It seems like that with every console generation gamer's always brace themselves for the inevitable reveal of the games accompanying controller(s). This apprehension has its roots in the 80's and 90's where console refreshes and new gadgets were so common that gamer's developed PTSD over some of the shockingly bizarre designs that resulted.
It is therefore to be expected that their will be some residual memories of the past when we get new consoles in this new generation of gaming. Controllers are after all the way that we interact with these massively powerful machines and if even the slightest thing about the controller feels off or not quite right...well that could be a deal breaker.
Enter the newest iteration of the Xbox One controller. Microsoft is taking the " If it isn't broken don't fix it" mentality with the bundled controller for teh Series X by building off of the previous controller for the Xbox One and mixing in some learning from the Elite controller that was released a few years after the console.
Here are a few of the new design choices that are sure to enhance and improve your game play this year when the Series X launches.
The D-Pad is the single most controversial part of pretty much any controller. Starting back in the 80's when it was the ONLY way to control your characters on screen and now being delegated as the " back up" interface for retro games or sub menus in games. Me , I still use the D-Pad for all my fighting games that I play ( Retro fighters that is) and having a precise uplifted cross as a D-Pad really helps nailing my motions. However being able to pull off a sweeping motion when some fighting games require ( Ryu anyone?) a circular motion that runs fluidly from start to finish is easier to pull off on a " disc based" styling. Being a lifetime gamer I have used all sorts of game pads with D pad controls and while I have never really settled on a personal preference I do appreciate the work Microsoft is putting into the new design. Encompassing the best of both worlds the new improved design has a concave disc with a raised cross pad on top for precision. No matter what preference you have this design should cover your needs.
Textured grip on bumpers and triggers
This addition is one that has me really exited! Being a avid player of shooters I can appreciate the attention that the Microsoft is giving the bumpers and triggers. Adding some texture in the form of raised bumps on the parts that get the most use is a nice touch. While not a deal breaker it definitely shows that the boys in the R&D lab aren't slouching this time around.
In a world dominated with sharing images, videos and streams across different social platforms it makes complete sense to make it easy for players to take a snap of a cool in game moment or a quick video clip they want to brag about. While we don't know the extent of the sharing function and how it will work as far as not interrupting your game play, Microsoft has said that it is trying to do away with pop up menus that are currently required to take in game clips or pics. Time will tell how the actual feature behind the hardware is implemented but the fact that the controller has a dedicated button for that purpose shows that Microsoft is taking the feature seriously.
Connectivity with other equipment
This improvement is obviously laying the groundwork for Project X Cloud and the anticipation of being able to play your Xbox games across a variety of platforms including your actual smartphone. The Xbox 360 era of connectivity required that you bought a PC specific controller for your computer if you wanted to use it for gaming even though you had a perfectly fine Xbox 360 controller sitting across from you. While not a huge deal for me back in 2009, the current landscape of gaming almost requires a controller to have the flexibility to adapt to a multitude of devices that a gamer may want to fire up at any given moment. The new controller will still incorporate the time tested Radio transmitter that all Xbox controllers have utilized and will also incorporate Bluetooth Low Energy ( BTLE) for pairing with non Xbox hardware. Microsoft has promised that this new controller will work with the original Xbox One and all your headsets will make the leap across when you upgrade.The icing on the cake would be if they somehow incorporated a smartphone doc in its design but I can only guess that will left to the third party manufactures to sell us.
This invisible feature is most likely going to get missed on the box bullet points but bears mentioning. The ability of a controller to communicate with your console is paramount for any game. While only the most hardcore players will ever really notice if there is a problem, the fact that the lab coats are looking at it and addressing it as an improvement brings a smile to my face. Its a pure service to there loyal shooter players on Xbox and if nothing else makes me feel better knowing my controller isn't at fault for my lousy K/D ration.....or will it?
We still have a ways to go before gamer's can get this in their hands but hopefully this breakdown will answer some questions about what will be tucked in the box next to your Xbox Series X when you open it up later this year.