Over the last decade more and more people have come to class gaming as a sport (ESport) and just like any other sport, if somebody want’s a competitive advantage they head out to buy better equipment, whether it’s a pair of Football boots, a snooker queue or a control pad, people like the opportunity to grab the slightest advantage where available.
Over the last few years custom and modified pad creators such as Scuff has become so popular that Microsoft themselves stood up and took notice and now we have the Microsoft Xbox One Elite controller.
It may well look like a pretty standard pad, It’s still black, and with exception to the chrome trim and fancy d-pad there’s not much to set it apart from the standard Xbox One controller. However when you take a closer look you’ll quickly start to notice the differences, On the front there’s a small switch below the menu and view buttons, we’ll take a closer look later, but this allows you to select your active profile.
On the rear of the pad, you’ll notice the 4 silver paddles, and a small green switch either side of the battery compartment. The paddles serve as a fully functional customisable button, whereas the green switches physically limit the travel of your triggers. This means that your trigger has to cover a smaller distance which can increase your speed especially when shooting, obviously this wouldn’t be ideal all the time, in a racing game for instance you might want greater control over your acceleration and thus appreciate the extra travel of the triggers, thankfully these switches are quick and easy to reach so you can flick one or both instantly, and best of all their positioning means I’ve not once accidentally caught one.
The most impressive aspect of the Elite pad has to be the level of customisation, Scuff have long offered options, but most of which have to be decided upon and set in stone before you even get your hands on the pad, with the Elite controller, the on-pad options are neatly packed into the storage case, with the software side options just as easy, if a little more time consuming to adopt.
Firstly each of the paddles can be removed or positioned as you wish, some might prefer just to use two paddles, likewise the new Faucet d-pad gives fantastic motion for rolling commands (such as within fighting games) but some might prefer a more defined 4 directions for messaging, and these D-pads hold in place securely by a strong magnet, but can quickly be flicked off for a change.
Finally there’s the analogue sticks, there’s three sets in total and you can use them as a set or mix and match to get your desired results, on paper they don’t sound all that different, but in your hands they make quite a substantial difference, Firstly the standard sticks are exactly as you expect, the second set have a longer shaft with the same concave pad, these initially look uncomfortable due to how far they stick up, however those with larger hands will certainly appreciate the options, finally the domed set come with Playstation style convex pads which leave them about halfway in length between the other two options, personally I found these a little more awkward when clicking in the thumbstick, but depending on your configuration you might never need to click a thumbstick again.
So onto the Xbox Accessories application, this is the final level of customisation and covers pretty much everything you’d expect, plus a deal more.
Firstly you can name your pad, and choose the brightness of the Xbox button, you can then choose vibration strength for each of the four motors (left/right pad, left/right triggers) there’s also options to select the dead zone for each trigger, as well as desired sensitivity of your sticks, there’s even some presets which make quite a big difference to your thumbstick coverage, while some will give far greater control over smaller movements, others might give instant movement with the slightest flick.
Finally comes button remapping, and this is where you’re likely to spend most of your time when setting up, in a game like Black Ops 3 or Titanfall using the ‘A’ button for jumping means you’re limited how much you can use the right stick to look around, with the jump command on a right paddle, I found vertical movement much easier giving me much greater control over movement, especially mid-air.
Likewise using a left trigger to reload and duck left me with my hands constantly on the thumb-sticks giving greater control throughout, however setting these up for a FPS wont prove as useful when you fire up a racing game, which would benefit from your gears on two paddles. Thankfully this brings us back to the switch on the front, and you can instantly switch from one set-up to the next, these saved profiles can cover everything form buttons, sensitivity and such so you can even opt for two different set-ups for one game, such as a Career and Multiplayer set up for Halo.
In the Accessories app you can save plenty of configurations and quickly fire up the app to set a saved profile to one of the two slots on your pad so there’s plenty of options regardless of your gaming collection.
At £119.99 rrp it’s an expensive piece of kit, but just like those who go out and spend £200-£300 on a headset, you literally get what you pay for.
The build quality, weight and finish of the Elite pad will leave every other Xbox pad feeling light, flimsy, hollow and cheap. I’m not sure how much some will use certain options such as Vibration strength, and many may prefer to stick with two paddles rather than four, but the fact remains, this pad is of exceptional quality. It’s a bold statement but yes, it can improve your gameplay, the paddles help to keep your thumbs in position, and reducing the trigger travel helps with single shot firing, how much of an improvement this will give will vary from one person to the next, but rest assured the Elite controller is oozing quality regardless.
Overall : 9/ 10