The Holiday season would not be complete without companies like Microsoft keeping some of their best hardware in reserve for the start of November. With the release in some territories and upcoming release in others, of the new Xbox Elite Controller, this is no exception. The new controller is a beautiful piece of hardware that should, in theory, really take your game to the next level. The question remains, does it?! Let’s take a closer look.
First off, let me scrape you off the ceiling after you hear the price, if you don’t know already. It’s $150! Yes, I know that is over twice the price of a regular wireless Xbox One controller and it’s almost half the price of some of the great holiday console bundles. The price is totally subjective. I can’t really defend that sticker price and I won’t, as it is pretty subjective, but at the same time if you start comparing it to other aftermarket controllers with the very same hardware you will quickly find that it isn’t as astronomical as it first seems to be. If you take a look at what SCUF Gaming has to offer you will find that their high end tuned controllers will cost you upwards of $200.00 with many of the same options that you get on the Elite as standard. After spending some hours researching, in terms of being priced at a fair market value it is highly competitive, if not the best option for the money if you are going to invest in this kind of controller, in this gamer’s opinion.
What do we get with this Xbox Elite Controller and how does it feel? Glad you asked! It comes in a very nice carrying case to keep your investment safe from prying eyes and greasy hands. Very important if you have children! In the case will be two extra sets of interchangeable thumbsticks. Included are an extra long version with the standard thumbstick design and the other is a slightly shorter version with a rounded off top. Also included are two sets of paddles that attach very snugly to the back of the controller, a fighting style D-pad and standard D-pad cover. All these accessories are made of a very nice quality, matte finish metal that feels great to the touch. I noticed they often feel a bit cold to the touch, which in my opinion makes me feel like I am using a very high quality piece of hardware. When you are playing with them you start to realize just how nice they feel compared to the standard molded plastic that we currently have on the standard controller. Also included is a very nice braided USB cord that attaches to the controller. Finally, Microsoft have listened and made this cord about 6 feet long so it is actually very usable compared to the 2 foot long variety they have released with the other controllers.
The overall presentation of the Xbox Elite Controller is phenomenal. Its black molded plastic and metal components perfectly complement each other in a way that I have not often seen in many controllers. The pieces of the controller that are molded in plastic are a much improved smooth plastic that feels much, much better in hand after longer gaming sessions. One thing you will notice right out of the box is that this weighs a bit more than the standard controller. With the added metal components it adds a very nice bit of weight, that while manageable makes it feel like its a much better quality than the standard controller. Thumbstick clicks are satisfying and smooth. The standard A,B,X,Y buttons also feel like they have been improved a bit. They feel much smoother when pressed and less prone to catching when depressed, as was the case after many hours of gaming on the standard controller. The trigger and bumper buttons are also improved a bit, with a much better and satisfying click when depressed. The left and right bumper buttons carry over the improvement from the most recent upgrade to the standard controller where they can be pressed along the entire button length and not just the ends. Their overall response is now right on par with the left and right triggers.
The trigger stops on the back of the controller are a very handy item to have and are quite helpful when firing things like the snub pistol in Gears of War or the Magnum handgun in Halo’s multiplayer, or if you are a racer they can be used to limit the amount of throttle that you will give to your car if you need to run a bit slower on some tighter courses. As these are manual trigger stops they can be switched on and off at will and do not require stopping play to do so. The thumbstick response and feel has been significantly increased. This is where I noticed the greatest difference. The metal pieces in the base of each thumbstick provide a buttery smooth feel when using the thumbsticks to the point where it feels truly effortless and I felt like it really reduced the fatigue on my thumbs after a 3 hour Halo 5 session last night! It was a very nice surprise!
Microsoft could have reasonably just stopped with making the Xbox Elite Controller as they did but they released a wonderful tuning app that you can download to your console that will allow you to almost endlessly tune almost every vital function of the controller. You are able to save two profiles on the controller itself and switch between them on the fly, as needed. You can store an endless amount of profiles in the tuning app itself on the console. Every single game you own can have its own profile stored in the app, if desired. It gets very in depth. Every button, trigger and paddle can be mapped to perform a different function if you so desire. The thumbsticks can also be tuned, independetly from one another, to have a different response pattern. For example, if I am playing Gears of War and I want my lateral movement response to be a bit smoother and precise I can set my right thumbstick to the “smooth” setting and if I also want the left thumbstick to be used for quick aiming down the scope on the Longshot rifle, I would set the left thumbstick to the “Agressive” or “Instant” setting which will significantly speed up aiming response time. Further tuning comes into play when you start adjusting the dead zones on the triggers themselves. Where the button response cuts in and cuts out. Again, this can be the same for each trigger or completely different for left and right triggers if you so choose. Currently, I have my right trigger using a miniscule deadzone so with the trigger stop active and the deadzones tuned all I have to do is practically brush my finger across the right trigger and it will fire the snub pistol in Gears of War. Almost zero effort!
Total control over how you play. That is what is accomplished with the Xbox Elite Controller! Is it perfect? Pretty close to it in my opinion. If I have any complaint it would be that Microsoft did not include a rechargeable battery pack with the controller. At the $150 price it seems like it would have been the right move to really set this completely apart from the standard controller but that being said, its really hard to find that to be a reason not to pick this up. I have also read that some folks are experiencing a tiny bit of thumbstick drift with the right thumbstick as has been the tendency in the standard controller in cases in the past. It has been reported that this is due to Microsoft using some of the same parts in the internal portion of the controller. Personally, I have never had this issue in any of my controllers so I doubt it is that widespread of an issue but better to be forewarned anyway.
If you have managed to get your hands on one of these as they are sold out in a great deal of territories and countries then you are fully aware of how good this controller is. If you have not, I would highly recommend finding a way to get one as soon as possible! This is about as good as it gets folks and even if you are a casual gamer I can not imagine you would be sorry having spent the money on this amazing Xbox Elite Controller. Your oponents will hate you and your hands and your game will thank you! Happy fragging!
Review by Sean Gearhart