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.

Xbox 360 Controller

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.

24 Comments

I don’t think I’ve ever had a controller for the PC that has just worked. Though it might work fine in Game X, if you plug it into Game Y then your man looks like a Ballet School reject…

At the end of the day isn’t it all part of PC gaming fun? Hmmmm…

I think the support for the 360 controller will grow and grow. Hopefully it will become a very popular widespread standard. Its still early days after all.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a controller for the PC that has just worked.

This is true, but every other controller/gamepad on the market is shipped with a utility to tweak it, map the buttons and do advanced collaboration. With the 360 controller, there’s nothing. So if a game doesn’t have a deadzone option, we’re screwed.

Its still early days after all.

You shouldn’t just except it like that. If the product is in my hands, it’s too late. Granted, PC compatibility is a ‘bonus’ feature, it’s still something the controller is meant to do and technically, something it can’t do in it’s current state. I think we’ve grown a custom to MS shipping out unfinished products and getting fixes and patches down the road, to make it do what it’s actually supposed to. Still not cool in my books.

A lot of controllers do come with tweaking utilities, but even then you still get some of the deadzone and random movement problems.

A lot of the time it seems to come down to the way indivdual games interpret the signals rather than the OS or actual controller.

So even if you set up the controller with a utility, there isn’t a guarantee it will work any better. I’m not agreeing with it, it’s just the way it is.

It’s certainly not just a MS problem, though they do contribute a hell of a lot. To be fair to them, they do tend fix the problems eventually – which is better than nothing.

The thing lacking – as ever with PC stuff – is a standard to work to. There are just sooo many different controllers out there it’s impossible to cater for them all, and all their little quirks. Hopefully something as massive as the 360 pad will go some way to providing a standard that everyone can follow.

Thanks for the review of the controller on the PC Matt. When I heard the 360 controller could work on the PC I was really considering getting one, but now I think I’ll hold out for a bit longer. It’s not that urgent anyway.

I’m still using my PS1 gamepad for the PC, anyway I use to play first person shooters and don’t need a gamepad to do it.

Interesting read Matt. Although I’ve never really been a fan of console controllers myself. Alway feel too limited. KB + mouse and I’m happy. This was until I noticed Nintendo’s announcement the other day.

I wrote a bit about it here.

A step in the right direction for consoles.

A step in the right direction for consoles.

Oh man, I don’t know about that. That thing makes me nuts every time I see a picture of it. Maybe it’s one of those things you have to experience yourself cause looking at images and reading about it has done nothing for me except frustrate me beyond belief.

I think the Phantom Console had a genius idea for their controller – not that it’s ever going to see the light of day. Hopefully someone else jacks the idea and makes it a reality. I’d definitely pick up one of them!

I am also very disappointed with this controller. I already have a usb adapter for the regular xbox controller and the driver that I have for it worked well, but there is not option for the dead zone. This is the reason I bought the 360 controller for the PC. Hopefully MS will release a better driver, or someone out there will write a driver that adds more functionality/mapping options. I hope it doesn’t take too long for that to happen.

Thanks for the review. I was searching to find out if there was software to support the controller on Windows and ended up here. Glad I didn’t go a head and buy it and waste my money like you did. But hey, I clicked on some ads for you so hopefully that helps out.

Cheers.

I rarely have use for a controller on my PC, but when I do, I use the best controller available; PS2 dual shock. With a small adapter it works well, and I’m sure I used some basic keymapping feature in Windows XP itself.

Great article Matt and I have the same problems with it that you do. My last controller was a Gravis Xterminator and I bought one of these controllers to use on my PC and my new XBox 360. One thing you might find interesting is that the material that the analog sticks are made out of on the wireless one that comes with the 360 is less "sticky" and more solid. I thought the controllers would be identical but nope. It’s a personal preference of which sticks feel better for gaming, but the 360 wirelless sticks don’t have pieces rubbing off after using them like my wired one.

It sounds like most of what you don’t like about it are software issues. And from what I know I’m pretty certain you are right that they’ll release a decent set of drivers sometime. I would guess within 3 months, but hopefully by the end of the year. Mapping buttons, setting sensitivity, rumble, the guide button, and pretty much everything else could potentially come with updated drivers. Microsoft knows what they are doing with peripherals and with drivers. Logitech and Microsoft have consistently been the two best peripheral companies, including design and drivers support. In fact I liked their drivers for their mice better than Logitech’s in most ways. I used to have a Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer and now have a Logitech MX510. Specifically they would let you set the mouse buttons to be different for each application which the Logitech drivers still don’t do.

So hopefully they release an updated driver that allows you to map buttons for each game within Windows. And from what I know it’s almost certain they will. People are saying it’s the best designed controller ever and with a new driver I’ll bet you’ll be really happy you got it. I hope they hurry up with the driver too.

Me again. One other thing is I know USB Overdrive is a very popular application that allows you to map ANY USB devices buttons, including gamepads, but it is Mac OS only (!#!$#!$#). I don’t know if there is a similar application for Windows and I haven’t tried to look for one. Maybe I’ll go look for one sometime for this XBox controller, but I might also just wait for their drivers. If I look for one any time soon and find any worth trying, maybe I’ll remember to come back here and post it. But you might want to search for an application to do this because you might find one.

http://www.usboverdrive.com/

Me one more time. This might be good news. I did a bit of looking and found what looks to be a pretty good program to at least map the buttons on Windows. This won’t solve your problems with the analog controls sensitivity or deadzone because mapping buttons to keyboard basically takes out the analog part of controllers. It looks like it recognizes the XBox controller and all the buttons except the guide button I think. It allows you to map all the buttons to keyboard or mouse actions. It’s shareware ($20) and the last version was released on October 25, 2005 so it’s up to date and in development at least. For comparison, that USB Overdrive program that many people use on Macs is also $20 but is better in many ways I’m sure and supports any kind of USB devices like mice too. Here is a few notes about it. Other than the stuff below it seems to work great.

Total Game Control – http://www.digitaltransforms.com/

1) To map a button you need to check the "Detect" box, then hold the button down on your controller while you hit the OK button with your mouse.

2) I don’t think it allows you to associate a profile with a program/game to automatically launch when you launch the game. So you just have to go select the profile you want before you launch your games which is a minor inconvenience. It has some thing called the "shortcut launcher" you might try but I think it only sets up 1 shortcut at a time and basically doesn’t work with the trial version anyway because it clears the profile.

3) The trial doesn’t let you save profiles so basically I think whenever you shut down the program or restart your computer any changes you make won’t be there.

It’s just a question of how bad you want to be able to map the buttons and whether or not you want to pay for something like this or wait to see if Microsoft releases drivers that would hopefully combine keyboard mapping and analog controls in one program, that also associated a profile with each game automatically. Or you might find another program for free or less money, or with different features. For some people who really like the controller I’m sure this is worth paying for. Good luck with it if you try it guys. I don’t think I’m going to pay for it but maybe I can find some way around it not allowing to save the profiles. If not maybe I will buy it.

I did some more looking for a good program and found a MUCH better one that is really up to date and powerful. This one I think is actually worth paying for and I bet you’ll like it. I’m using it. It has way more options like launching the profile for games automatically and some settings for analog sensitivity, deadzone, etc. It’s also shareware at $20 and has a full 30 day trial so you can try it for 30 days and if Microsoft doesn’t have drivers out by then and you like this you can buy it then. It works like a charm with many options, though because it’s so powerful it takes a little while to make profiles. No different from many drivers though which are a mixed bag in features and usability. Overall this program is just really great. It might even be more customizable than Microsoft’s new drivers if they do ever release them.

As far as using it with the 360 controller it basically recognizes it and all the buttons though there are a couple small issues. But there is even talk in the forums on the homepage about guys with 360 controllers who are really happy to find this program. To correctly set up the joysticks with the 360 controller I did this which I found out about in the forum. This may not be correct but it works for me. Preferences | Device Settings | Advanced Settings and change Joystick 2 to U and V, and Axis 1 to Z if they aren’t set to those. Also the biggest problem is the triggers on the 360 controller might not really work correctly because of something special Microsoft did with them. For great info about the 360 controller specifically go read the link to a thread on the program’s homepage that I’ve posted. You might also want to browse around the forum to read some other things. The guide button doesn’t work at all either.

So have fun with it Matt and McCheese if you come back to read this. See ya.

Pinnacle Game Profiler
http://www.pinnaclegameprofiler.com/ http://www.pinnaclegameprofiler.com/forum/viewtop

Anonymous: Wow! That’s some serious commenting! I’m suprised someone who puts so much effort into something (for others benefit, I might add) would want to go unnamed. 😉

In any case, thanks for your sharing your findings! I spent some time on the weekend searching for a solution, but didn’t come across Pinnacle Profiler. Looks like that’s the ticket! I skimmed that forum post and it seems as if they sorted out the trigger issue by running the wizard. I don’t have time tonight, but I’ll definitely try this out ASAP. I don’t mind paying the $20 for something that works. Cool that it’s shareware so we can try it out.

Thanks again, I’ll be sure to report back when I have a chance to give it a test run.

woah.. thats ALOT of long comments…

You’re not kidding! But at least it wasn’t all for nothing. This guy (or girl, who knows?!) found some fuckin’ gold!

Pinnacle Game Profiler is an incredible piece of software! It’s super advanced, letting you tweaking absolutely every aspect of the controller, but very simple to use. It took me about 10 minutes from the time I finished installing it until I was playing Most Wanted. And it worked! The deadzone was perfect, the triggers work mint – the whole nine! I’ve already purchased a copy of it and will do a follow up to this post. I’ve been getting lots of hits on this post from Google and MSN – seems we’re not the only ones who would actually like to make use of their $60 controller.

I just got mine (controller) today. Boy was I pissed when I tried to play Halo PC and all the damn thing would do is spin in circles. I ’bout lost my mind. After putting it down, I searched the almighty google for a resolution. At 1st, I fould alot of unhappy campers who purchased this controller. But, after skimming forum posts, I found a program that helped me. Its called DX Tweak 2, and I paid zero dollars for it. Plus, I didn’t do very much configuring. I launched it, hit device defaults, and then apply, and voila it all worked. Halo PC was like Halo Xbox, but on a much bigger screen :). I then came across this site, which mention Pinn. Game Profiler. Which looks really good, and I wouldn’t mind spending my money on it, but I wonder if M$ is going to help us out here first. But, then I thought about it again, M$ != any help. I’ll try the 30 day trial, and then make a decision.

My main problem was the fact that I couldn’t control the left analog stick AT ALL. Following the manuals instructions step by step, got me no where. Did anyone else have this experience. I’ve seen reviews state that their Halo PC worked just fine; Not mine, not w/o some 3rd party app. Well, all I’ll say is YAH! google for the find, and YAH! matt for the nice review. Be easy.

I just got my controller today and i’ve tried to play half life 2 with it and its just not working the analog will look up and down but thats about it nothing else will work im thinking of trying that pinnacle program and i found this site from google so after i try a few more things i will make another post

Any news on all this stuf yet? I bought the controller today, and I hoped for some good drivers included but got dissapointed… will try pinnacle, didnt get it to work with sxtweak2 (had that in advance)

will also try some enthusiast driver for the original controller…

A very late reply, but I didn’t notice it the first time, and I just came back here to look if there was anything recent/new about the calibration issues… which brings me to my point. The review (and your comment) calls it "collaboration", which is not quite the same thing. 🙂 Perhaps it’s an over-active spelling checker.

I had the same Left Analog Stick problem, not centering, flopping either left or right. FINALLY I noticed in the Stock Windows XBox 360 Controller Driver Calibration Screen they tell you to Center, Move and the Re-Center the D-PAD…That should say LEFT ANALOG STICK, not D-Pad! After I moved the Left Analog stick instead of the D-Pad during calibration and didn’t touch the D-Pad my XBox 360 controller works perfectly!

Didn’t need any 3rd party software at all, Microsoft just needs to fix a Typo in their Driver Software.

Hi, I found your blog searching about xbox360 controller in google, I just purchased this controller and I’m finishing installing and configuring it. I don’t know if you got the latest driver from microsoft (http://www.microsoft.com/hardware/gaming/download.mspx)
but after I installed it, the light on the guide button turned on and now when I press it a small window with the guide button logo is displayed in the desktop.

Also I found this small app for using it as mouse, it worked great for me very usefull.

btw, I’m using it in Vista

Great post! very helpfull

Javier.

PS: yes, english isn’t my native languaje 🙂

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