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Hardware Review: RGT: G1 Light Gun

It's about time! My wife and I have been waiting about five years for a light gun that would work with our flat screen plasma TV, and thanks to E-Real Games we have to wait no longer! Er... well, actually, my wife and I will have to wait a little longer in order for us both to play together, but I'll get to the whole two-player support thing a little later. Right now I'm talking about the RGT: G1 Light Gun, which supposedly works on virtually any television because the gun pretty much ignores the television altogether. Instead, it uses a webcam-looking device placed on top of the television that tracks the gun's position. Great idea, but now the question is, how well does it work? Well sit back and relax, 'cause I'll tell ya all about it. And then if you want to buy it, you can use the coupon code AA800 to get five bucks off. And stay tuned after the review for an interview with Mike Fang, President of E-Real Games.

RGT: G1 Light Gun Since I live in the wonderful United States of America, I received a RGT: G1 that was bright green, as opposed to the black and red version the UK people get. We can thank US laws for that, which I do support, because lets face it, children can be... not so bright. So safety is definitely more important than realism. Anyway, despite being the color of a Mountain Dew can, it still looks pretty dang cool. Inside the box you'll find the RGT camera, the RGT gun, a "sight", and two AA batteries. The batteries are for the gun, which is wireless, but good luck getting them out of the package. There is snuggly... and then there is vice-grip! I had to end up just going to my closet and grabbing two AA's of my own because I just couldn't free the included ones from their plastic prison.

RGT: G1 Light Gun Getting everything setup wasn't difficult in the least. The camera fit fine atop of the television, once I moved our clock out of the way, and the cord was plenty long enough to reach my PlayStation 2's USB port. Besides the USB plug for the PlayStation 2, it also has an Xbox style controller plug for your GameCube... yes people, that was a joke. Unfortunately, the camera isn't compatible with the Nintendo GameCube, only the PlayStation 2 and X-Box... though come to think of it, I'm not even sure if there are any light gun games out for the GameCube. Anyway, the plugs are detachable from the camera's wire, suggesting that it may be possible to integrate it with future consoles. Sorry to say that it won't work with the Xbox 360. Mike explains why in the interview following this review.

RGT: G1 Light Gun Next came the gun. The batteries slid nicely into the gun from the base of the handle, much like where an ammo clip would go. Then the "sight" snapped perfectly into position upon the top of the gun. By now you may be wondering why I keep putting the word "sight" in quotes... it's because this thing is really much more of a sensor than a sight. You see that main part of the "sight" where it appears that you're supposed to look through? Well, you can't look through it. It's solid black plastic with an infrared sensor on the front. That, in conjunction with the sensor on the front barrel, allows the RGT camera track the gun's position. The sight part of the thing is actually a tiny hole located at the base of the "sight". This thing is pretty much useless, as if you're talented enough to be able to look through his hole and still see everything else on the screen, then you probably don't need to use a sight anyway.

RGT: G1 Light Gun Once the hardware was all set up, it was time to test the sucker out. Step number one was to get the RGT camera aligned for where I would be sitting. It can be rotated vertically about 45 degrees, and needs to be adjusted so that when the gun is pointed at the screen, the red light on the camera is off. This was easy, but remember that if you move to a different distance then it will have to be readjusted again. Next came the calibrating of the gun to the screen position. This was also pretty simple. Just turn on the gun, double tap the gun's "H-Calibration" button, then shoot the top left corner of the screen, then the bottom right corner. That's pretty much it. No need to go through the game's Guncon calibration... well, usually. Dino Stalker was an exception, but I'll get to that later. Normally you just press the "S-Calibration" button on the gun to skip the Guncon calibration.

Now, actually shooting the gun is a task that takes much practice, because you pretty much can't move. This was a major challenge for me, as I suspect it would be for many videogamers who often find themselves moving their controller all over the place while guiding their on-screen counterpart. Unlike with the standard Guncon, you cannot change your arm positions without having to recalibrate the gun. So if you start out holding the gun lower, and then raise your arms during a particular section to get better accuracy, you're going to have to pause the game and recalibrate. And likewise if you then lower your gun. This sucks, and takes a lot of practice to get used to keeping your arms in the same place. I went into the first game with guns blazing, and was quickly humbled to find that I would need to spend a couple hours on the practice modes. Once I felt that I had my technique down, I jumped back into the games.

RGT: G1 Light Gun I had four PlayStation 2 games to try out, Vampire Night, Endgame, Time Crisis 2, and Dino Stalker. I also had three original PlayStation games which I booted on the PlayStation 2, Elemental Gearbolt, Time Crisis, and Point Blank 2, but none of them would work. It appears that original PlayStation games won't recognize the gun, even when their played on a PlayStation 2. Perhaps it's because the gun is telling the PlayStation 2 that it's a Guncon 2 and the original PlayStation games are only set to work with original Guncons. Well, whatever the reason, that was sure a bummer. I was really looking forward to playing Elemental Gearbolt again. So it was back to the four PlayStation 2 games. All worked pretty good with the gun with the exception of Dino Stalker. When I first started playing this one, I found that none of my shots were hitting anything. Eventually I discovered that all of my shots, no matter where I aimed, ended up hitting at the very top of the screen. I re-did the gun's calibration, but that didn't change anything, so I went in and tried to do the game's calibration.

This was a challenge in itself. The game presented a bull's eye target in the center of the screen and told me to shoot at it. So I did. But nothing happened. After trying several times, I then just began shooting all over the screen, and after much trial and error, I found that in order to hit the center bull's eye, I had to aim at the right side of the screen. Then the game put a target in the upper left corner, and hitting that was no problem. From there, it showed me where my gun was aiming as I moved it around the screen. Weird part was, it would disappear and say I was aiming off-screen if I went anywhere in the bottom half of the screen. So after trying this calibration procedure several times, I finally got it on target and recognizing over most of the screen. There was still a small section at the bottom that wouldn't recognize, but it was good enough.

RGT: G1 Light Gun Unfortunately, that wasn't the only challenge faced with using this game. The next problem was reloading. In order to reload, the gun needs to be shot while pointed off screen, but if you point out of the camera's viewing area it won't register. So basically there's only a small window in which you can point the gun to reload, which can be very difficult to do when frantically trying to fend off hordes of vicious dinosaurs swarming all over you. Reloading with the other games wasn't too much of an issue since they let you use the "B" button on the gun.

Dino Stalker was also the only game of the four where you had to move yourself through the environment. The RGT: G1 has a D-Pad conveniently located on it's back, directly above the handle, just like the Guncon 2. This makes it possible to move your character, though I wouldn't quite call it easy. I've never used a Guncon 2 before or had to move my character, so I really don't have anything to compare this to. The game seems to have an option where you can move with a controller and shoot with the gun, which would be excellent for two players... if it would work. I've tried various combinations, yet every time I plug the gun in, the controller stops working, so the gun must be communicating to the game that it is a Guncon 2, and the game must be set to not allow a controller to be active while a Guncon 2 is plugged in. If only the RGT: G1 had someway to switch it's mode so the PlayStation 2 would think it was an original Guncon....

RGT: G1 Light Gun The gun itself is light weight and comfortable to hold, but unlike the picture in its manual, you'll most likely end up holding it with both hands with your elbows resting on something, like your legs or table or back of a couch. This is simply because you have to keep it in the same position, and trying to hold something in one position without supporting it on something solid becomes very difficult to do. Of course, since it's wireless, finding a comfortable position in which to hold it becomes much easier. The gun also has a built-in auto-off feature in order to save battery life. So if you set it down and walk away, it will turn itself off. When you come back, you then have to flip the power switch to the off position, and wait about five seconds. If you just flip it to off then immediately back to on, nothing will happen.

One major disadvantage of this gun is that you can't buy two of them. Or, well, you could buy two, but you can only use one of them at a time since they work on the same infrared frequency. E-Real Games is supposedly coming out with a second gun on a different frequency in March of this year, so let's all cross our fingers that it's still on schedule. Light gun games are so much more fun when there's a buddy to join in on the action! There's nothing like shooting zombie mutant vampire terrorists together to strengthen that bond of friendship.

So what's the bottom line here? Well, if you have a standard CRT television, then try a Guncon first. If it works, then stick with it. Yes, the RGT: G1 is wireless, but that freedom really isn't worth the loss of flexibility you have in positioning and movement. However, if you have any other kind of TV that does not work with a Guncon, then the RGT: G1 Light Gun is definitly worth owning. It will once again allow you to have hours of fun blasting baddies and scratching that itchy trigger finger!

An Interview with the President of E-Real Games, Mike M. Fang

When did you first realize the need for light guns that would work on any television set?

We realized the gun compatibility problem with modern TV sets in 2004 and started our development immediately.

How will the Player Two G1 light gun be different from the Player One model?

Our player two gun works at a different frequency as the G1 so that both G1 and player two light guns do not interfere with each other's signals.

Will these light guns work out of the box with Microsoft's Xbox 360, Sony's PlayStation 3, or Nintendo's Revolution? If not, will an adapter be required or will you be making new guns that will work with the systems?

Our current G1 light gun is not compatible with XBox 360 because XBox 360 requires two special ICs to be embedded. Our current G1 does not contain them. Our light guns will most-likely be compatible with PS3 if Sony does not require any special ICs like what Microsoft does. Since our light gun is more for adults than kids, we don't have plan to make it GameCube compatible right now.

The E-Real Games websites mention two other products currently in development, a Sword Fighting system and a Boxing system. How are those coming along?

We are working on the Sword Fighting system and the Boxing system. However, we are not sure at this time, if we will show prototypes of them at the E3 show in May.

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