There has been a lot of hype surrounding Microsoft’s Xbox Elite Wireless Controller since it was revealed at E3 2015. While I personally wasn’t excited about the idea of implementing additional buttons on the back, I was a huge fan of one thing: Quality. This was until I heard the hefty price tag of $179.99, at which I was totally turned off by the idea of owning a ‘premium’ grade controller. All of my opinions changed though the moment I got my hands on the E3 demo and from there: it re-established my faith in premium products.
Let me give you some back story before diving deep into this review; As much as I would love to say that I am a professional competitive gamer, I’m not. While I do consider myself to be skilled in games such as Gears of War: Ultimate Edition and Halo 5: Guardians, I am by no means on the same playing field as those who participate in Major League Gaming or other e-sport events. So, with that being said, my experience with the controller still felt justified, even if I did end up paying more than I wanted to.
“From the quality packaging, the weight of the box, right up into the unboxing experience, I sensed that I was holding something premium, a work of art if you will”
From the moment I laid my hands on the box at retail, I knew this was a matchmade in heaven. From the quality packaging, the weight of the box, right up into the unboxing experience, I sensed that I was holding something premium, a work of art if you will. Upon opening, I was greeted with this hard case, and after opening it, the beauty of the controller gleamed upon me like I was a child on Christmas morning. I guess what I am trying to say here is that the presentation of the device was flawless, reminiscent of Apple products; the beauty they are.
The controller feels heavier than your typical Xbox One controller but this was good. Just by holding it, I could sense that some cheap plastic parts weren’t used in the production for the Elite Controller’s. With a firm grip, I tested the controllers responsiveness by playing some rhythm games on the PC, like Audiosurf, Guitar Hero and others. While the feel of the face buttons didn’t seem to change, the triggers felt a lot smoother while the thumbsticks gave a satisfyingly smooth glide, similar to what you would expect when sliding a hot knife through butter. While it took some time for me to familiarize myself with the paddle buttons located on the back of the controller, I was able to quickly get the hang of it by forcing myself to utilize them during high-intensity shooters. After playing a few game, I quickly realized that I should be binding different buttons to the paddles, in order to ensure the control scheme matches the way I want to play. After a hop, skip and a jump, I was able to customize my controllers using the simple to use Xbox Accessories dashboard, and this is where I really had some fun.
In the dashboard you can nearly change everything in the controller. From the rumble motors to the brightness of the Xbox One logo, everything was configurable. This felt like the designers were listening to my own personal feedback, with games now feeling like the controller layout was catering my needs and not what the developer thought the control scheme should be. While I found changing the face buttons like the A, B, X and Y buttons were redundant, I found myself changing the paddle buttons to my own liking as it completely changed the way I play games like Halo now. The default configuration assigns the jump action to the A button, which would force me to remove my thumb off the right thumbstick to hit the jump button. With the quick switch of a control via the Xbox Accessories dashboard, I was able to change this to a lower button so my thumb didn’t have to do the work and leave the thumbstick. Thinking myself that it wouldn’t matter, I decided to take it for a spin and let me tell you: There was a huge difference in my game. Now I can aim and jump, something that wasn’t possible in Halo titles unless you switched your entire control scheme to ‘Bumper Jumper’, in my opinion, a wildly awkward configuration.
“Between the smooth thumbsticks, surprisingly stiff d-pad and trigger stops, I can see myself taking advantage of the flawless features by utilizing it in high-action Xbox One titles.”
Maybe the only gripe I had with the controller is that fact that it doesn’t automatically include a rechargeable battery kit. It does come with a very long braided USB cable which is handy for connecting to a Windows PC and charging the controller, but you’d think for the price tag of $179.99, Microsoft would have had the decency to include a rechargeable battery pack. Come on Microsoft, with a premium grade controller, you have to had known that I would be using the everlasting crap out of it. Why not give us the rechargeable battery pack to keep playing? Disappointed.
The D-pad on the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller felt a lot different than the traditional Xbox One or Xbox 360 controllers, and this was good. The D-pad features a very comfortable tactile bump, something I compare to Cherry MX switches found in keyboards. Not only did I see precision control using the + shaped D-pad, I saw wicked precision using the disc d-pad configuration. In fact, this is my preferred d-pad for use in most titles including Halo, Gears of War and especially Killer Instinct, where I tend to use the d-pad as my main movement scheme. You can tell that Microsoft put a lot of thought into the design of the d-pad, especially considering the Xbox 360 iteration of it was one of the worst ones I’ve seen in the industry.
Okay, one last small problem. The rubber handles on the back of the controller. I absolutely despise rubber on controllers because if there is one thing rubber does well is making your hands want to sweat. Yeah, after about an hour of gameplay, I find myself having to rub my hands off on my jeans to make sure the controller doesn’t get grimy. It’s gross, but to the human body, it’s what our hands to when touching rubber like the one they used here.
Speaking of using the everlasting crap out of it – I did exactly that. Since I got the controller, it’s been very difficult to go back to my other Xbox One controllers, even the new Halo 5 controller I recently purchased. Thing is, I know that I will be using this controller until the end of the Xbox One life cycle. Why? because it is built to last. Between the smooth thumbsticks, surprisingly stiff d-pad and trigger stops, I can see myself taking advantage of the flawless features by utilizing it in high-action Xbox One titles.
Rarely does it feel that big corporate companies like Microsoft tend to listen to their fans when it comes to hardware revisions. Since Phil Spencer took over as Head of Xbox, we have seen a crap-ton of new changes including backwards compatibility, the New Xbox One Experience, and now, the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller. You can tell that this controller was designed with the fans in mind, and it makes my purchase feel justified, even if it did end up costing the same as a handheld entertainment system such as a Nintendo 3DS or Playstation Vita. Will this controller compete with the other greater known brand Scuff? Absolutely, minus some additional upgrades you can get with Scuff controllers. If you are willing to shell out the expensive cost, it would be well worth your time.
Right now, you will be pretty stressed to find one of these bad boys in stock without paying more than $250. You can read our article which has some hints and tips on obtaining one here.
+ Excellent build quality
+ Thumbsticks are ‘smooth like butter’, just as Microsoft promised
+ Back paddles are a great extension for games.
+ Hair triggers are a must have for FPS titles.
– Doesn’t include rechargeable battery pack – Huge bummer.
– Rubber grips are… weird.
– That price though.