Review: Xbox Elite Controller
Platform: Xbox One
Competitive gaming has become a big deal around the world. Players are now modding their controllers to get that small advantage that could be the difference between winning and losing a game. Standard controllers just don’t cut it anymore, and Microsoft has just introduced one of the best controllers I’ve ever got my hands on.
The controller is the one thing that connects you with the game you’re playing. The better the controller, the more probable it is that you’re going to experience greater success at what you’re doing on-screen and the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller is proof of this.
Rub it all over your body
As soon as you pull the lid off the box it comes in, and they went to town with it, you’re staring at a beautiful… casing. You see, it’s not just a standard controller that comes in a cheap little box that’ll be in the bin as soon as you have the controller in your hand. Everything about this hardware is elegant. Unzip the casing and you’re presented with a very sexy-looking controller along with the various swappable components. The first thing you’ll think, when holding it in your hand, is that it does feel like an ‘elite’ controller. It’s solid, the grips underneath have rubber padding and the LB and RB shoulder buttons have finally been fixed. You can now tap those buttons without having to use brute force to simply throw a grenade. The analogue sticks are smooth (it’s hard to describe the feeling without you actually testing it for yourself) and those are just the standard features that have been improved on.
There are a whole bunch of new additions to this controller. Hair Trigger Locks will shorten the distance of a trigger when pressed in to improve your shooting reflexes, and it’s easy enough to switch it up mid-game. There are a bunch of swappable components that include the analogue sticks (3 variation sets), D-Pad (2 variations) and then there’s the paddles, that are made of metal and not some cheap plastic. All these components use an interchangeable magnetic surface. There’s a slight resistance, just enough so that when playing it’s sturdy and not loose. The changes feel just about perfect. The 4 paddles are positioned perfectly and feels very natural when holding the controller.
Once your controller is connected to your Xbox One head to the Devices and Accessories app to play with various important settings. Here you give your controller a name, I called mine ‘My Precious’, and configure the button mapping, including those important new paddles. There are other advanced settings that let you customise the trigger dead zones, the analogue sensitivity curve (default, delay, aggressive, instant, smooth or anything in-between), vibration strength and the brightness of the Xbox guide button. Something that helped me quite a bit early on were some default preset button layouts for Forza Motorsport 6, Halo 5 Guardians, Gears of War Ultimate Edition and Sunset Overdrive. Should the button mapping have you a little confused at first it’s a good idea to use these presets and alter those to something that works for you. Once you’ve configured your button layout it can be saved to two slots. That funny little slider on the face of the controller with the numbers 1 and 2 on it? It swaps between these two button presets instantly. This is all good and well, but does it actually help when playing your games?
The games! What games work best?
I played four games in particular – Halo 5 Guardians, Forza Motorsport 6, Mortal Kombat X and Rise of the Tomb Raider. Each game brought with it its own unique take on the controller.
Halo 5 Guardians:
I mapped all the face buttons to the paddles right away. Believe me when I tell you that it is confusing as all hell when playing for the first time. Your brain tells you to press the face buttons, when reflex reactions are required, and takes time for your muscle memory to learn that your right thumb can remain on the analogue stick while pressing away on the paddles at the bottom. Every so often I’d press X to reload, instead of the upper left paddle. It’s years of playing without it that takes some getting used to with these extra assists. Once my mind got over that little wobble the improvements were apparent. My precision improved, using the longer analogue stick components, and the fact that I could jump and turn and reload at the same time without having to let go of the right analogue stick made me quite the Spartan. The hairpin trigger locks also helped in international games. No longer did I have to blame lag for a delayed shot (though this won’t help as soon as all of America gets their mitts on an Elite controller).
First thing I did was to remove two paddles as I felt that it got in the way when tensing up into tough corners. I was left with the top right and left paddles and used the standard analogue sticks to steer the car. The only big difference in this case was the fact that the paddles resembled the flappy paddle gear shift you’d see in sport cars. I hopped into my McLaren F1 (yes, I’m a fanboi) and loved every minute of my manual gear shifting. Moving from face buttons to these paddles just felt so natural. Should you not own a steering wheel this is a great alternative as it really just feels so immersive. In fact, I want to go play it right now…
Mortal Kombat X:
For this I used a standard controller setup, other than the D-Pad being changed up with that stylish-looking curved D-pad. Should you, like me, play Mortal Kombat X using a D-Pad, and you don’t own an arcade stick, this curved option makes the world of difference. Pulling off complicated circular moves that once had you breaking your thumb in two places to perform them can now be pulled off with genuine ease. You also won’t walk away with a battered and bruised thumb no more.
Rise of the Tomb Raider:
Is there any use for a general action adventure that does not require you to be competitive in any form? Well yes. Using the smoother analogue stick made the shooting bits that bit easier. I also activated the left hair trigger lock (you can set each trigger individually), but kept the right trigger as standard. Pulling back on the right trigger when using the bow requires that extra bit of play. I also felt that the paddles got in the way and removed them all.
I should note that throughout my time testing these games I was changing up the button mapping constantly to test things out mid-game. Fortunately you don’t have to completely close any of these games to make changes to your controller, which is a good thing.
Is it Elite enough to buy?
The experience is an effortless one. Changing these components throughout my gaming marathon was easier than changing the penlight batteries when it runs dry, which sadly is required for the Elite controller too. Where the Elite does unfortunately push all the wrong buttons is the pricing. It’s not a cheap controller. You’ll be paying roughly R3,000, depending on where you buy it from. The controller is quite heavy, so if you’re not a fan of heavy controllers it might not be for you. I also found that I’d tap one of the paddles by accident when on the home menu and start up an application or game, but even this has a fix. Tap the green wireless connect button on the top of the controller twice in succession for it to deactivate all the paddles (alerting you that it’s done so by vibrating 4 times). By doing that you won’t accidentally trigger anything on the menu or in a game that you feel does not require the paddles… if you’re too lazy to remove them.
Just an average gamer playing for fun? Stick to your standard controller. If you’re a gamer that requires one of the best controllers money can buy, and the Xbox One is your dominant (or only) console, then I’d highly recommend this. Are you playing Halo or Call of Duty competitively on the Xbox One? It’s a no-brainer.
Be sure to check out our E3 video where we had the Firmware Engineer, Ross Nelson, detailing the controller: