We already knew that Microsoft was bringing out an updated controller for Xbox One, and knew that the design would be modestly streamlined for the better – what we didn’t expect, however, is that there would be an insanely different beast altogether introduced during their E3 press conference.
This is the Xbox Elite Controller and it’s not just the updated version that incorporates a standard (and more thoroughly universal) 3.5mm headphone jack. This is a totally beefed-up variant that offers up a mess of features that you’d typically get from hardcore PC peripherals, such as improved thumbstick sensitivity and hair trigger locking. There is a notable wealth of physically unique components starting with a very different-looking D-pad, the ability to completely remap buttons, and swappable analog sticks. In essence, this is a console interpretation of a modular gamepad.
My first visit on the floor was at the Microsoft booth playing Sunset Overdrive and Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, but I did get a good feel for the upgraded controller. The biggest additions I immediately noticed were the four stainless steel paddles on the rear which not only look cool but handle much of the button remapping capabilities, after realizing that those flaps aren’t ornaments but serve their shortcut purposes dutifully with just a quick click of the finger.
After I did finally acquaint myself the placement felt pretty natural for more demanding games such as Halo 5: Guardians, Luckily these attachments can be removed at any time if you don’t like the feel of them for extended periods.
I was shown how the analog stick tops could potentially be removed and swapped out on the fly, if you’re partial to either adopting a more durable thumbstick or just want yours to stand out in customized style. There was more sensitivity that existing players will notice as movement feedback felt more subtle overall. And finally, two fully customized profiles and preferences can be carried on the Elite controller itself or stored over the cloud, while working seamlessly for both Xbox One and Windows 10 – we just weren’t able to fully test those abilities during the show.
However, all of these advanced features come at a heavy price, like $149.99 for a start. Either way, expect the Xbox One Elite Wireless Controller to hit retailers this October, plenty of time to debate whether you really need to go pro with a console gampad.