Replacement gaming controllers used to mean a lot of things, and few of them good: cheap, ugly, uncomfortable, missing features. Sure, they did the trick in a pinch, but few were any you’d want to replace your stock gaming controller with. One of the nicest surprises in recent times is how we’re starting to see third-party options really come into their own, adding features we seldom saw on their first-party counterparts. It’s been a revolution for those trying to game on a budget but didn’t want to sacrifice what mattered.
Turtle Beach, a company most famous for gaming headsets, offers plenty of bang for the buck with their React-R Wired Gaming Controller, a slightly stripped down version of the OG React controller that retains many of its better features and jettisons what you probably would never use (or want) in a budget controller anyway. This means no mic monitoring, no EQ modes, and no “Pro-Aim” mode. But it does retain 2 mappable buttons, limited volume control, and Turtle Beach’s patented Superhuman Hearing audio enhancement.
Currently, the React-R is only available for Xbox and Windows platforms, though I’d love to see PlayStation and Switch variants show up in the future. Two colors are available: jet black and white/purple, the latter looking exactly like it has SNES envy. Choose wisely.
Just like the name says the React-R Wired controller is a tethered gaming controller (via USB C cable) that plugs into a free USB port on your Xbox (current and last-gen) console or Windows 10/11 machine. The design uses the standard Xbox controller button, D-pad, and analog stick layout, albeit in a chunkier, more plasticky build that doesn’t quite feel premium but is totally fine, especially since the textured grips and shoulder buttons feel extremely comfy after long sessions.
At just 0.6lbs it’s also way lighter than it looks, though you can expect a little extra heft when the USB C cable is attached and if you plan on using a 3.5mm headset. Turtle Beach included a generously long 8ft cable in the box but I recommend investing in a lighter (and braided) USB C alternative if you have the chance.
The OG React was loaded with extra function buttons, giving that controller a steep learning curve (and making it look a little busy). The React-R cuts these down to three: a toggle for Superhuman Hearing, a quick-access function button (for the D-pad), and a quick-mute button. Holding down the middle quick-access button enables a few control options via the D-pad, including volume and chat controls. There are two programmable P1/P2 trigger buttons on the rear, which can be instantly mapped on-the-fly via a combo of quick-access taps and presses.
Since it’s officially licensed by Microsoft the React-R works out of the box, which is really nice in a Windows environment (with Game Bar integration) and audio fidelity. A USB connection is far superior to connecting with Bluetooth, which seriously deteriorates audio output quality to 3.5mm headphones. Some games, mostly Microsoft published ones (oddly) distort Bluetooth output even further. Unless you’re using Microsoft’s own Wireless dongle, a solid and reliable USB connection is the way to go for PC gamers.
Earlier I said the React-R has limited audio controls, which is true as the controller’s audio enhancements only work with audio filtered through the controller’s 3.5mm port. This includes volume controls and Superhuman Hearing, meaning they won’t work if you’re using the controller with a wireless headset. Also, even with a mic-enabled headset, the in-game chat controls are Xbox only and aren’t available to Windows users. None of these are deal-breakers but you should be aware if you plan on mix-matching the React-R with other headsets.
BYOH Superhuman Hearing
The biggest marquee feature of the React-R controller is the inclusion of Turtle Beach’s proprietary ‘Superhuman Hearing’, an optional setting which amplifies specific sounds that will – in theory – give you a competitive edge in multiplayer matches. It’s mostly exclusively baked into Turtle Beach and ROCCAT gaming headsets, so having it available for non-Turtle Beach headsets is a step in the right direction.
Does Superhuman Hearing actually make a difference? It’s hard to say, even though Turtle Beach says studies on competitive gaming show it can. The jury’s still out, though even if you don’t plan on spending time wasting foes online clicking it on does give cheaper headphones a slight audio enhancement without futzing with EQ levels.
There are tons of first-person shooters on Xbox/Windows and the React-R is tailor made for bringing out their greatness – with a little input from your fingers, of course. The analog sensitivity and Superhuman Hearing belong in this environment, and it doesn’t disappoint. The endless Call of Duties, DOOM: Eternal, Halo Infinite, Far Cry 6, or any competitive FPS out there all handle like a champ, and while there’s nothing on the React-R to actually ‘enhance’ your gameplay (it’s missing the Pro-Aim function of the original React) everything we tested played like a dream. This is a very good FPS controller, budget or otherwise.
It should be said those remappable rear buttons are for single-button remaps only; no combos, no complex macros… just a convenient quick-remap of a favorite button on the backside if you need it. Results will vary on how you’ll use them, but they’re available if you do.
The combination of build quality and enhancements you’ll actually want to use help make Turtle Beach’s React-R Wired Gaming Controller stand out in a crowded field of cheap-o third-party alternatives for Xbox and Windows, especially those who prefer their controllers – and headphones – wired. Seeing Turtle Beach bring audio features from their better headsets to controllers is a great innovation, making this an easy recommendation for those who’ve yet to invest in a pricier headset but still want to enjoy some audio enhancements in a reasonably priced quality controller.