you're not using an analogue stick that changes your walk speed based on how far you tilt it. Meanwhile, the mouse feels like a fairly generic PC mouse - the left and right mouse buttons act as L1 and R1, the middle mouse button (where a scrollwheel would normally go) is bound to R3, and the left-side thumb buttons are bound to L2 and R2.
Unlike other specialized console controllers (the MadCatz FightStick TE, for example), the TAC3 allows you to remap the controls to your liking by flipping a switch on the far end of the keyboard to enter the remapping mode. Another switch lets you change the mouse sensitivity to any of three different levels, and a third switch permits you to tweak the walk button's speed.
Although the keys aren't nearly as satisfying as those on our favorite mechanical keyboards, the TAC3 doesn't feel significantly different from a normal keyboard or mouse at first. However, the mouse doesn't feel smooth or precise enough when you're trying to use it in-game. That's because in order to get the mouse working on the PS3, Hori had to design the mouse to emulate the PS3 controller's right analogue stick, and it simply can't translate the movement from the mouse into analogue-stick inputs accurately enough. On the other hand, the keyboard half of the controller is mostly usable, though the buttons aren't quite as responsive as I would have liked.
I tested the TAC3 with Battlefield 3, which I've played a good amount of on my PC, and it was disappointing. The TAC3 felt better than the PS3 gamepad to me, but I'm not sure that I'd say the same if I were willing to spend a few weeks getting used to playing FPS titles with the PS3 pad. Aiming on the TAC3 was a chore - even for relatively simple close- to medium-range shots - because the mouse simply couldn't track as smoothly as a PC mouse can.
The TAC3's one redeeming factor: It looks pretty cool. The set comes in a matte black/gray color scheme as well as a Best Buy-exclusive urban-camouflage color scheme, and it features a bright blue backlit border around the edge of the keyboard. It also comes with a small mouse pad and a detachable wrist rest for the keyboard, both of which make the controller much more usable on a coffee table or on other typical console-gaming surfaces.