Product Type: Microsoft game controllers
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The fat controller
Microsoft Xbox 360 Controller
Member Name: Craggybuk
Microsoft Xbox 360 Controller
Advantages: Robust, very comfortable to use
Disadvantages: A bit chunky
A games controller is probably the most important add on any games player will ever buy. These controllers have continued to evolve over the years and now, with seemingly more buttons and knobs than your average car dashboard, the latest controllers really do need a certain degree of skill to use. Long gone are the days where you had up, down ,left and right with 2 fire buttons. This review is of the Xbox 360 wireless controller. Although the controller comes in both black and white, they are identical in performance so this review will apply to either colour.
==A Tour of the Controller==
First impression of the controller is that its quite a chunky, considerably more than my old Playstation 2 controller. The controller actually does look quite ugly but this is something you learn to live with over time.
Starting on the left hand side of the controller, we have the first analogue directional stick (known as a d-pad), this allows us full movement through 360 degrees when playing games and is also used to navigate menus, either in game or on the Xbox dashboard. This stick is very easy to control although on games where fast movements are required, I am a little bit worried that I am going to snap the stick off. On one of my controllers, this stick has developed a very annoying squeak when it is moved. I am yet to find a cure for this noise but as soon as you get involved in a game, you tend not to notice it.
Below the analogue d-pad is an 8 way digital d-pad. In my experience, I have found that this is rarely used in games due to its limited movements (just up, down, left and right plus the four diagonals) but it is perfect for navigating menus in a more controlled way than the analogue stick which does occasionally have a mind of its own which can lead to jumping over options. I would liken this digital d-pad to joysticks of the 1990's which would make this d-pad the most appropriate controller to use when playing older Xbox Arcade games.
To the right of the digital d-pad is a second analogue stick. This is identical in appearance to the first analogue stick but controls different aspects of a game. For example, if the first analogue stick makes your character move around the screen, the second stick might be used to look around without actually moving your character. Both analogue sticks can also act as buttons which respond when they are depressed. It would have been nice to have had the choice to configure the two analogue sticks as right handed players might prefer to use the left stick as the primary control where left handed people might prefer to use the right hand stick or visa versa. Sadly, this is not possible to do.
In the centre of the controller towards the top is the big luminous 'X' button. When this is held in it turns on the controller and also the console too if it is in standby mode. The 'X' is also used to bring up the main dashboard menu where you can send messages, see who is online and basically manage any aspect of your console. Around this X are four quadrants, one of this will be lit up when you are playing to notify you as to which player you are (ie player 1 to 4). When the batteries are low in your controller, these quadrants will all flash to warn you to swap the batteries before the controller cuts out.
To the right of the 'X' we have the four main functional buttons. These are named rather unimaginatively as A (the green button), B (the red button), X (the blue button) and Y (the yellow button). These buttons are very easy to press and are sensibly spaced out so that you minimise erroneously clicking the wrong button by mistake. All menu options are chosen with the A button but most games require the use of all four buttons.
On the top of the controller, there are a further four buttons, two small ones known as bumpers and two larger analogue buttons known as triggers. The analogue buttons are ideal for racing games as they are typically used as accelerator and brake pedals but they can also be used as standard buttons which are usually used as part of a combination sequence with the four main buttons. These extra buttons took me a while to get used to as although my old PS2 had similar buttons, I very rarely used them. On the Xbox, these buttons play a very big part in most games so if you forget they are there you will struggle.
On the back of the controller is the battery compartment. If you are using standard batteries then you will need to place two AA batteries in the battery compartment. Personally I prefer to use a Microsoft rechargeable battery pack which works out cheaper in the long run although this costs around £15 to buy. You can expect to get around 30 hours of gaming time for each set of batteries/charge.
==Using the controller==
As I mentioned at the start of the review, the controller does feel a bit chunky but that also means it does feel extremely robust. Its design means that it fits comfortably in your hands, giving you full control over all gaming aspects. Having also played on the PS3, I find the 360 controller far superior in terms of handling and design although I also know people who think exactly the opposite so it all comes down to personal choice.
As an old school gamer, brought up on games which involved limited movements and clicking one button, I did find using the Xbox controller where I was required to do several things at once rather daunting. Even now, almost a year after I bought the console I still find it quite difficult to co-ordinate special moves. This is just down to be being rubbish and is no fault of the controller, it is very responsive to movements and presses by the player and even when the battery is getting weaker, there is still no sign of any missed instructions.
==Price and alternatives==
The wireless controller retails for £35 although if you shop around you can pick one up for as little as £27. You can also purchase a wired controller which plugs into one of the Xbox 360's USB ports. Personally I would only consider a wired controller if you have a desire to also use it with PC games as a lot of the newer PC games now also make provision for the use of the 360 controller. Wired controllers retail for around £25.
If you fancy something even cheaper, you can opt for an unbranded controller, these are not official Microsoft accessories and as I haven't used one I cannot comment on their performance. There are quite a few different versions on the market, each differing in price.
The Xbox 360 wireless controller is a joy to use. It takes a bit of getting used to in the first instance but when you do get used to it, it is so comfortable and responsive. Although you get one of these controllers bundled with the console, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend buying more of them as opposed to cheaper unbranded or wired models if you need them for extra players. I have played some quite demanding games for the controller (Track and Field for example) and the controller has performed remarkably well without ever showing any signs of frailty. At £35, the controller does seem quite expensive but due to the way it is made, it is unlikely that you are going to need to replace the controller making it a sound investment for many years to come.
Summary: A very good controller
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