In the bitter war between console and PC gamers, there is one statement neither side can find contentious. It doesn’t matter how much you adore your PS4 or your Xbox One or your Atari Jaguar, consoles suck when playing first person shooters. Man was not meant to frag one’s enemies using two joysticks and some trigger buttons. The beauty of the Xim4 USB hub is that it lets you destroy shit-talking tweens as God intended: with a keyboard and mouse.
That’s not something console game designers are crazy about. Currently, both major consoles can accept keyboard and mouse input, but the designers of games like Destiny and Overwatch have purposely deactivated those inputs to keep precision mouse fraggers from having a significant advantage over their clumsy thumbed controller brethren. I’m one of those clumsy-thumbed sons of bitches. So after getting repeatedly boned one weekend in Overwatch, I started reading up on ways to up my game. Reddit was full of people swearing by the Xim4 or claiming console pros swear by it.
“Every top ranked PS4 user uses it,” one redditor insisted.
I couldn’t confirm that claim, but I thought trying the Xim4 out was a nice alternative. Maybe it would improve my game and give me an edge that would take me from completely ordinary to slightly above average. The Xim4 uses witchcraft and technological wizardy to get around the blocks put in place by game manufacturers and makes Overwatch (or other FPS) on the PS4 virtually identical to Overwatch (or other FPS) on the PC.
But the road to success isn’t as simple as plugging and playing. The $125 Xim4 is technically a hack, and that means you have to spend a little time setting it up before you can do sweet quick turns and middle mouse clicks for punching. First, you have to make sure the mouse and keyboard you have will work with the Xim4 by double checking its website. Then, you have to do the same for the games you plan on playing.
Once you’re sure everything checks out and have spent you $125, you plug both into the hub, then you plug the controller into the hub, and then plug the hub into the console. The Xim4 is essentially hijacking the controller’s signal, so inputs from your mouse and keyboard will appear to be from the controller instead—neatly getting around developers’ blocks on keyboards and mice.
But you still need to be able to tweak the settings, choose the games you want the Xim4 to work with, and bind all your keys to buttons on the controller. You do that via the Xim4 Manager, which is available for PC, Mac, Android, and iOS devices.
The Xim4 manager is an ugly hack looking piece of software, but it has the ability to save profiles, so you can make one for every character on Overwatch or every class on Battlefield 4. Setting up each profile takes time. It’s not easy. If you are planning to grab a Xim4 and get to playing games in under thirty minutes you’re probably out of luck. The set up and keybinding process can taken anywhere from a minute to ten minutes, and after that you have to tweak—a lot.
Mouse settings are especially complex. See, controller joysticks lack precision which is why so many top gamers prefer using a mouse. But console game developers try to get around the terrible precision by introducing something called aim assistance. It’s supposed to help you nudge the reticle on screen towards the alien you want to explode, by anticipating your movements and doing it for you.
It’s great in theory, but it’s imprecise and can be clumsy in practice—particularly if you’re actually really good at aiming. Add a mouse to the experience, and your reticle positioning can get... whacky. It will jerk all over the screen or move so slow you’ll wonder if the console is freezing. So you have to tweak the settings a lot, and if your mouse is one of those super fancy ones with onboard memory then you have to go even further. This means tweaking the mouse’s settings on your computer, and then tweaking the settings on the console in the game of your choice.
The tangle of settings is one of the biggest hassles of the experience. Another headache is that fact that the Xim4 doesn’t charge your controller while plugged in, which makes it a worthless hunk of plastic if your controller dies mid-game.
Once you’re past the hurdles of hardware hacking the hell out of your console, the experience is sublime. Sure, I forget which button I have linked to which key and have to double check them periodically. And no, the Xim4 cannot do anything to miraculously fix my completely average aim.
But man, I felt like some sort of golden god while playing. I’ve never used hacks in a multiplayer game before, but I suddenly understood the appeal. So many more of my shots were hitting just right. Quick reflex-focused playstyles that are virtually impossible to do on a controller were at my command, and even though I was terrible at those playstyles, I was still better than the other guy. Which is all that matters.
If you’re in the weeds on your favorite first person shooter, or just want to experience the wonder that all those PC gamer nerds talk about, than do it my poor aiming sisters and brothers. Spend $125 on a Xim4. It might be the closest you’ll ever get to superpowers.
- Easy, if tedious, setup
- Insane possibility for customization that can be overwhelming
- You can use your keyboard and mouse on a console
- Using your keyboard and mouse on a console is dope
- I finally understand the appeal of Tracer in Overwatch
- And snipers in all other shooters
Correction: The original article noted that the price was $150. It is, in fact, $125 and the text has been updated to reflect that.