Microsoft XBOX Controller S

Too big!, designed exclusively for Halo, too heavy! These are just some of the comments that were made about the original XBOX controller. Of course the original controller, in many ways is an excellent gamepad. The analogue sticks are simply superb and the triggers are also brilliant and I find them to be essential in driving games. However I find that the real weakness with the original pad is not the size of it, although I admit it is big, but rather the layout of the primary (A,B,X,Y) buttons. These buttons are oval in shape and laid out in a skewed style that makes control in fighting and sports games simply chaotic. Of course games such as Halo where you can occasionally afford to look at the gamepad are fine but with almost every other game they prove very awkward.

Background
Following negative comments from certain quarters Microsoft decided to design an alternative, smaller controller. This wasn't too much of a problem as Microsoft had already created the smaller controller for the Japanese market. In fact if you have seen pictures of the grey Japanese controller then you'll realise that the Controller S doesn't differ much at all from it. Praise must also be given to Microsoft for supplying an alternate controller as the Controller S is far more suitable for those with smaller hands and children.

The Controller S
From looking at pictures of the controller you'll see straight away that the excellent positioning of the analogue sticks has been retained. The directional pad is now far more comfortable and conventional in shape. The start and back buttons have been moved from the centre to the left side of the controller and the white and black buttons have been moved to the right side of the controller. In all honesty these alterations are a complete success and help the controller feel more natural. The biggest alteration though, and the one which will please the most people is the repositioning of the primary buttons. Instead of the skewed A,B,X,Y oval shaped buttons the Controller S features round buttons placed in the cross formation, a style that has proven itself over the last seven years. If the Controller S had altered nothing but the primary button it would still be worthwhile. Of course what isn't noticeable from the pictures is the difference in size. The original controller feels bulky, of that there is no denying. In comparison the Controller S doesn't feel like you're having to stretch your hands to hold it. In fact the difference in size between a PlayStation Dualshock controller and the Controller S is negligible.

How is the Controller S in games?
The all important question, 'Is it better to play games with?'. A quick answer would be a resounding yes. In games where you need to hit the buttons quickly, and without looking, such as Dead or Alive 3, the Controller S is a godsend. The biggest problem I have with the original controller is that my thumb falls between the primary buttons, or I hit the wrong one altogether, because of their unusual layout. The Controller S just feels so natural because of it's traditional layout of it's primary buttons. The black and white buttons are also easier to reach now because of their new positioning.

If you play games where you use the triggers a lot such as Halo or Project Gotham Racing you'll notice the feel of the triggers is slightly different on the Controller S. The triggers don't seem to have as much travel on the Controller S. This is probably due to the fact that the controller is far smaller and doesn't have the internal space to house the same size triggers that the original controller has, maybe, I honestly don't know. The triggers are fine but if you've used the original triggers a lot then it will take a while to get used to the feel of the ones on the Controller S.

The analogue sticks are just as superb and accurate as they are on the original controller. The placement of the analogue sticks is retained from the original controller which is pleasing especially as they feel more natural than those on the PlayStation's Dualshock controller which has them both in the middle.

Over the last 10 days or so I've played something like 25 XBOX titles and I can honestly say that the Controller S is not only the best controller for the XBOX but is also one of the best controllers ever made. Even if you're perfectly happy with the original controller I'd strongly advise you to get hold of a Controller S for fighting games or sports games. The decision to release a smaller controller that featured a more conventional positioning of the primary buttons was a wise one and can only help the XBOX become more desirable.

Overall Score 9.5/10 The ultimate XBOX controller.