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Xbox One Controller – Hands-on Impressions

by William Schwartz

xbox-one-controller

I was fortunate enough to attend the first two days of Eurogamer Expo 2013, during which I was able to get up close and personal with the Xbox One controller. I was also able to briefly play with the Kinect, but my experiences with anything except the controller were brief at best, so this preview is focused on the controller.

As soon as I picked up the Xbox One controller, it felt like a good piece of hardware. Despite being slightly smaller than the Xbox 360 controller, it felt more robust and had a nice sense of weight to it without feeling like it was too heavy. The material is nice too, the finish on the body of it feels nicer than that of other controllers. Normally, Xbox 360 controllers get quite warm and sticky after being in sweaty palms for hours on end but every Xbox One controller I used felt the same, even at the end of a 9 hour day.

The controller suited FIFA, the first game I played with it, very well. The fact that the face buttons ( A, B, X & Y) have been moved slightly closer together made it easier to shoot first time after a pass or perform a fake-shot, which involves sliding your thumb from X to A, or B to A. It wasn’t a massive difference by any means, but it felt like a recognizable improvement. The new D-pad also felt leaps and bounds better and made changing tactics on the fly quick and easy.

I later moved onto Forza 5, and it was here that the controller really shone. My index fingers wrapped comfortably over the arches of the triggers and holding RT or LT for extended periods of time was not an issue. But it was the haptic feedback in the triggers that really impressed me. The right trigger rumbled away as the car roared through the early gears, slowly dissipating as the car reached higher speeds and LT rumbled as you decelerated.

When you drove over the red and white rumble strips at the edges of the track, or off the track entirely, you felt it in your hands. You could feel the separate rumbles in the triggers and the body of the controller. As I said in my Forza 5 preview; the controller isn’t going to vibrate out of your hands while you’re racing. The haptic feedback is subtle but it improved the racing experience in my opinion.

Finally, on the second day, I played a couple of shooters with the Xbox One’s controller. In all honesty, I didn’t notice any haptic feedback because I was so immersed by the games, so I can’t comment on the quality of it or even whether it was present. I will say that I felt comfortable playing with the Xbox One’s controller, and I didn’t feel like my game was detrimentally affected by it. Both games looked great and were fun to play, and I’ll be posting a preview of three next-gen shooters in the next day for anyone that wants a closer look at them.

Reading this, you might think that I instantly fell in love with the controller, but that wasn’t the case. I did at first have my concerns that the controller felt odd in my hands. Somewhere between the PS3 and Xbox 360 controllers, it was a strange size that my hands weren’t used to. Equally, I was concerned that the left and right thumbsticks were too small.

I came to terms with both of these issues as the day went on however. After holding it more than once, it started to feel better and better in my hands each time. In fact, I disliked one of the variants of the Xbox 360 controller I used at EGX 2013 because it felt too chunky, despite probably being a fairly close replica to the original. My issue with the thumbsticks also improved partly just from using the PS4 controller. The Dual Shock 4’s thumbsticks felt just as small, and the indents in them didn’t feel as high quality. Despite being small, the Xbox One’s sticks felt more robust and grippy than those of the PS4’s controller.

In the end, your opinion on the Xbox One controller will probably come down to the size of your hands and fingers, and what feels comfortable for you. Personally, I really liked it and think that it will come to be my favorite controller when I get the chance to use it for a lengthy period of time.

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