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Hands-on with Xbox One's new controller

by Andrew Yoon, May 22, 2013 7:30am PDT
Related Topics – Microsoft, Xbox One

Who knew something as gimmicky-sounding as "impulse triggers" would prove to be so fun to use? The addition of rumble motors on the shoulder triggers may sound like an insignificant change at first, but it really does significantly enhance the immersion that vibrating controllers can offer.

The impulse triggers are quite possibly the most significant upgrade made to the Xbox One controller. Microsoft PR likes to say there are over 40 improvements made, resulting in all new thumbsticks that have better grip and take 25% less force to move. There's also an entirely new D-Pad, quite possibly the weakest aspect of the original Xbox 360 controller. And there's magnetic sensors in the triggers for "added precision."

While the One controller largely resembles the original 360 controller, the contours have been changed to "fit a wider range of hand sizes," and according to a Microsoft rep, the new controllers have been "tested in gamers aged 14-40" around the world.

The controller now features an internal battery compartment, instead of having a battery pack bulge out like it did before. And each controller will come with two rechargeable AA batteries that can be consumer-replaced at any time. For a company that likes making proprietary accessories, their stance on batteries is quite refreshing.

There's also two new buttons, replacing the "Back" and "Start" buttons of ye olde 360 controller. The "View" button (left) will change the type of view you'll see on the screen. Imagine in a racing game, you can switch between cockpit view or a third-person view. In an RPG, you may want to bring up your inventory or the map. The "Menu" button (right) will be similar to Start, but will offer "contextually appropriate menus."

But boy, are those impulse triggers something. Following its Xbox One reveal event, Microsoft gave us an opportunity to go hands-on with the new controller. Unfortunately, they didn't offer any live gameplay demos, making it difficult to assess the accuracy of their claims. The tech demos did show off the impulse triggers in action, emulating what it would feel like to play a racing game, or a shooter, for example.

The racing demo was probably my favorite. Even without the audio or visual cues, I could feel that the car was braking due to the feedback in the left trigger. Feeling a subtle recoil effect in the shooter demo was also a nice touch. It's not the biggest revolution in controller history, but it's a novelty that's immediately appreciated.

Oddly, although the demos were all conducted on PC, Microsoft currently has "nothing to say" about making a PC version of the One controller. Given how ubiquitous the Xbox 360 controller has become in PC gaming, we'd be surprised if Microsoft didn't release a Windows-friendly version of the One controller.




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