Throughout my time with the Rival 700, I played an extensive variety of games, though they mostly fell into the FPS and RTS genres, with Supreme Commander 2, Titanfall 2, and Battlefield 1 being prominent among them. Not once, in all my time using the Rival 700, did I experience any sort of tracking issue. Both in and out of game, the PixArt PMW3360 sensor felt smooth and responsive.
I could end my comments on the sensor here, but simply stating my loose, subjective experience with the sensor isn't terribly convincing or thorough. Other than simply playing games with the Rival 700, I did a bit of testing in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive with raw input on and zero mouse acceleration. First, I put two books on my cloth mousepad, opposite each other with the mouse in between and a gap to move the mouse in. Next, I cosied the mouse up to one of the books and fired a single bullet at the wall. Then I moved the mouse across the mousepad till it rested against the side of the other book and fired another bullet. Finally, I moved the mouse back and forth against the two books.
I repeated this process multiple times in different locations with varying spaces between the two books, along with different distances between my character and the walls around him. Every time the mouse was up against either of the books, the cursor was pointing at the bullet hole left from the bullet fired when the mouse was originally up against that book. What this test tells us is that the mouse has a one-to-one ratio between mouse movement and onscreen movement, which is fantastic. There's no hidden mouse acceleration happening inside the Rival 700, and the mouse should consistently point where you mean for it to. Sensor tracking consistency is key when building muscle memory in games, so this is great news.
I also tried to get the mouse to spin out or lose tracking in any way by slamming it down at odd angles and violently moving it around my mousepad. However, no matter what I did, the sensor never lost tracking. Lastly, I checked for angle snapping by drawing lines in MS Paint, and there's clearly none happening, though both mouse acceleration and angle snapping can be turned on and minutely tuned in the software for those who want it.
One final note about the sensor: it comes with an incredibly small lift-off distance, which effectively reduces the chance for rogue movement while picking up and moving the mouse to zero. However, unlike some mouse software, SteelSeries Engine 3 doesn't have configurable lift-off distance. This isn't a huge deal as the default lift-off distance is great for most people, but some like to adjust it to their personal tastes. Also, assuming it isn't a hardware limitation, the software could be updated to allow for configurable lift-off distance.
Like many gaming mice, the Rival 700 has optional downloadable software. Unlike many gaming mice, that software isn't clunky or gaudy. The SteelSeries Engine 3 greets the user with a clean, intuitive interface and a friendly tutorial outlining its basic capabilities. After the introduction, the user is free to assign various actions and commands to the Rival 700's buttons, customize its LEDs, adjust its sensitivity, edit its polling rate, and tinker with a whole host of other settings that come standard in most gaming mouse software.
The Rival 700, however, isn't a standard mouse. The software unlocks the capabilities of the mouse's OLED screen and tactile feedback features. We've already covered the basics of the Rival's OLED screen, so we'll focus on the tactile feedback. Outside of GameSense, which we'll unpack in a moment, the software has two tactile feedback features. Firstly, all buttons have the option of vibrating the mouse when clicked. Ten different vibrations are available as responses to these actions, varying in strength, length, and number.
Secondly, this same concept can be applied as a cooldown timer. Both keyboard presses and mouse clicks can cause the mouse to vibrate after a set duration. The idea here is to set up profiles for games containing abilities with cooldowns. I think it's a great idea to provide players with tactile feedback when their abilities are off cooldown, though it can take a bit of work to set up if you're playing a game with a lot of cooldowns like a MOBA or RPG. Thankfully, once you have your profiles set up, you can set up the mouse to automatically switch to the correct profile when you launch a game.
There's one catch, though: everything saved to the Rival 700's on-board profiles works without the software installed except for those cooldown timers and gifs. The gifs simply fail to animate, which isn't a huge deal, but losing all those carefully-set-up cooldown timers is a bummer when moving between PCs. If you want to use the Rival 700 with your cooldowns on another computer, you'll have to install SteelSeries Engine 3 there, too. Even so, it's still a plus to have on-board profile storage that allows almost all settings to function software-free.
Sensing the game
Now for the most intriguing feature of the Rival 700: GameSense. GameSense puts the mouse's tactile alerts, OLED screen, and LEDs to work by having them to react to information and events in-game. The software comes with some events already set, but you can delete these as well as create your own by picking from a list of possible events. Here are just a few examples: tactile alerts when you die, kill-to-death ratios displaying on the OLED display, and the LEDs changing color based on your health.
GameSense currently only supports CS:GO, Dota 2, and, through a mod, Minecraft. However, SteelSeries has a SDK, an API, documentation, walkthroughs, and sample code available for any developers who'd like to incorporate GameSense into their game. The company even has a supported games tab on their site with a "Your game here" slot, and, as it turns out, an indie game titled Utopia 9 already has GameSense integration. However, the game isn't listed in SteelSeries Engine 3 with the other supported games. Looking at patch notes for the game, it seems as though this app only supports GameSense with one of SteelSeries' keyboards, so the game may not show up in the software without that keyboard plugged in.
What I'm hoping for is that games featuring GameSense have a system similar to game controllers where the game interacts directly with the mouse without running through extra software, but from looking at the documentation, GameSense integration seems to require SteelSeries Engine 3 to work, so that's probably not the case. Games interacting directly with the mouse is more of a long term goal, as very few games support GameSense at the moment, and it's exclusive to SteelSeries products.
As someone who has sunk possibly unhealthy numbers of hours into Minecraft, I was pretty excited about the prospect of tactile alerts in Minecraft, but I was unfortunately disappointed with what GameSense had to offer in that title. There were very few game events available for Minecraft. Being alerted when a tool is about to break or when you run out of breath while underwater is pretty handy, but I think it'd be super cool to feel feedback every time you break a block, shear a sheep, or take damage. Something like that would allow you to feel the game in a way usually not possible when using a keyboard and mouse. However, the mouse's advertising doesn't promise haptic feedback, simply tactile alerts.
Anyways, the short of it is, I didn't end up doing most of my GameSense testing in Minecraft. The same goes for Dota 2. I'm not a fan of MOBAs and am quite bad at them. I spent the majority of my time using GameSense in CS:GO, which also has the largest selection of events and uses for GameSense out of the three supported games.
First of all, I can say that while my mouse's LEDs changing color as my health went down was kind of cool, it's completely for show. No serious gamer is going to look at the color of the LEDs on their mouse to roughly estimate how much health they have. When you're playing a game, your eyes are already on the screen, and most games display a health meter there with your exact amount of health.
The OLED display is also more form than function for CS:GO. It was neat to see my match stats quickly cycled through on the OLED display, but again, without taking your eyes from the screen, you can hold down the tab key and see the exact same stats right there in front of your eyeballs.
Where GameSense shines is its use of tactile alerts. Feeling tactile alerts when my health drops below 75%, 50%, 25%, and all the way to zero is actually useful. However, what I found added most to the gaming experience were the slight vibrations the mouse delivered when I switched weapons. This is less on the tactile alerts side of things and more on the haptic feedback side, which is what I'm looking for.
Feeling instantaneous physical feedback when switching to another weapon feels incredibly satisfying. It gives you the physical payoff of performing an action that you usually don't get when gaming on a PC. It's similar to unlocking a phone with the fingerprint reader and feeling the phone vibrate. The vibration makes you feel like you've actually done something, even though what you've done is digital, not physical.
This isn't even part of the GameSense system, but I found configuring the mouse to vibrate when the side buttons are pushed creates similarly satisfying physical feedback. Cloaking and uncloaking in Planetside 2, activating the STIM ability in Titanfall 2, or chucking a grenade in Battlefield 1 all felt so much more gratifying with the physical feedback provided by the mouse vibrations.
This all may sound great in concept, but there are a couple potential areas of concern that should be addressed. First of all, the vibrations of the Rival 700 are nowhere near the strength of the rumbles of today's game controllers. For those worried about the mouse rumbling off the desk or moving slightly, thus throwing off your aim, there's no chance of any of that happening. The mouse's vibrations are way closer to a phone's vibrations, but even then, the vibrations aren't too strong and are concentrated in the top center of the mouse, so they aren't going much into the desk below.
This brings up the second possible issue, which a TR gerbil actually inquired about when we first reported we were reviewing this mouse: if the vibrations are focused in the center of the mouse, will claw grip users still be able to feel the vibrations? I'm happy to report that, yes, claw grip users are covered as the vibrations are strong enough to be felt in the front and sides of the mouse.