I’ve been looking for the perfect gamepad ever since I had a PC, which was way before the original Doom debuted. Back then, the Super Nintendo presented its revolutionary controller, and many companies like Gravis tried to create knock-off solutions for the PC gamer. They were quite innovative at the time and had several improvements over Nintendo’s controller: supported left or right-handed orientation, 4 colorful buttons, and a mountable joystick for the D-pad, all with the ugly 15-pin PC gameport connector. Somehow these products never reached the same acceptance as console controllers, whose innovation and simplicity fueled the booming gaming industry.
Manufacturers such as Gravis and Logitech have been trying to generate the same ubiquity for PC gamers. PC gamepad manufacturers have taken a nod from popular console controllers, but it always feels like something is missing. I have always been slightly disappointed with PC gamepads, no matter how innovative they claim to be, or what new feature they’ve added. They never have the same feel as a good console controller, and usually have some compatibility flaw.
Microsoft has solved all the problems by introducing a gamepad that works on both its popular Xbox 360 system and PCs. Microsoft adorned the Xbox 360 with standard USB ports for cross-platform compatibility with nearly any device, and the Xbox 360 controller for Windows is the fruit of this forethought.
Most PC games are played with the keyboard and mouse, even though many PC games are ported to their console bretheren. Popular games like Need for Speed: Most Wanted are multi-platform and appear on nearly every gaming system. The keyboard and mouse are familiar favorites for PC gamers because the controls can be easily customized and offer a multitude of functions. However, variable analog precision is traded for this high customization. Pressing a key on the keyboard usually controls a character’s direction – and is either full on or full off. There is no variable speed control.
Take the Splinter Cell franchise for an example. On the PC, movement is controlled with the keyboard, wheras look is controlled with the mouse. Sam can move in any direction, but in only one speed. Sure, speed can be toggled by using the mouse-wheel, but going from a slow sneak to an all-out run is not instantaneous. Sam has more flexibility once a gamer masters a console’s two analog sticks.
Gamepads are shaped in a way to offer tactile physical memory (you can “feel” where the buttons are, and are all in easy reach), where it is easy to press the wrong key on a keyboard, or accidentally press two keys at the same time. Keyboard’s keys are too close together, and are all the same color. From a usability point of view is horrible, despite all the functionality it offers.
Yes, PC and console gamers have very different preferences, and the two shall never meet eye to eye: just as mouse and trackball users may never understand each other. A keyboard and mouse combination is the ultimate weapon in first-person shooters, but even PC gamers reach for a gamepad when it’s time to fly a Tie-Fighter.
Microsoft is filling the gap between PC and console gamers, and the Xbox 360 controller for Windows fills it like Oprah fills a bikini.
|Xbox 360 Controller for Windows Features