My wife surprised me by telling me she wanted to head to a sale at the Florida Mall. "We can even go to the Microsoft Store after we're done." Well now... you've got my attention. Would this finally be the day that I would get to hold an actual Xbox One controller in my hand and not just stare at the display through glass like I have for the past two months at Best Buy? The answer is... YES!
I've heard rumors that Microsoft invested tens of hundreds of thousands of millions of billions of dollars into this thing. I sure hope that's false! Overall, improvements in some areas are absolutely diminished by poor design choices in other areas. My thoughts are broken up in each component, the best I can remember.
The D-Pad: The D-Pad is actually a D-Pad. I like it. It's responsive and springy to the touch. Microsoft definitely got the hint that the Xbox 360 D-Pad was atrocious and provided an entirely new design. But what I don't like is that it clicks when you use it (like a mouse button). I don't recall seeing that in any review. Yep, it clicks every time you depress a direction. I guess the folks at Microsoft decided that not only would they actually make a usable D-Pad, but they would also ensure you knew it was working by making it click after every press. After my fourth defensive change on NBA 2K14, I decided I loved the feeling but hated the noise.
Verdict: Nice, but loud.
The Triggers (L2 and R2): The triggers have changed significantly from the Xbox 360 controller. They've got a longer pull (which I assume would work wonders on the throttle in games like Forza 5), they're wider, and they feel very sturdy. They aren't curved or contoured like the PlayStation 4 controller, but they still feel great. An added bonus is they fit the housing very well. There was no horizontal movement (my Xbox 360 controller has really sloppy trigger buttons; the triggers actually click if you shake the controller from side to side) at all. A worthy change, and considering a majority of the time you'll use these, you will not be disappointed.
Verdict: Very nice construction and feel. Longer pulls means greater accuracy when analog matters.
The Shoulder Buttons (L1 and R1): Oh man. These are horrible. They are elevated so you can't roll your finger off of the trigger onto the shoulder. It requires you (well, me at least) to bend your index finger like a hook and actually lift up. This causes your index finger bone to raise up on the back of your hand, and to cramp almost immediately. This design is what really gave the controller a smaller feel as it made the controller feel more compartmentalized. I actually had to think about transitioning between R2 to R1, and was unpleasantly reminded when my hand stung. As well as the D-Pad, they make an audible click when depressed. I don't like the click here either, but that's good because I'd avoid these buttons whenever possible. For what it's worth, my wife tried it she cramped up almost immediately too, and her hands are much smaller than mine.
Verdict: What's with all the clicking? The transition from the trigger to the shoulder is unnatural and extremely uncomfortable.
The Face Buttons: Not much to stay here, they are smooth and responsive. I had zero issues with the spacing, the force required to depress them, or my finger sliding off of them. They have a great, vibrant finish too that really stands out well.
Verdict: The color really pops against the controller, and they worked without clicking! A win in my book.
The Analog Sticks: Similar in contour to the new Dualshock 4, the analog sticks have a nice texture and feel to them. My hands weren't accustomed to the split axis on the Xbox One as opposed to the straight axis of the PlayStation 4, but once it was, they felt great. My only complaint is they seemed a little closer together than I remember. When I moved both sticks towards the center of the controller, my thumbs were hitting one another. I tried altering my grip slightly, but this was to no avail. I went home and checked out the Xbox 360 controller and I didn't have that issue, so it seems to me the controller is just a bit smaller.
Verdict: Smooth, responsive and very comfortable analog sticks. My thumbs crashed into each other on extreme movements (both sticks towards one another) but it wasn't enough to diminish the experience.
Motors: These things definitely have some kick to them. I could actually hear the motors vibrate. This was kind of surprising to me because the controller had such a sturdy feel that I wouldn't expect any rattling to occur, but somewhere, it did. The only demo was basketball, so I can't comment on the varying levels of vibration. As a note, Killer Instinct didn't have any vibration, unless somebody turned that setting off.
Verdict: Throaty little things. You'll feel it, but hear it, too.
Overall Verdict: Every gain seems to come with an unexpected loss. I'm not sure of why the D-Pad and shoulder buttons needed to have such a loud click associated with their use; it becomes obnoxious quickly unless you're wearing a nice pair of phones. If that wasn't bad enough, the shoulder buttons are incredibly uncomfortable and protrude out of the controller, resulting in some serious discomfort. The analog sticks and the triggers really feel really good and, had I been able to try them on different games, probably make a world of difference when that extra precision counts.
For those of you who own an Xbox One, what do you think about the controller? Do you eventually get used to the elevated shoulder buttons or do you find that extended play sessions result in unnecessary cramping?