Back at E3 2015, I was sat down for Microsoft’s briefing, waiting in anticipation to see which exciting new games I would be spending the next year emptying my wallet for. So when Phil Spencer got to the stage to announce something new and unique for console users, we had no idea the next thing we would see light up the show would be the Xbox One Elite Controller. With an elegant and sleek look alongside customisable features, it immediately become an in demand product. So when E3 2016 rolled around, the announcement of an improved look to coincide with the release of one of the greatest franchises in Xbox history blew it out the park for me.
So, how good is the Gears of War 4 Elite Controller?
The main functions provided by the controller don’t differ to that of the last year’s Elite, however you can’t take away that those functions alone are certainly rather impressive. First of all, there are the customisable buttons and sticks which are easy to snap into place, with each piece providing magnetic grip to the controller. Included are two different D-Pads, one normal one that everyone will be used to and another round, slightly concave option which is certainly much nicer to use. Being Gears of War themed this option does of course, like the rest of the controller, come designed in epic Gears of War fashion with each of the in-game weapons pictured in the correct positions on the circular option. A cleverly placed ‘GRUB KILLER’ slogan pasted onto the magnetic underside of the D-Pad can be seen when switching between options.
After this there are of course three different thumb stick offerings – the usual gripped sticks, a slightly taller version and my favourite, the dome shaped sticks, which seem to give exceptional control. As said before, these are easy to switch around and this is something I certainly did a fair amount to find which sticks I felt most comfortable with. For those already pleased with the previous slogan on the D-Pad, note that the lower part of the thumb-sticks harbours the message ‘WELCOME HOME’ which can be seen when moving the left stick upwards.
The final button offering comes in the form of four swappable paddles that snap onto the back of the controller. Whilst none of these are needed for play, it goes without saying they can provide that competitive edge that all gamers wish for every now and again. Racing titles such as the recent Forza games have seen me using the paddles for shifting gears, whilst shooting titles have given easier access to grenades and melee attacks. This may not sound like the most impressive thing to give the paddles control of, but when you are no longer moving thumbs and fingers to different areas of the controller the addition of a few vital moments due to quicker controls can make all the difference. Of course, those not interested in my choices will be pleased to know that the buttons can be entirely customised to whatever the user wants via the easy to find Xbox Accessories app on the Xbox One store.
Hair Trigger Locks
Whilst this is an extra button in a sense, this feature is one that has certainly made a few differences in both positive and negative ways for me so deserves its own section. The Elite controller does indeed come with two trigger locks on the back of the controller that can be found just above the paddles. When switched on, this option locks each the respective left and/or right trigger, making the button more responsive, or at least it’s supposed to. After testing over several different titles however I found myself with a couple of issues. Firstly, not every game responds as you would expect – shooting titles such as Battlefield 1 struggle when firing specific weapons to the point that some simply won’t fire at all, until the lock is taken off. Meanwhile, racing titles such as Forza Horizon 3 found reaching top speeds taking longer than when the full pressure of the trigger is available. Whilst this is certainly an issue in some games, it does work well in others and in Call of Duty the quicker firing certainly helps get that vital shot in during one on one situations.
Xbox Accessories App
Whilst not specifically included with the controller, this free app makes all the difference to the functionality of the Elite controller. On the front of the controller, sitting in the middle, is the final button not included in standard controllers. Once set up correctly via the Xbox Accessories app this allows users to switch between saved pre-set controls. Whilst this is certainly a feature designed with professional gamers in mind, having the option there as more of an unprofessional – but still hardcore gamer – is certainly a nice one to have.
Using the app, each of the controls can be assigned to whatever you wish and then saved as a pre-set to ensure you feel as comfortable as possible whilst playing. Two pre-sets can be assigned to the button, however more can be saved via the app and assigned whenever you feel like it. Whilst my biggest switches have been nothing more than swapping the sprint and melee buttons for various titles, it’s easy to see how such a feature could be taken advantage of by someone wanting to achieve the latest speed run challenge or in a competitive situation.
Design & Appearance
It goes without saying those willing to splash the £160 necessary to get their hands on this rather extravagant controller will certainly be interested in its appearance. After all, with Amazon UK currently selling the standard elite controller for £110 those not bothered by the look would certainly take their interest in that direction. But before those now interested in this fancy bit of kit run to grab the cheaper option, let me tell you the Gears of War Elite controller may be the most beautiful controller ever created.
Firstly, let it be said that the shell of the controller is stunning with its well-placed blood splatter around the red Xbox button – YES RED – and the Crimson Omen emblem emblazoned on the bottom left of the face next to the D-Pad in all its glory. The real attraction are the engraved scratches across the middle of the controller which represent the latest enemies in the Gears universe. Whilst many were quick to question just how real these were upon the initial announcement back at E3, they are indeed no sticker and are instead engraved through the face of the controller…and my god they are stunning!
On top of this the A, B, X and Y buttons have all been styled to the darker red seen throughout the controller and along with the red Xbox logo add to the look of the controller. Both the triggers and bumper buttons are metallic in appearance with a mixed pattern of black and dark burgundy, and these certainly add to the overall quality of the appearance. It is in fact something unseen with any other Xbox controller.
If the front isn’t enough to send you to the Microsoft store in search of your own Gears themed masterpiece, then the back certainly will be.
The Elite controller comes complete with a textured non-slip grip, which is an absolute dream to hold, whilst the rest of the rear continues with the beautiful design from the front of the controller. On the back of the battery cover sits the latest of the Gears medals, which adds a nice change to the overall dark tone of the controller. Also found on the battery cover is a kills tally chart, whilst below it in the same style next to each of the paddles is P1, P2, P3 and P4 to indicate where each paddle sits. The paddles when connected add to the design with each bearing a bloodied fingerprint.
For those that care as much about the extras as the item itself you certainly won’t be disappointed. Included in the box is of course a Gears of War themed USB cable and an exclusive Xbox Gears of War Elite controller owner in-game emblem. The included carry case also offers great protection when not in use as well as storing all your controller accessories.
Overall and the Gears of War Elite controller is certainly a pricey endeavour with it coming in at £160. But with such incredible detail and unique appearance, this controller is well worth the cash. Whilst this may be too much of a price hike over standard controllers for the casual gamer, those interested in owning one of the nicest controllers on the market will certainly want this in their collection.
As for fans of Gears of War, what are you waiting for? This could be yours right now, go get it!