When it comes to playing games on PCs, most people put up with the keyboard and mouse. Those with a passion for driving simulations will almost certainly urchase a steering wheel, but this isn't much good for any other games. For arcade games, sports simulations and many other genres, a game pad is the ideal choice.
Microsoft's Game Pad Pro is the company's more conventional offering - its new Dual Strike is a weird and wonderful game pad tailored for first person simulations.
Closely resembling console game pads, the Pro has eight programmable buttons, a shift button and a D-pad. It's playstation-esque shape fits comfortably into your hands and six buttons are easily reachable with your right thumb. The other two are positioned either side underneath the controller. The shift button effectively doubles the number of buttons by changing the function of a button when shift is pressed.
In a fast paced action game things can get a bit confusing with 12 different controls. Microsoft has made the D-pad dual function too - it can be used in either proportional or digital modes. The former makes the pad respond to pressure - the harder you press, the more movement you get in a particular direction. In digital mode, the pad gives instant response but eliminates the possibility of making smooth movements.
At first we thought the pad would be too slippery as it has a smooth finish, but it actually works very well. After a few hours hard gaming, your thumb isn't cut to pieces.
The SideWinder Game Controller software includes 45 predefined game profiles from popular games and enables you to quickly and easily customise your own settings, program buttons and triggers. Connecting via USB means that you need a fairly new PC with USB ports to use the pad, but the advantage is that you can have multiple controllers connected to one PC without additional hardware.