SCUF has been one heck of a success story, producing modified controllers that allow gamers to keep their thumbs on the sticks while still having full control over the face button. A paddle system configured to the A, B, X or Y is positioned underneath the controller so that your resting fingers can work them, keeping your thumbs in full control of where you are aiming. I fully expected Microsoft to partner with SCUF for the launch of the Xbox One and release an officially licensed controller. Now, finally we have that controller, although MS have stepped out on their own.
The Elite controller is an absolute beauty, and at £119.99 it’s competitively priced against those of SCUF – but the Elite has a huge advantage – it’s completely customisable. The controller comes with a variety of options: four paddles (two short and two long), three sets of thumbsticks (short concave set, medium domed set, long concave set), a traditional d-pad, a funky disc d-pad, a braided cable for charging and a hard case to keep the controller safe. It’s one heck of a package, although MS forgot to include a rechargeable battery!
Each of the controller’s accessories magnetically snap in to place, and once they are on, they hold – no chance of slipping and no chance of falling off mid-game. The final gem in this customisable package is the option to tweak a variety of settings via an app, accessible through the Xbox One. Two different setting loadouts can be stored on the Elite at any one time and can be selected via the mode switch located in the centre of the controller – SCUF must be looking over at the Elite with a little envy, at least they have their famous trigger stops to brag about… well… MS have that covered too.
A pair of trigger stops can be effortlessly flicked on or off, reducing the distance you need to press down on the triggers – and by using the app – you can set how they respond. Creating dead zones for a more controlled trigger press – ideal for racing games – or setting up a heightened sensitivity, which is perfect for shooters like Call of Duty. The Elite controller really does tick all the boxes, apart from that elusive battery.
Jumping in to the Elite app, which unfortunately isn’t available to snap, you can control a whole host of options. You can remap the face buttons and paddles; tweak the brightness of the guide button and the strength of the rumble motors; and adjust the sensitivity of the thumbsticks and the triggers. If it’s all a little over your head then you can select a pre-defined setup, like the ‘smooth’ control system. You can also download and use developer profiles and setup your Elite controller with one of their settings.
Like the other new Xbox controllers, the Elite has the new 3.5mm jack input and the RB/LB have been overhauled and respond no matter where you press them. What I liked most about the Elite was the thumbstick turning circle. It’s silky smooth. Since release I’ve managed to pour in around 250 hours use and the sticks feel just as smooth as the day I first used them, and they haven’t lost any of their magnetic strength needed to snap the sticks in place. The only downside to the controller was that the right trigger was ‘sticky’ when I engaged the hair-trigger lock, although this did eventually disappear after I had used the pad for around 10 hours.
The Elite is weightier than the standard controller, its components are made from steel, it has rubberised grips and a soft matte powdered finish making it feel like a premium product. The Elite is comfortable to hold, and although you’ll need to train your fingers to use the paddles, they are so well placed that using them feels comfortable and natural. It did take some effort to think about what and where I was pressing – undoing years of muscle memory – but once the paddle location clicked and I remembered which buttons I’d set to each paddle, they were a joy to use and easily the best paddle design I’ve come across. Now the standard Xbox controller seems like a distant and archaic tool – a bit like the “Duke”.
The Elite is a beauty. Retailing at £119.99, it may seem a tad on the expensive side, but you get a lot of bang for your buck – it’s just a shame MS didn’t throw in a rechargeable battery!