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Xbox One Controller Hands-On Impressions | I Feel It In My Fingers

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
Controllers, Games controllers, Gamescom 2013, Microsoft, Xbox One, Xbox One Controller

Xbox One Controller Hands-On Impressions | I Feel It In My Fingers

Ask me what my favourite games controller of all time is and I'll almost certainly point you towards the Nintendo Gamecube's Wavebird. The GameCube controller certainly had its issues -- a dodgy C-stick and that tiny little Z shoulder button to name but two -- but in terms of ergonomics, it made my hands the happiest they've ever been. When Nintendo brought out the Wavebird, my palms reached nirvana. It was heavier, felt sturdier, and it was seamless in its wireless connectivity. It was pure comfort and thus an absolute joy to hold.

Then Microsoft made it better.

The Xbox 360 controller decided this generation battle for me, that and the fact that Microsoft's console arrived earlier and proved cheaper than the PS3. And though I love my PS3 dearly for its superior collection of diverse exclusives, I've always found the DualShock controller to be abhorrent. The thumb sticks are the wrong places, it feels squashed and lightweight, and playing on it with my giant mitts for long periods of time results in an imagined sensation of bone deformation. The DS4 is a definite improvement, however, and you can read all about that here.

Xbox One Controller Hands-On Impressions | I Feel It In My Fingers

But the Xbox One controller might be in another league in terms of comfort. It's smaller than the Xbox 360's game pad, sitting in the hands the way that Ubisoft's limited edition Ghost Recon Future Soldier pad did, albeit without the mesh grips (more on that in a bit). But the shape is still incredibly pleasing.

Also welcome is the degree to which the analogue sticks have been refined. They're more dimpled on the Xbox One and have a significant amount of grip (compared to those of its predecessor). The fatter lip on each stick, combined with a new surface substance that never yielded to our sweaty thumbs, means that a greater degree of control is paramount. The resistance has changed a little too, with Microsoft saying that the sticks will respond to 25% less force than on Xbox 360, and even playing Peggle 2 it was clear to see that the Xbox One is a little more responsive in terms of the gamepad's dead zone. When it comes to headshots, Microsoft have clearly gone to great lengths to try and ensure that the Xbox One provides virtual marksmen with all of the precision that they need.

Microsoft have lost this generation's D-pad wheel (thank Christ for that), replacing it with a simple cross that feels miles better than before. We tested it out on Killer Instinct and it felt far more clean and precise in terms of execution, although we'd wager that if you absolutely must play a fighting game without a fight stick, the PS4 will probably still be the console of choice thanks to the distinct directional buttons on the DualShock 4.

Xbox One Controller Hands-On Impressions | I Feel It In My Fingers

One feature that this does have which the DualShock 4 doesn't, however, comes in the form of finger-tingling motors. The  rumble triggers, with added haptic feedback, are one of the biggest new features with this new pad and they feel really, really weird. But part of that is that we're so used to  a one-size-fits-all approach to rumble feedback. With dedicated motors in each trigger, gunfire splutters recoiling feedback into your index finger, you can feel a car's engine cough as it turns over in alternate hands before it settles into a smooth rev cycle. The shift in rumble from palm to fingertips feels utterly alien at first, but once the strangeness of the experience wears off, it does seem pretty cool. Whether or not it'll make a difference to levels of immersion in a game or not is something else entirely -- I for one am hardly a rumble evangelist -- but Microsoft seem to think so. It'll certainly take a bit of getting used, but first impressions are probably best summed up with the words I said at the time: "Ooooh! Well that's pretty nifty.'

"The rumble motors are actually quite big, the 360 ones," Microsoft's head of Xbox accessories Zulfi Alam said earlier this year. "Think of taking those and shrinking them down to one-tenth of their size and having them react to multiple frequencies. It was a humungous engineering challenge.

"You don't want a telephone-like rumble which is almost a buzzing sound. You want rumble to be true rumble. The way a tire spins out of control or the way a tire hits gravel? That's a very specific, which is not like a-buzzing feeling."

Xbox One Controller Hands-On Impressions | I Feel It In My Fingers

Elsewhere, there's not much that immediately pops out aside from the sleeker, curvier design, and the fact that Microsoft have evidently come to conclusion that there really ought to be a way of fitting a battery pack into a controller without having it jut out of the back like some sort of plastic cyst. They're spouting some PR rubbish about how battery packs give consumers options, which is actually true enough in and of itself, but given the disparity between the lifespan of an Xbox 360 rechargeable battery pack and a DualShock 3 we'd wager that using better parts might have something to do with it too. At least be honest about wanting to fleece us for accessories, Microsoft.

Nonetheless, the Xbox One pad is seriously impressive where it counts: when you're actually holding it. Console decisions have been made for far less.

Add a comment11 comments
Anarchist  Aug. 23, 2013 at 01:36

My hatred of the playstation pads is no secret. It's the exact same 19 year old controller, except with a few new bits bolted on to the only places they can go. Contrary to the Xbox controller, which has been through three (four now) total redesigns based on ever increasing knowledge of ergonomics and how we use our controllers.

If there is one thing that may sway me back to the xbone from the ps4, it is this.

Tsung  Aug. 23, 2013 at 08:38

Yes, given a choice I'd choose Xbox controller over the PS controller every time. The PS controller feels cramped. One thing I'd love them to add thou' is the ability to disable the rumble (on all pads). I really don't need that sort of feedback; I do wonder what potential damage holding something that is intentionally vibrating in your hands?

Late  Aug. 23, 2013 at 10:14

I do wonder what potential damage holding something that is intentionally vibrating in your hands?


We're all gonna get rich when we put in our class action lawsuits in a few years' time!

http://www.attwoodsolicitors.co.uk/brandnew/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/vibration.png


I do love the xbox 360 controller (aside from the d-pad, but I don't use that very often) so am certain I'd prefer the xb1 controller to the ps4 controller.

Lately I've been thinking I want the ps4 next gen rather than the xb1, but it'd be nice if the ps4 could use the xbox's controller.
And had voice controls.
And got COD maps a month earlier.
I should probably get an xbone, shouldn't I.

Bodzilla  Aug. 23, 2013 at 10:43

Why is only one of the 360/One's thumbsticks in the correct location?
Surely if you prefer the left thumbstick placement to that of the dualshocks, then the right thumbstick should be switched with the four face buttons shouldn't it?

stevenjameshyde  Aug. 23, 2013 at 11:05

Why is only one of the 360/One's thumbsticks in the correct location?
Surely if you prefer the left thumbstick placement to that of the dualshocks, then the right thumbstick should be switched with the four face buttons shouldn't it?


These are clearly the words of someone who has never used a 360 controller. Both of the thumbsticks are in exactly the right place

Late  Aug. 23, 2013 at 11:29

It does seem counter-intuitive, looking at it from the outside. Definitely the best working layout, though - although it took me a while to get used to when I switched from Sony to Microsoft last gen. I imagine it's the same for everyone.

Bear in mind that as you're playing your left thumb spends most of it's time on the analogue stick, and your right thumb constantly flits between the analogue stick and the buttons.

Anarchist  Aug. 23, 2013 at 12:52

Why is only one of the 360/One's thumbsticks in the correct location?
Surely if you prefer the left thumbstick placement to that of the dualshocks, then the right thumbstick should be switched with the four face buttons shouldn't it?


You've clearly never used a 360 controller.

Your right thumb flicks between analogue and face buttons. As the face buttons take more dexterity to press, it makes perfect sense for them to be exactly where they are.

Bodzilla  Aug. 23, 2013 at 14:39

I've used the playstation pads for years and although I haven't owned one, I've played on the xboxes quite a bit.
I didn't like the original xbox controller, not because of the layout, but because it was fat and clunky. For the 360, they slimmed and refined it so that it is actually great to use.

The type of game you're playing would probably dictate which layout would be best; sports games, racing, fighters would be better suited to asymmetric thumbsticks, as you'll be using the left stick and face buttons the majority of the time.
The dualshock layout seems better for things like FPS games, 3rd person adventure types, twin stick shooters, as you'll be using both sticks and trigger buttons instead of the 4 face buttons.

Late  Aug. 23, 2013 at 15:06

I probably spend most of my time playing FPSs, and tbh the layout is favourable for that genre too. I find with the dualshock my thumbs are aching after long stints using the two analogue sticks, being stretched out of their more natural resting position (on the d-pad and buttons), and my left thumb aches after playing the vast majority of games.

Playing on the 360's controllers your left hand is more comfortable, as the analogue stick is where your thumb naturally wants to rest. The right hand is largely the same from one controller to the other (the stick and buttons are in slightly different places, but the only real difference is the triggers - and don't get me started on Sony's convex design choice there ;) ).

The only time I find I'm happier with a PS controller rather than an XB one is when I'm mainly sticking to d-pad and face buttons.
You'll be aware a lot of folk prefer the Sony controller to the Microsoft one when it comes to Street Fighter etc.
The main reason given is that Sony's d-pad is so much better than the mess that Microsoft came up with. I'd posit that it's also largely because the d-pad is in a better position. It's where you'd naturally rest your thumb. Handy on games where you use the d-pad; not so handy on games where you use the analogue stick.

Everyone's different, though. Personal preferences and different hand sizes will play their part.

Anarchist  Aug. 23, 2013 at 16:48

[quote]You'll be aware a lot of folk prefer the Sony controller to the Microsoft one when it comes to Street Fighter etc.
The main reason given is that Sony's d-pad is so much better than the mess that Microsoft came up with. I'd posit that it's also largely because the d-pad is in a better position. It's where you'd naturally rest your thumb. Handy on games where you use the d-pad; not so handy on games where you use the analogue stick.[quote]

I'm sure I've read in the past, that MS's poor d-pad is due to trademarks on d-pad designs.

MattGardner  Aug. 23, 2013 at 18:20

It really does come down to personal preference, and I'd agree that's probably down to the type of games you play. The DualShock 4 is much, much more comfortable for me than any other PS controller. Really impressive what Sony have done with that.

But if I had to choose based purely on layout and ergonomics, I'd still go with the Xbox One controller. It's close enough this time though to not decide my initial console purchase.

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