Prefatory note: My computer (with which I tested the below-discussed software products) is a late-2005 Compaq Presario SR1620NX Desktop PC and has an AMD Sempron 3400 1.99 GHz processor and 1.43 GB of available RAM. I use Windows XP (fully and continually updated); however, Vista and other versions of Windows are evidently likewise compatible with Pinnacle Game Profiler, whose own site (pinnaclegameprofiler.com) doesn’t specify any hardware/software system requirements. However, CNET.com indicates that the former edition of this software was already fully compatible with Windows Vista, XP, Me, and 2000. That suggests this software is compatible with virtually any PC running any version of Windows after "98."
Recommend this product?
Recently I’ve been tentatively rediscovering the pleasures of PC videogaming, which I’d gradually forsaken during the late 1990s. Back in the days of MS-DOS-based gaming, I’d especially relished such first-person-shooter titles as Wolfenstein 3D and the DOOM trilogy. And, instead of using the mouse and/or keyboard, I kept a trusty Gravis Gamepad controller connected to a dedicated game port on the rear of my then aging, “IBM clone” desktop computer.
But, to my chagrin, I’ve lately--or should I say belatedly?--been discovering that a sizable percentage of today's PC (Windows!) games are playable primarily via mouse and/or keyboard and don't support (USB-connectible) gamepads. That perplexing fact got me quickly seeking some sort of "controller-mapping" software to allow, for example, any "Xbox 360" gamepad (generally encompassing two joysticks, one directional-control pad, and various adjacent buttons) to replace the mouse and/or keyboard in PC games where gamepads are normally verboten.
In my quest for the ideal gamepad-mapping program, I initially tried the following two competing titles:
Joystick 2 Mouse 3. This little shareware program's graphical user interface (GUI) was the most confusing of the lot; it will surely have the majority of would-be users scratching their heads from the get-go till they give up on it in frustration, which won’t take long. There are no pictures or graphical representations of actual gamepad units or buttons. Instead, there are somewhat cryptic, purely textual designations like “Y axis down” or “X axis left” on a few dropdown menus. But the bottom line is that when I tested this software in conjunction with either of two typical Xbox 360 or PC gamepads to play a first-person shooter (Doom 3), only two of the four “north/south/east/west” directions actually worked to simulate walking (forward or backward) or strafing (left or right). Moreover, when I exited the program and attempted to uninstall it via Windows XP’s “Remove a Program” list, I got a frustrating "no can do" message mentioning that the program was still in use. Only after I rebooted the system was I finally, gratefully able to remove it from my computer.
Next I tried the competing Xpadder gamepad-mapping software. Well, actually I tried its former incarnation (version 5.3), which is downloadable as freeware via softpedia.com. After having grappled with the limited, confusing GUI of the aforementioned Joystick 2 Mouse 3 software, I was quickly impressed with Xpadder’s relatively friendlier GUI. (However, this was only true once I got beyond the initially confusing, introductory portion of the program, which looked more akin to public domain software than to a finished, retail product.) The primary GUI featured colorful, easy-to-understand pictures representing a typical gamepad’s actual joysticks, D-pad and buttons. I could click the respective parts of those onscreen representations to program my gamepad such that it could perform the same functions as my PC’s mouse and/or keyboard.
Unfortunately, my initial enchantment with Xpadder 5.3 was short-lived. For when I again attempted to play Doom 3, I ran into problems entirely comparable to what I’d experienced with the Joystick 2 Mouse 3 software (i.e., only two of the four “north/south/east/west” directions actually functioned for “walking” or “strafing”). Moreover, a separate, head-scratching issue involved about 14 redundant instances of the Xpadder desktop icon that had mysteriously replicated itself on the Windows taskbar. Finally, when I attempted to uninstall Xpadder 5.3 via Windows XP’s “Remove a Program” option, I discovered that it wasn’t even on the list, and so I had to manually delete the pertinent folders and reboot the system to restore my PC to normalcy.
Note that, as of this writing, the latest version (5.4) of Xpadder can be downloaded from the author’s own site (xpadder.com) for $14 US, which amounts to a bargain, assuming it works better than the version 5.3 that I tried. Unfortunately, unlike the main subject of this review, Xpadder 5.4 offers no “free-trial” period during which you can try it at no risk. Therefore, although I suspect that version 5.4 (which, judging from the screenshots at xpadder.com, appears to have been significantly updated) could be an admirable product, I’m not about to gamble 14 bucks—not after my frustration with its antecedent!
On the verge of giving up on the very concept of gamepad-mapping software, I did a last-ditch bit of Googling and finally discovered Pinnacle Game Profiler, which is neither freeware nor shareware; however, you can try the full version for 30 days before shelling out $19.95 to own it. This software’s online blurbs enticingly explained that I could play any computer game with my favorite gamepad or joystick (i.e., any PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation or Wiimote controller) and that I could use my controller to do anything a keyboard or mouse could do.
Nonetheless, as I proceeded to download the software via CNET.com, I skeptically wondered if it would really be easy to use and fully effective when playing DOOM 3 and its ilk.
The download and subsequent installation didn’t take long, and I was immediately impressed with how fully “professional” and “advanced” this software was looking vis-a-vis its aforementioned competition whose analogous installations had seemed relatively rudimentary. Shortly I was prompted to click a key to reboot my computer. After doing so, I was momentarily irked to behold a wee message pop up and vaguely announce that “my version” (XP) of Windows appeared to be incompatible with that version of Pinnacle Game Profiler, and I should therefore proceed directly to pinnaclegameprofiler.com to download the “correct” (presumably newer) version. Thankfully, doing the latter did the trick, and I was shortly running the program. And, to my relief, there have been no further glitches of any kind.
Pinnacle Game Profiler’s GUI doesn’t obscure the entire Windows desktop. Instead, when you start the program a small panel initially appears and sequentially announces that it's: loading; initializing its engine; detecting (connected) game controllers; and detecting known games (previously installed on your computer). This preliminary process takes nearly 20 seconds on my aforementioned 2005 Compaq desktop PC.
Thereafter, a movable, non-expandable panel--that obscures only about a sixth of the Windows desktop—appears front and center. Atop this introductory panel are three options: “Preferences;” “Pinnacle Update;” and “Game Profiles.” Clicking any one of those options calls up a separate panel with its own set of options.
Beneath those three options are two dropdown menus labeled “DEVICE” and “CONFIG.” The latter menu can be safely ignored by nearly all users; but the former menu comprises a list of all currently connected gamepads (or other controllers).
To the right of those two dropdown menus are two frequently used buttons: “PLAY” and “CLOSE.” You can click the former to play whichever previously installed game’s name is highlighted on a scrollable list occupying the remaining (bottom-half) portion of the primary panel (alternatively, you can just double-click the highlighted game name--or just press "ENTER"). To highlight a different game, just click its name in the list (or press the down or up arrow key).
The various other (much more substantial and multifaceted) panels collectively composing this software’s GUI include graphical representations (crisp, color photos) of your particular gamepad model, including its joysticks, D-pad and buttons. By pressing any particular button or portion of either joystick or D-pad on your actual, connected gamepad unit, you can cause that particular part of the analogous onscreen gamepad photo to turn blue. Additionally, a small, adjacent panel simultaneously appears; within the latter panel several selectable options are displayed for programming that particular part of your gamepad. The easiest and quickest option is labeled “Set Quick Assignment;” after clicking the latter, you’ll be prompted to "press any key on your keyboard to make a quick assignment." This simple procedure works great for most gamepad-mapping functions; however, in certain instances you'll want to eschew that “Set Quick Assignment” option and instead select the successive "Assign Command"/"Edit Commands"/"Edit Steps" options and follow the reasonably straightforward prompts on the ensuing panels that pop up.
Vis a vis the aforementioned Xpadder 5.3, Pinnacle Game Profiler is the easier (not to mention the more reliable) program to understand and use. Along with a sharp, color photo for virtually any popular gamepad model (which, whenever connected, the software automatically detects), there are adjacently clickable onscreen buttons having readily comprehensible text labels. For example, if you want to modify your gamepad’s 4-way D-pad, you’ll notice a more elegant version of the following display:
To the left of each of those four options, you’ll notice a blue arrow pointing the corresponding direction; and to the right you’ll notice a clickable text “button” indicating the currently assigned function for that input, such as: “Move Left,” “Move Right,” “Move Forward,” or “Move Backward.” You can click any such text to quickly replace it with (almost) any other common keyboard or mouse function.
Analogously, you can “map” your gamepad’s thumbsticks by clicking a “Setup Joystick…“ button, upon which the upper third of a separate ensuing panel displays (a more elegant version of) the following:
Assign a mapping to your controller’s joystick:
MAP TO MOUSE
MAP TO ARROW KEYS
MAP TO A,W,S,D KEYS
MAP TO D-PAD
MAP TO FULL KEYBOARD
MAP TO MOUSE SPRING
Adjacent to each of the above seven options [the penultimate option alludes to a system implementing both joysticks for “chatting” with online gamers], you’ll notice some diminutive (subtly and variously hued) icons that are sensible visual analogs to the textual descriptions. You can click any of the above options to select the corresponding mapping mode for either the gamepad’s left joystick (“JOYSTICK 1”) or its right joystick (“JOYSTICK 2”).
Apart from the joystick and D-pad functions, any “action button” on your gamepad can likewise be instantly programmed to perform nearly any function you like.
However, one of the most impressive features of this software is that it uniquely provides “Game Profiles” for many popular PC games. In other words, you yourself won’t necessarily have to program your gamepad’s thumbsticks, D-pad and buttons; this will already be done for you (but you can always easily and quickly change any of the pre-assigned functions). Whenever you click the “Pinnacle Update” button, the software will automatically, quickly download any and all “Game Profiles” that haven’t already been installed for your computer. [You can see a complete list of supported game titles at the update site. Apparently more titles are periodically added.] In fact, when you initially install Pinnacle Game Profiler, it automatically detects (many, but not necessarily all, of the) games that you’ve already got installed and prompts you to let it install their respective “Game Profiles.” In my case I noted that such games as DOOM 3, Men of Valor, and Painkiller were automatically detected--and thus automatically programmable via the “update” function. However, some other games (e.g., Painkiller Overdose and Starship Troopers) were not thus detected; therefore, I had to manually program them, which was actually quite quickly and easily doable. I simply used the mouse to drag a particular game’s “launch” icon from the Windows Taskbar onto a colorful, so-called “Shortcut Dropzone,” at which point its (subsequently editable) title was automatically entered; thereafter, all I had to do was “map” the gamepad’s sticks, D-pad, and/or buttons (via several idiot-proof clicks on the software’s above-described menu of options), and I was quickly ready to load and play the game. Again, you can highlight and double-click any of Pinnacle Game Profiler’s clearly displayed game titles to load and play your desired game—there’s no need to find a particular game’s icon on your Windows desktop or taskbar. [And, if you like, Pinnacle Game Profiler can automatically start whenever you boot your computer.]
Many first-person-shooter games (like DOOM 3, Men of Valor, or Painkiller) involve a built-in control scheme that ordinarily compels you to use the mouse to turn (i.e., rotate) left or right. By contrast, you can strafe (i.e., move rigidly sideways to the left or the right) by using the computer keyboard’s left or right arrow keys (or the “A” and “D” keys). But I've never been fond of that control scheme; instead, I prefer the simpler control scheme that was commonly used in the eighties and early nineties, when DOS-based PC games like Wolfenstein 3D allowed me not only to move forward or backward but also to turn left or right with the single joystick of a Gravis Gamepad or other controller!
At last, thanks to Pinnacle Game Profiler, I can "customize" either of my gamepad's joysticks (as well as the D-pad) such that pressing to the left makes my onscreen alter ego turn (rotate)--instead of "strafe"--while playing such first-person-shooter games as Doom 3. Admittedly, I had to spend some extra time perusing the GUI's various buttons and dropdown-menu options before I finally figured out how to achieve this, but the pertinent procedure's actually fairly straightforwardly indicated and easily doable via several mouse clicks.
Thus I can now exultantly use any typical gamepad’s joystick(s) and/or D-pad to play all the PC/Windows versions of my beloved first-person-shooter games with essentially the same techniques I would’ve employed in the eighties (via a standard Nintendo or Sega controller) or in the nineties (via a Gravis Gamepad).
I should add that Pinnacle Game Profiler has likewise greatly enhanced my enjoyment of still other game genres, including horizontally scrolling, classic-arcade-style shooters (e.g., Söldner-X: Himmelsstürmer) and realistic pinball simulations (e.g., Dream Pinball 3D). Moreover, my scoring in such games has significantly increased.
Although I could have used my “free trial” version of Pinnacle Game Profiler a full 30 days, I was so quickly delighted with this powerful, well-conceived, easy-to-use software that I opted to submit payment on Day 2. The payment process is fully conveniently automated. You can pay via an instant withdrawal or e-check from your PayPal account, or you can use any major credit card (via PayPal), etc. After payment is received (which takes but a few minutes at most), you’ll receive an email containing your UNLOCK KEY. Be sure to print and store that for future use, for you’ll likely be happily using Pinnacle Game Profiler for many years to come.
In truth, I’ve only scratched the proverbial surface of this multifaceted, powerful, yet easy-to-use "gamepad-mapping" software. But I’ll leave its other features and functions for you yourself to delightedly discover after freely downloading Pinnacle Game Profile (via pinnaclegameprofiler.com) and trying it for up to 30 days. Assuming you’re a fairly avid PC gamer, you’ve got nothing to lose and worlds to conquer. If you end up appreciating this innovative program half as much as I already do, you’ll surely decide it’s worth way more than its price ($19.95).
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