Xbox 360 Controller For Windows: Review
Update November 30: Problem solved! Read Configuring Your Xbox 360 Controller For Windows to find out how you can adjust the deadzone, map buttons and more…
We really, really need a utility to map the buttons and create profiles for individual games – something like the Logitech Wingman Profiler would be perfect. I’ve read that this is in the works, along with wireless support for Windows PC, but no ETA. If this does come to light, I’ll be sure to revisit this issue. But for the time being, I’m not going to recommend you pick one up for your PC just yet.
The Good: Very comfortable. Triggers are very smooth. Addition of shoulder buttons.
The Bad: No utility to tweak settings. Guide and Back buttons don’t work at all. No rumble in games I played.
I may be able to wait to drop a few hundred on an Xbox 360, but I couldn’t resist picking up a controller to use on my PC. They don’t come cheap – I paid close to $60 (CDN) and I almost wish I hadn’t.
For whatever reason, there hasn’t been a whole lot of chatter on this topic. Which is why I was so eager to pick one up. I have a couple Logitech gamepads, but they’re nowhere near as good as the Xbox controller. Since the first time I squeezed those triggers, I’ve never looked back. Best game controller design ever! Especially for racing games. With most gamepads, it’s all or nothing. With an Xbox controller, the triggers act as a third axis (z) allowing you to apply as much or little pressure as desired. Since I’ve been playing Need For Speed Most Wanted a lot these days, I was itching for those triggers and picked up a 360 controller on release day.
Installation was easy – XP auto-detected the controller and downloaded drivers for me. But there was no utility to map the buttons or fine-tune the thumbsticks. I went searching the MS and Xbox 360 sites and nothing. I knew this was going to be a problem, but I figured up Most Wanted and headed straight for the options screen to configure. The game recognized the controller and applied the z-axis (triggers) to the throttle/brake, which was pretty awesome. I’ve never had a NFS game actually detect any of my Logitech gamepads, so we were off to a good start. Sadly, the good times would be short lived. Once I got into the game, I noticed the car veering quite a bit. I rotated the thumbstick around a few times – some times this loosens it up, but didn’t help. I then returned to Windows to calibrate it. I jumped back ‘behind the wheel’, but no better. It seems there’s no deadzone on the thumbstick. It picks up on any movement, even the slightest bit in any direction. This made steering very difficult, to say the least. I tried keeping my thumb down and centered, moving slowly left and right to turn, but this was wicked hard and near impossible to land in the center every time. The old school ‘d-pad taps’ on the thumbstick didn’t work either. It wouldn’t bounce back to the center and my car wouldn’t be going straight when coming out of a turn.
Frustrated with Most Wanted, I fired up Star Wars Battlefront 2 to give it a shot. Battlefront 2 has 4 separate control config screens. Each with it’s own, full set of controls. After a good 20 minutes of mapping I was ready to go. I started a level only to find my clone trooper doing a side-step in slow motion. I adjusted the thumbstick to center it only to watch him dance off to the right. Not impressed in the least, I returned to the options screen to find deadzone option! Whoo! It was already set to 5 (out of 10) which was clearly not enough. I cranked it up to 10 and it worked perfectly. Very fast and responsive. Just like it is on the console.
When I first got my hands on the controller, I was stoked to find some new buttons. In addition to the triggers, there’s now a set of shoulder buttons. I was hoping that these could be use in conjunction with the triggers – for shifting gears while having the gas applied in a racing game for instance. But this is hardly the case. It’s pretty much either-or. I tried using my middle fingers on the triggers and index fingers on the shoulder buttons, but this just didn’t work. The triggers are shaped for your index fingers and it’s simply awkward any other way. So that was a little disappointing. However, I mapped primary weapon switch in Battlefront 2 to the right shoulder button and secondary to the left and it worked out great! Felt very naturally.
The shoulder buttons aren’t the only new additions, though. There’s also the guide button which is used to navigate through the blades in the new dashboard. It’s completely useless on the PC and has no function. It doesn’t even light up! Come on now! Another button which is just there for show – the back button. I like the placement of the start and back buttons on the 360 controller and was looking forward to using back for ESC, but you can’t map it.
The final disappointment is the lack of rumble. NFS Most Wanted has a rumble option which I had enabled, and I didn’t feel a single bump in the road.
Needless to say, I’m not too happy about dropping $60 on it. We really, really need a utility to map the buttons and create profiles for individual games – something like the Logitech Wingman Profiler would be perfect. I’ve read that this is in the works, along with wireless support for Windows PC, but no ETA. If this does come to light, I’ll be sure to revisit this issue. But for the time being, I’m not going to recommend you pick one up for your PC just yet. If you are a very tolerant person, you might be ok with it. But for someone like me who likes to jump into a game and play rather than mapping 4 screens of controls, hold off.