noiseredux vs.

Posted on Sep 25th 2016 at 12:00:00 PM by (noiseredux)
Posted under PC

In recent years, I've gone from being a console gamer, to a mostly PC gamer, to a totally PC gamer. I could go on and on about why I finally decided to be a PC-only guy, but it doesn't really matter - at least not for this blog post. Instead, I thought we'd explore the many options that PC gamers have in the area of controllers. Truth be told, I probably end up using the mouse and keyboard for the majority of games I play anyway. And yet, I've got controllers scattered around this room everywhere I look.

Now this post can really only be as thorough as my own experience goes. I mean, ultimately the options are nearly limitless. Basically anything with a USB connection is fair game, right? And pretty much any Xbox 360 device is going to be plug-n-play on PC. Not to mention the fact that nearly every classic console controller has some kind of USB adapter you could use. However, for the purposes of this article, I'll just focus on the major controllers just to scratch the surface of the options available.

The Xbox 360 controller is the "old reliable" for many a PC gamer. Upon the 360's release, the USB cable and Microsoft's own drivers made it possible to plug this thing into your PC and start gaming in a very plug-and-play way. In fact, it quickly gained traction as the de facto official/unofficial PC controller. And for good reason. It was comfortable and had a strong build. Certainly, it felt far more substantial than the bulk of third party controllers that came before it. It also eventually received a wireless dongle. But perhaps most importantly - its buttons coincided with the on-screen prompts of most games. Somewhere along the way, it just became accepted that 'everyone' was using the 360 pad. Was it because it was an official Microsoft controller on a Microsoft OS, or was it because, well... everyone was using it? I suppose it's sort of a chicken and the egg kind of scenario.

Although there is a newer Microsoft controller on the block now (see below), many gamers still swear by the 360 pad. I can't really fault them for that. Though I personally prefer the Xbox One controller myself, there is something to be said about the simple comfort that the 360 pad offers. It's been dependable for years, no doubt. The one major complaint I think you'll hear some make about it is the d-pad, which offers that sort of squishy Genesis-style pad rather than a true directional cross, which is often where the preference for the Xbox One controller over the 360 usually comes from to begin with.

Logitech has long been producing two models of controllers that have rivaled the 360 pad as third party go-to favorites. The wired F310 and wireless F710 are controllers that you've definitely seen in your local Target or Best Buy, right? They offer a certain combination of the classic Xbox 360 controller and the Dual Shock 3. Certainly the body of the controller and layout of its dual analog sticks resembles the DS3. But then you've got those buttons and the squishy d-pad like the 360 has. It's not a bad choice if there's things you like about each, I suppose. Although, there is actually one very nice feature that Logitech has included here and that is the ability to switch between Direct Input and X-Input modes. This is actually really handy if you find yourself playing a lot of older games. As such, this is a good reason to recommend considering this one. I personally use the wireless model (which has a very small dongle - perfect for a laptop) while playing GOG games on my aging Alienware laptop.

It was a big deal when Microsoft finally pushed out official drivers for the Xbox One controller. I jumped on one right away. However,  there is one caveat you should know about this controller: if you want to use it wirelessly (I know I do), then you'll need to be running Windows 10 because the wireless dongle does not work on an earlier operating system. This wasn't a concern for me, as I had been rocking 10 since the open beta. Although many a PC gamer have grown accustomed to the 360 pad, it certainly does seem like the One controller is being pushed going forward - even the Oculus Rift comes bundled with one.

Personally, I love this controller. It feels sleeker than the 360 version, while still maintaining the same general style and feel. The buttons feel a bit more responsive to me as well. Certainly this could all be in my head I suppose, but one thing that is without argument is that the d-pad here is far superior to the old, squishy 360 one. This bad boy has - get this - four distinct directions to push! I really love the One controller for 2-D games, as the d-pad makes precise movement possible.

Sony's Dual Shock 4 certainly has a cult following. For a while now, gamers have been using fan-made drivers and workarounds to get this thing working on their PC's, though Sony has now officially released Windows drivers along with a wireless dongle with the surprise release of the PlayStation Now service on Windows.

I'm personally not a big fan of this controller. I don't like the placement of the analog sticks and I find the thin, narrow body to just feel too small and uncomfortable in my hands. I will admit that the weird little trackpad thing in the center is a neat idea and all, but ultimately, this is my least favorite iteration of the Dual Shock line. That said, if you are at all interested in PlayStation Now, then this is really a nice option. Sure you can use other controllers, but being able to play PlayStation games with a PlayStation controller so that the button prompts match up and any motion controls included actually work is definitely worth it.

The Steam Controller is the new kid on the block. Valve released this one a few months back as part of its slow rollout of the SteamOS and accompanying hardware. I picked one up on a deep discount because... I don't know why. Morbid curiosity I guess?

This is certainly the most unique controller within our round-up here. The obvious feature is the weird trackpads that take the place of traditional analog sticks. Basically, the point of this controller is to make games that traditionally used keyboard and mouse playable on a controller. The SteamOS (or Steam itself in Big Picture Mode) is able to create or download shared controller profiles for each game. The trackpads are configured to work in varying ways to handle movement in all sorts of games that never had controller support.

It's a great idea in theory, though I've never really found a reason to spend much time with it myself. For pretty much any keyboard and mouse game, I'm going to want to use a keyboard and mouse. Any game that I'd want to use a controller on already seems to have controller support. So maybe I'm not the best judge, as I'm definitely not the target market. I will say that the build quality is excellent. It feels pretty similar to an Xbox 360 controller, though maybe with a bit more weight. And while I'm not finding much of a use for it personally, I love that Valve is attempting to get traditionally "living room gamers" into the PC gaming realm with their new hardware.

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Nice article, noise.  It's a little funny for me to think of the 360 controller as the defacto PC controller, but pretty much all controller supported games released these days support it exclusively.  It is so prevalent that if I wanted to use my old Logitech on Steam I need to run a controller emulator to trick the game into thinking I'm using a 360 controller!  Nutso.  The only problem I have with the non-PC controllers is price; they are just too expensive, unless you get a possibly inferior 3rd party clone, and since I don't like being gouged for reasons of "perceived value" (the chicken and egg thing you mentioned, noise), I'd heartily recommend the Logitech efforts, as their controllers are (generally) half the price of the console ones and very good for what they do, especially the newer ones that you featured in your blog, noise.

Have you tried out the WiiU Pro controller?  Supposedly it works pretty well attached through Bluetooth, but I've never seen this first hand.
Nice breakdown of the options. I've historically never really found a great option for PC controllers, which was part of the reason I was never much of a PC gamer. I used to mess with drivers trying to get my PS3 controller to work and found it a super clunky experience. About a year ago I picked up a Thrustmaster GPX. It was only about $30-35 and I've actually been very happy with it. It feels very much like a 360 controller and has a true + sign D-pad. I'd have no problem recommending that for someone who doesn't want to pay $60 for an official controller and doesn't mind a corded vs wireless option. Since I got a better PC and have been gaming more on it, I've been pretty happy to see official controller support getting better. I just ordered one of the new custom XOne controllers with bluetooth support and am excited to give it a try. That said, the $80 they charge for the custom ones is a downright absurd price for a controller, so I don't blame anyone who sees that as a deal killer.
Good write-up.  I can confirm that the Logitech F310 is a solid controller with that slightly "squishy" D-pad.  It does okay for shmups, and I play some on the PC, but for other stuff it seems like the controller works reasonably well.  I've thought about using a 360 controller, but I only have the one, and it's wireless to my 360, so I don't really want to do otherwise.  I might have to check into the PS4 pad, however, because I do like the crosspad better than the 360 D-pad.

@zophar53: I didn't know anyone got the WiiU Pro controller working on PC - that would be something worth trying!  I love that controller, and I think I would probably use it and enjoy that.
I would have to agree here with my PC gaming experience personally.  I use my 360 controllers for my PC when a game calls for it and it works native which is really nice.  Prior to the 360 controllers and the "Games For Windows" campaign that came with it, I had the wireless Logitech controllers, and it was really a pain in the butt to have friends come over to play a game on my PC that was also on console, and spend a half hour or more just trying to get the buttons right.

I also agree that when a game calls for a keyboard and mouse...there is no substitute.  This is why I have not purchased a Steam controller, though I may in the future out of curiosity.

@noiseredux: Please follow up with something about your transition to PC-only gaming.
Thanks for the article! I've been using a wired 360 pad for ages and I'll try a XOne pad in the future. I would probably go the newer revision of the XOne controller though as the bumpers on the original revisions can break easier than one would expect. I had to replace mine after 100 hours of Dark Souls 3.
I've always been a bit unusual when it comes to controllers. Funny enough, the Xbox controller I use isn't the 360 or the One... it's the original bulky 2001 "Duke" that everyone hated so much. I bought it on purpose, though. I got big hands. And I'm a bit of a Dreamcast enthusiast; the Duke is essentially a DC controller with a C-stick.
I also have a set of Nintendo GameCube controllers that see a lot of use, and a plethora of other adapters. What can I say? I like to play things a bit weird.

I do have a wired PS3 controller for when I need something orthodox, though.

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