The Xbox 360 controller is a favorite of mine, as I explained in my review of the incredibly cool Evil D-Pad. It’s one of the best gaming controllers, but has one of the worst directional pads in the history of videogames. It’s inaccurate and imprecise, which makes playing some games very difficult. Now Microsoft has its own solution for solving this problem, but how does it stack up? It doesn’t. Not at all.
The folks at Microsoft have heard the complaints, and have addressed the issue by creating a new Xbox 360 controller that does things a little differently.
At first glance, the D-pad on the new controller doesn’t seem any different from the old one, aside from the look of the thing. The cardinal directions are done in a chrome-like finish while the rest is a matte grey plastic. But with just a ninety degree turn, it changes. The area surrounding the four directional arrows sinks down, for a better-looking D-pad.
I say better-looking because it’s not exactly better. In fact, nothing about the actual pad changes. The only difference is the way it feels under your thumb. The clumsiness inherent in the 360’s D-pad remains. In fact, the shiny finish of this new pad may even add to the problem by adding a more slippery surface.
The analog sticks have changed too, and there I have to give Microsoft some credit. Gone are the smooth transitions and quickly worn nubs of the original controller. In their place is a surface with some real traction.
The sticks have a raised edge that surrounds your thumb, helping to keep it from leaving position. It’s a different feeling, but I was used to it after a half hour of play.
Aesthetically speaking, the controller is amazing. It has a two-toned grayscale style to it, exchanging the familiar colored buttons for gray, black and white. The only disappointment is that the LED ring around the guide button – the big X in the center – is still green. I understand that’s probably down to Microsoft branding or a similar issue, but switching the LED to white would have been a perfect way to finish off the grayscale look.
If you were hoping for a controller that solves the D-pad issue once and for all, you can keep on hoping. Anyone buying a new controller would do well to buy the latest, though. The analog stick improvement is nice, and the D-pad change gives you a choice of tactile experiences, even if it doesn’t improve response or accuracy.
Update: Just a day after writing this review, the D-pad of the controller snapped off. That’s right, it just broke right off like it was never attached in the first place. I don’t know how common this issue is, but it does raise serious concerns about the integrity of the controller. For now, it looks like you’ll want to stick with the original or go with the Evil D-Pad.