There’s little dispute that the Xbox 360 directional pad is a huge blemish on an otherwise wonderful videogame controller. Can a company called Evil answer the prayers of Xbox gamers, or is its new D-Pad just another 3rd party controller that doesn’t live up to the hype?
The folks at Evil have a specialty. They take existing controllers and make them better. They make improved analog sticks for your existing controller, modified controllers with rapid fire modes, and even special designs for disabled gamers.
When I pulled the new wired Evil D-Pad controller from its nondescript box, the build quality was obvious. I’ve seen some modified controllers in my day, and they tend to be a little bit iffy in the looks department. The controller from Evil is anything but. Though it’s a modified Xbox 360 controller, it looks like it was made from scratch. There aren’t any signs of shoddy workmanship here, just an excellent looking product.
The controller I received for review is the Evil D-Pad Wired with the added Blue LED mod and the Evil Sticks mod (which replaces the standard convex Xbox analog sticks with concave analog sticks, much like the ones on PlayStation controllers). In total this configuration would come to $84.99.
The Evil analog sticks are nice and comfortable. They feature a grip that keeps your thumbs from sliding off. I don’t have a personal preference between the convex and concave styles, but the Evil Sticks are definitely comfortable. They also feel like they have tighter springs than the standard 360 controller, which results in a more responsive and accurate return to center.
The controller’s great looks only get better when plugged into the system. Instead of the green LEDs in the 360 controller, the Evil uses very nice looking blue LEDs to indicate which player is using the controller. It’s a nice change to be sure.
The highlight of the controller is of course the new Evil D-Pad, which is designed to solve the problem of the atrocious directional pad of the Xbox 360’s stock controllers. Evil does away with the axis D-pad used by most controllers and opts for four buttons instead.
It’s a huge difference, as you can imagine. Like any drastic change to controls, it has both advantages and disadvantages, depending on which game you’re playing.
I started off with ‘Fallout: New Vegas’, which I’ve been slowly but surely working my way through. The game relies primarily on the analog sticks, but uses the directional pad for weapon selection, giving you a total of seven different slots for your arsenal.
My character Torn is a melee specialist with a penchant for making things explode, so I tend to have a few different melee weapons assigned to Left, Right and Down with my explosives on the diagonals. With the normal controller, I had a huge problem actually getting to those diagonal slots.
The Evil D-Pad is a huge improvement in this case. In all the combat I’ve experienced – and Torn gets into a lot of fights – I haven’t switch to the wrong weapon once when using the Evil controller. Hitting two buttons with my thumb for a diagonal selection is surprisingly simple.
I decided to go old-school with the next game and try out ‘Bionic Commando Rearmed’, a game where the normal 360 controller and I didn’t get along at all. The Evil controller performed admirably, letting me do exactly what I wanted without having to worry about an incorrect input.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have as much luck with the next title I tried: ‘Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix’. I’ve always been a fan of the ‘Street Fighter’ series, but I have a terrible time trying to play with a standard controller. Joysticks have always worked so much better, and both analog sticks and D-pads just leave me wanting more.
The Evil D-Pad solved the accidental jumping problem that I constantly run into while playing 2-D fighting games on consoles. There was no way I could jump by mistake unless I physically moved my thumb to the Up button.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have much luck trying to execute quarter circle or half circle moves. It’s nice and comfortable to slide my thumb from Down to Right, but since the pad uses buttons instead of a traditional pad, there’s no middle ground. I kept inputting just the Down and Right commands without the diagonal in between.
When the Evil controller works, it really works. I can’t overstate just how good this controller feels for games like ‘Fallout: New Vegas’, ‘Modern Warfare 2’, and especially ‘Mega-Man 10’. A D-pad that does exactly what I tell it to is a novel device indeed.
The Evil D-Pad is the only solution of its kind, offering individual buttons instead of the axis pad that you’ll find on most controllers. It’s definitely a specialized controller and not something that everyone needs, but if you’re serious about your gaming or just sick of the 360’s dreadful D-pad, it’s a great pick-up.
The biggest downside to the Evil D-Pad controller is of course the price. At $85, these aren’t exactly impulse items. Even the baseline wired model runs $55. For wireless, you’ll be paying $75 for the Evil D-Pad, and a total of $105 if you want the Evil Sticks and LED light mod.
Is it a lot to pay compared to the normal Xbox controller? Sure. Is it a lot to pay for a controller that does exactly what you want it to? That’s up to you. I, for one, will be putting a pair of these Evil D-Pad controllers on my Christmas list.
Evil controllers including the one reviewed above, rapid fire controllers, one-handed controllers, and even a few PlayStation controllers are available directly from EvilControllers.com.