The PS4 may be better, but Xbox is the big daddy of controllers

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By Pulasta Dhar /  12 Jun 2013 , 10:44

When the Xbox One launched, fans were eagerly waiting for a lot of changes to the specs of the console itself. One thing they were not hoping for is a drastic change in the controller. And apart from a few aesthetics and the Kinect sensor to go along, Microsoft didn’t disappoint. They know that when it comes to controllers, they’re way ahead of the rest of the pack – especially Sony. Their new controller feels almost like the former one, with an exciting new impulse trigger feature.

However, the PlayStation 4 controller has had to make some massive changes- most notably making the analogs less slippery and elongating the grips to make it more usable over a longer period of gaming. The touchpad in the middle may sound cool, but it may needlessly clutter an already narrow controller.

While the battle of consoles will largely depend on allegiances, price and specs, here’s a bit of history which will make you realise that even if you go ahead and buy a PlayStation 4, Microsoft are still leaders when it comes to making the perfect controller.

When I bought the PlayStation 1 ages ago, my excitement knew no bounds. While an unbelievable amount of hours playing Smack Down 2 and Winning Eleven were solely responsible for the console’s eventual death, it’s limbs were broken quite some time back.

In fact, I remember buying half a dozen Sony controllers, because their analogs would break, and/or the R1, R2 and L1, L2 buttons would get stuck inside – resulting in missed goals or failing to choke slam The Rock.

Let me be frank. Being in India, the consoles I bought were usually cracked – and this, sorry to say, especially if you are one of those people labouring against piracy, is a huge parameter in buying them. The Xbox 360 console crack came a while later, and I got my hands on it. And tell you what, I still have one of their controllers at home – the only thing is, it’s plugged into my PlayStation 3 (bought after the demise of the 360) via a converter I ordered online.

While the PS3 is running perfectly, both it’s controllers are on their last legs. In the age of Medal of Honour, Assassin’s Creed, FIFA, Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty etc. which really put your fingers to the test and squeeze your carpel tunnel to shreds, controllers have often been the single determiner of whether a gamer will bathe in glory or succumb to defeat and fury. Sony’s controllers usually succumb – and this historically bad performance just doesn’t attract me to the new PS4 controller. It’s only advantage is the rechargeable battery inside it – which charges when you connect it to the console via USB.

Getty Images
The Xbox controller. Getty Images

The Xbox One controller is not that different from the 360 controller (it also has a battery pack, which they could have done without). But, judging by their brilliant performances in the past, even though I’ve decided to save up for the PS4 (this is an argument on completely another level), I will still use an Xbox controller.

But why is it so good?

Well, users may differ. I’ve known a lot of people who easily adapt to controllers, but Microsoft is simply the big daddy in design. It’s ergonomic, fits beautifully just below those fatty lumps on your palm, is chunky, heavy and gives you the feel of controlling something from a distance. It also has those lovely triggers (Microsoft were the guys to invent the trigger – LT and RT – on the controller and Sony followed suit) so that it feels I’m about to squeeze a real gun when I’m sniping someone from a distance while concentrating on which direction the flag is flying (CoD – World at War mission).

Microsoft don’t really put too much into making their controller light weight. In fact, the more weighty a controller, the more durable it is. You don’t realise it, but if you’re trying to sprint in a game, you are actually pushing the buttons harder even though it doesn’t really matter whether you do or not. It is here that Xbox wins with their solid controllers.

And of course, there are those lovely analogs which do eventually get stuck – but not as quickly as a Sony’s would crumble under a gamer’s incessant twisting and turning. They are far apart and cross-placed with a concave finish – while the PS controller has them too close together, with a convex finish which is positioned just so that your thumb slips off them. The Xbox controller is just like one of those snug little sweaters which keep you warm on a chilly night. Sony’s controllers are like those loose jackets which let the wind through.

Why is the Sony controller not that good?

Press a Sony controller hard and listen to it creak. And groan. It’s not a good feeling. Their R1, R2 and L1, L2 buttons are really bad and the analogs are like twigs. They’re almost always too small for a person older than 12, giving you the feeling you’re using a handball to play basketball. My current PS3 controller, newer than my Xbox 360 controller, has started to do things on it’s own. So if I want to choose Uncharted 3 on the console, it’ll suddenly jump and choose Need for Speed. Not cool.

I admit that this could be a one-off, or maybe I’m just incredibly unlucky, but even the new PS4 controller doesn’t excite me. They’ve slightly increased the length of the main body of the controller to match the Xbox, but that touch-pad in the center is just not needed. It’s simply going to meddle while I’m trying to make a sharp turn during a chase in GTA5 or fighting five Templars together in Assassin’s Creed. I’m sure it can be turned off and so on, but it just makes the controller too complicated (Admittedly I may just be old school when it comes to this).

While Sony have drastically changed their controller, also adding a lens tracker, Microsoft have made subtle changes and seem confident that they will win the battle of controllers.

I for one, will probably have to buy an Xbox controller and hope someone cleverer than me invents a converter for that too.


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