When the Xbox One was released, Microsoft had a bit of a communication issue. The company, despite releasing a few tier 1 games around release, focused on the TV aspects of the console and pitched it as a media device for your living room, instead of a game console. But, with a new head at the top of Xbox and a re-defined strategy of focusing on games, Microsoft has turned its Xbox ship back to its rightful demographic and is now catering to the hardcore gaming community.
Earlier this year, the company announced the Xbox Elite controller and I have been using the device for about a week with games like Destiny to see if the controller is worth the $150 asking price Microsoft has placed upon it.
When you open up the box, the feeling of premium is immediately present. The controller comes in a hard case that has a mesh like material on it and a zipper that splits the case in half that allows you to open it up like a clam. The controller and the interchangeable parts are presented like a showroom for an exotic car and a USB cable is also included.
What makes the Elite controller elite is the fact that nearly everything about this device is customizable. Included are two sets of additional thumb sticks, four paddles, and an alternative D-pad; all of these parts stick on with strong magnets. The controller is covered in a soft plastic material that does not scratch easily and the back is a rubber material that makes it easy to grip the controller.
Taking off the thumb sticks and other swappable parts is quite easy, the magnets hold the pieces confidently in place and the paddles on the back use a notched mechanism to secure them to the controller. In my roughly 25 hours of gaming with the controller, I have not had any issues with these pieces coming loose.
My favorite feature, that I had no idea would be the best part of the controller, is that you can adjust the trigger length for the left and right buttons. You can make the engagement distance about half that of a normal Xbox controller which makes it much easier to shoot single fire weapons faster. Once you get used to the shortened length, there is no going back to the longer pull distance.
Microsoft allows you to remap buttons on this device and there is a switch on the front so you can save two pre-defined configurations that can be toggled at any time while playing. This simple feature keeps you from remapping the controller when jumping between games (I had two pre-sets, one for Destiny, the other for Smite).
The thumb sticks base is now made of metal, instead of plastic, and has a smooth feel to it when moving the sticks around and the click when pressing a thumb stick offers up a satisfying engagement to it. The d pad, which can use a traditional cross or an angular pad, provides flexibility for those who do not prefer the standard design.
The paddles on the back of the controller are by far the biggest change and may take you some time to get used to their functionality. For me, I’m currently setup with two of the four paddles installed (you can have any combination of 1-4 paddles in use at any time) as the lower of the four paddles got in the way of my hands. With that being said, I’ve only used traditional style Xbox controllers since the first Xbox, so I am trying to undo about a decade of muscle memory but it is easy to see how these additional buttons can make you a better gamer.
In use, I quite like the Elite controller. The premium materials and the flexibility to make the controller fit my style of play is a winning combination. The $150 price tag is a steep fee for the controller but if you are a frequent gamer, it’s highly recommended as the customization options and the premium feel add another dimension to your gaming experience.