During my time at E3, I was able to stop by the Microsoft booth and give the Xbox Elite Controller a try. I was impressed by the overall experience and demonstration. I think Xbox is onto something by offering a premium modifiable controller. I just hope Sony follows suit.
The first thing I noticed when putting the controller into my hands was that it has a premium (much heavier) feel to its build. The plastic body of typical console controllers can at times feel cheap. Many of the parts of this controller are made out of steel including the analog sticks and the paddles on the back. Microsoft has stated that the controller is built to last much longer than your typical controller.
In Microsoft’s video (see below) introducing the Xbox Elite controller, professional gamer Mike Cavanaugh states, “When I was competing, I would go through a controller every 3 months.” The steel analog sticks should address the issue of wear and tear that is most commonplace on the control sticks.
In my hands-on time with the Elite, I was able to disassemble quite a few of the interchangeable pieces of the controller. The Elite will come with 3 different sets of analog sticks providing different heights for different play styles. The sticks slide on and off really easily and are secured with magnets. The magnets were sufficiently strong to where I never felt that the sticks would fall off during a gameplay session.
In addition to being able to switch out the analog sticks, the paddles on the back of the controller are interchangeable. This means you can switch out the paddles to the length of your preference. It only comes with the 4 paddles, 2 short and 2 long; but you can mix and match their position how you please.
The controller was hooked up to a demo that took me through three different exercises to show the impact that an adjustable controller can make. The first demo had me utilize the Hair Trigger Lock function. Using a small switch on the back, you can adjust whether you want the full range of motion on your triggers or a 50% reduced range of motion. The interactive demo had me shooting at a ship as fast as I could until I overpowered its energy. Without the hair-trigger lock I completed it in 10.42 seconds. By enabling it, I was able to achieve it in 6.2 seconds; a drastic improvement.
The triggers were always my complaint going from PS3 to Xbox 360 when playing Call of Duty during the past generation. My semi-auto game was always negatively impacted due to having to pull the trigger as opposed to push the R1 button on the Dualshock 3 controller.
The next demo had me test out the analog stick sensitivity adjustment feature. I was given the task to use the control sticks to skillfully abduct a man out of his bed through his house and into my UFO. With regular analog stick sensitivity, it took me one minute and 20 seconds and 37 hits into obstructions in the house. (It was brutal.) With the lowered sensitivity, I was able to abduct the man in 25 seconds with less than 10 hits into obstructions. The adjustment made an impressive difference.
Finally, the last demo had me test the back paddle feature of the controller. The demo was a twin stick shooter. These types of games require constant contact with both control sticks as one controls your movement while the other aims. Having the back paddles enabled me to use other abilities without taking my thumbs off the control stick. I don’t know that I would say it was comfortable using the paddles, as my middle and ring fingers are not trained in the art of button pressing. However, its safe to say that by building muscle memory over time I believe you could gain a serious competitive advantage over your enemies with these back paddles.
Impressively enough, by using the companion app you can map any button to the desired button of your choice. Want to throw a grenade using the X button? Sure, just remap your trigger to the X button. (However, I definitely wouldn’t recommend that configuration) The controller has an analog switch that stores two controller configurations. That way you can switch between them as quickly as the flip of a switch. You might use multiple controller configs if you share the controller with someone else. Or you might use it for different game types. Because it is a switch, you can even change configurations mid-game. This means if you go from running and gunning to driving a vehicle; you can switch to the configuration that is going to best cater to the game type you’re playing.
In my interview with the Microsoft representative, he was quick to point out that while you can modify a number of aspects of the controller, it still connects and plays like a regular Xbox controller. There is no improvement to latency and no turbo option. This was a conscious decision made to stay compliant with the majority of league rules regarding modded controllers.
Overall, I walked away impressed. If I was a more hardcore gamer, I would absolutely drop $150 dollars on the Xbox Elite based on my initial impressions alone. Hopefully Microsoft’s delivery of the product will live up to the hype they’ve created around the product. Below is Microsoft’s video explaining the new controller:
What are your thoughts on the Xbox Elite Controller? Sound off in the comments below.