Xbox One Controller and Hardware Preview


Microsoft Might Just Pull it Off

The Xbox One is right around the corner, and Microsoft has given some the chance to try the system out at Microsoft Stores across the US. I took the opportunity to get my hands wrapped around the controller and a couple of the games they had on show, and attempted to see if this thing was the one to get this holiday. I’m primarily going to focus on the controller, as full OS and game features weren’t available, but that certainly still gives me plenty to talk about, especially since I had the pleasure of giving the console’s premier fighting game a long bit of my time.

The system is quite a bit smaller than one would expect, which is great considering its position as an all-in-one media device for an entertainment center. It’s not a particularly beautiful thing, but it certainly has a subdued style that’s far less garish than the original Xbox. It’s definitely the smallest of Microsoft’s first edition consoles, and that shrink extends to the controller.

I’m gonna be totally real here; I’m not the biggest fan of the 360 controller. I realize I’m in the minority on that. The controller always felt a bit too thick in the middle, and the grips didn’t give enough space for my hands to move around, especially with that hug battery pack sticking off of it. The sticks also wore down pretty quickly, though their sensitivity was near perfect. I’m sure I don’t have to go over the D-Pad; a mushy disc that ensures what you wanted to do with it is an uncomfortable task every time. Microsoft has generally improved every element with Xbox One’s controller, though it…might need a revision down the line.


My left hand and the Xbox One Controller

The new controller has all the familiar buttons and placements we’re used to, and while I was using it, I frequently forgot I was using a new controller. After a little while, its improvements start to make a difference, as I was quite a bit more comfortable for the amount of time I played.

It’s D-pad is the biggest improvement. Its miles better than the old one, as it now consists of 4 click buttons under the pad itself, all of them are far easier to press with precision. It feels like a variant of the PS Vita D-pad, which is one of my favorites ever. If I could give a “most improved” award to anything, I’d give it straight to the new D-pad.

The button layout is all the same, and the buttons feel quite similar to the 360’s. The triggers are wider, which spreads out their surface area and distributes pressure to the index fingers more evenly. The haptic motors were turned off, unfortunately, so I didn’t get to feel that out. What was upgraded on the triggers, however, was taken away from the bumpers. Those things are larger, set deeper into the controller, and have an awkward press-able area, making them really difficult to activate. It’s a pretty unfortunate blemish on an otherwise great controller.

Analog sticks see an increase in height, and a new texture. The plastic/rubber is much tougher than before, meaning they won’t fall apart as quickly, and the raised sticks make it easier to move the sticks with accuracy. The texture, paired with the new material, became painful pretty quickly. It tears away at the thumb, with a lot of others complaining about sore thumbs soon after they started playing. I dealt with it, and as the controller gets used, it’ll probably become less of an issue, but the amount of dead skin on the left stick basically screamed “make it softer.” Besides that texture, I appreciate the changes they made to the sticks.

The controller sits in a smaller housing, which does take a second to adjust to. It doesn’t have a large battery protrusion, which gives much more space for my hands to hold the thing comfortably. The plastic has a soft matte finish, which feels great in the palm and should make long sessions easier to get through without cramps.  Overall, besides the sticks and bumpers, I’d say the controller is a step in the right direction, and with a couple of adjustments it could be one of the better console controllers.

The tangible elements of the system have plenty going for them, and seeing the system run games at 60fps with a higher level of detail is a joy that can only be experienced in person. Killer Instinct and Forza 5 felt great despite the gameplay’s familiarity. Its only launch, though, and things will keep improving. As a foundation, I think the Xbox One is in a good spot.

The system drops on November 22nd for $499.99 US.