Written by Dave Throop
While standard console controllers have existed for decades, the past few years has seen them evolve considerably alongside the competitive gaming community. Players today seek every edge against their competition, and for console gamers the controller itself is a place that an advantage can be gained. Read more in our XBox One Microsoft Elite Controller product review.
I decided to explore this by trying out a Microsoft Elite controller first hand. This controller was designed by microsoft in conjunction with professional gamers to provide a better competitive experience. I was curious to find out if that was truly the case.
There are a few simple differences between the Elite and standard version of the Xbox One controllers that are immediately striking. The Elite is heavier and feels sturdier in your hands than the standard version. While I initially would have suspected that would be a bad thing, I actually significantly prefered the feel of this controller to the standard ones.
The casing used for the controller provides some built in grip, especially on the backside, making the controller easier to hold onto for longer periods of time and alleviating problems with slippage. While the grip isn’t as effective as some of the grips available for purchase individually, it is definitely a significant step up from the standard version.
The directional pad on the Elite controller is also quite different. Instead of a simple cross, the button is an entire circle divided into 9 sections making it much easier to be precise with movement. For titles in the fighting genre such as Street Fighter or Injustice, this additional level of control over movement would be incredibly beneficial. If you would prefer a traditional directional pad however, the Elite controller comes with one and the two are very easy to swap between.
With the obvious cosmetic differences out of the way, it’s time to investigate the difference the Elite controller has on performance. The controller is advertised with two components that should significantly affect game play- rear paddles and hair trigger locks, both are worth exploring in detail.
The hair trigger locks are simple switches on the back of the controller that can be turned on or off very easily at any point. When they are on, the corresponding trigger doesn’t press down all the way as it stops as soon as the button has been pressed. This allows for faster rates of fire in tense situations and I immediately found it useful in multiple FPS title. The difference in how the trigger feels to use is very easy to accommodate to, and definitely a setting worth exploring for any FPS player.
This leaves us with the paddles. These are four buttons that have been added to the back of the controller which act as copies of the traditional A, B, X and Y buttons, or you can modify them to be copies of other buttons on the controller instead. The mapping process itself is quite easily, as your Xbox One will recognize an Elite Controller has been connected and take you through a series of prompts. Afterwards, changes are easily made through the Xbox Accessories application that comes pre-downloaded onto every Xbox One. While getting use to these buttons being there and how to use them takes a little bit more time, the benefits are immense.
The beauty of the buttons being behind the controller means you never have to move your thumbs off the joysticks to hit a button again. This allows for more precise movement and aiming while pulling off complicated in game mechanics or combos. This is for me, where the true value in this device lies.
The paddles are magnetic and easily attach or detach from the controller. From my personal experience, I’d recommend starting with only one or two paddles equipped to the controller and adding more if you need them. This is because the controller does feel quite different to hold with all four equipped, and can easily lead to some misclicks in the initial hours of playing with the controller. By adding the paddles to the controller incrementally as you need them and learn to use them, you can significantly lessen the learning period.
The controller comes with a variety of interchangeable parts such as the directional pad alternative mentioned earlier. It also includes two alternative sets of thumbsticks with slight alterations to the grip and height and the paddles just discussed. All of the parts are very easy to swap between easily as magnets hold them in place. Overall the controller simply feels much more durable than its standard counterpart.
Microsoft’s Xbox One Elite controller is truly the next generation of console controllers. Placing additional buttons on the rear of the controller gives gamers so many more options in optimizing their button layout for whatever title they choose to compete in. When you then consider the higher quality casing and directional pad, as well as the multiple thumbstick layouts and the hair lock triggers the decision becomes a no brainer. This is a controller that makes it easier to play to your maximum potential and a necessity for anybody dedicated to reaching the highest levels of competitive play.
Dave Throop is a decade long esports fanatic from Toronto. Originating in console FPS and sports games he has since expanded to PC games and MOBAs to become a fan of nearly all major competitive titles across multiple platforms. His favourite titles include Halo, Overwatch and League of Legends.