It costed a lot (even though I bought it from Amazon) and it wasn’t easy to get it on time, but I managed to get my hands on it. Actually, I got it this Monday, it was just a pretty busy week so I didn’t really have time to do much at the evenings, besides I wanted to give the controller some test run first before writing about it.
The controller has its ups and downs. I still can’t decide if it’s really good or not. I think I’ll just make a bullet-list of its good and bad sides and then summarize my short experience with it.
- Build quality. The gamepad is really, really well made.
- The stick is the best I’ve ever tried.
- The trackpads are very responsive and presice. Haptic feedback actually somewhat helps. If anything, you can use the controller as a decent mouse substitute.
- A lot of buttons. I even ran out of ideas of what to bind to which buttons and had some of them not set to anything.
- Extreme configurability. Not only you can bind any controller button to any keyboard or mouse button, but you can also set different behavior to them, like different types of d-pad or mouse/joystick.
- The left trackpad feels way too big and hence awkward to use, at least at first.
- Position of ABXY buttons also feels very awkward.
- The d-pad shape on the left trackpad doesn’t have much feel to it. I keep seeking the shape with my thumb.
- The trackpad buttons are kinda stiff, which prevents you from making very slight adjustments by fast tapping the button.
- The controller is almost useless without Steam installed and running. You can basically use it only as a mouse, and without even the middle button.
- There’s no memory for presets. As soon as you exit Steam, the controller goes back to the default preset, and default presents in Steam and controller itself are actually somewhat different.
- In Linux the controller isn’t registered when connected wirelessly unless Steam is running.
- There’s no search for community-created presets. You have to manually browse through them to find the one that’ll fit your needs. At least they are filtered by games.
I played a few games with it and here’s my experience:
- NES games. Like I said, the left trackpad feels awkward to use, and you do not want to use the stick instead of d-pad on any controller. After some getting used to, it performs surprisingly well. Not as good as a controller with an actual d-pad, but manageable. I played some Aladdin (pirate), Chip’n’Dale Rescue Rangers 2 and TNMT: Tournament Fights. I did pretty good, the controller almost didn’t stand on my way of playing.
- Painkiller. Impressive performance. More than playable. Of course, mouse and keyboard are still superior, but Steam Controller performs considerably better than any other controller.
- Minecraft. It uses more buttons than Painkiller, but after some getting used to it’s playable. I don’t think I’ll be able to parkour any time soon, but the regular survival is covered so far.
- Deadpool. Feels pretty much like a PS controller, except ABXY buttons’ position feels awkward and the camera movement is kinda difficult.
- BattleBlock Theater. No difference from Xbox or PS controller, if you get used to ABXY buttons’ position.
Unlike your traditional gamepads, Steam Controller takes a lot more time to get used to, but its flexibility allows you to play in more ways and in more games. You must use Steam and keep it running in order to configure and use it, but it works (or at least it should) in any game or application which supports keyboard, mouse and gamepad in any combination. So far I thing I like it more than dislike it. I need more time to get used to it. Because the controls can be so much different from each other, it’ll take getting used to to control scheme for every game individually, at least until I’m comfortable with the controller’s layout.
Things I would like to see in the future:
- A Steam-free driver which would allow to use the “extended” default preset.
- A separate small configuration tool.
- Memory for at least one preset aside from the default one.
- Search for presets in Steam.
Is this the best controller ever? Probably not. Is it better than controllers for Xbox or PS? In some ways, yes: you can play a wider range of games more comfortably. In some ways, no: it takes a lot of time to get used to and some controls would feel awkward in some games/situations. It’s a neat gadget to have and play with. I think it’s $50 (and $30 for shipping) well spent. I would recommend to give it a try for a week or so before deciding if it’s good or not.