Having been a PC gamer for the majority of my life I can say with confidence that controllers aren’t my area of expertise. Do I prefer them for fighters and driving? Absolutely. Although it’s of my opinion that there are not many fighters or driving games worth playing on PC these days, but that’s a topic for another time.
As a Playstation owner last generation I still found myself leaning towards Microsoft’s offering as my controller of choice. It fits my hands well and appears to be made of higher-quality materials than the competition. The Steam Controller seems to take more cues from the Xbox controller than it does the Playstation ergonomically, but is its own beast entirely. First and foremost, it’s quite larger than both. I don’t have big hands by any stretch of the imagination, yet it still manages to feel comfortable to me. All pads and buttons are easily accessible and exactly where my thumbs naturally lay, which is a must for a device that you could have in your hands for up to several hours per session.
Valve has attempted to make a splash in the market by merging a traditional controller with the precision of a mouse, all while sprinkling in a few extras for good measure. You’ll find no analog sticks on this product, and quite frankly I won’t miss them. By default, the left input pad replicates your standard directional pad. You can choose to glide your thumb across it or press it to solicit a response specific to the game you’re playing. The right input pad is mapped 1:1 with your thumb movement and is similar to the functionality of a mouse. In my short time with it I can say that it seems to be both accurate and functional. Rather than finding four buttons on the right-hand side, you’ll see they’ve been split down the middle with Y and X appearing near the left input pad, and B and A near the right. The prototype controller has a centered grid of four buttons in lieu of the touch screen that will be seen on the retail model. Three buttons, two of similar width, are found directly south of the aforementioned grid. This controller has triggers and bumpers that match that of most controllers, as well as two longer triggers on the back.
I found myself having quickly adapted to the controller’s unique play-style and capable of completing chambers with ease in a relatively short period of time. Perhaps coming from a mouse eased the transition as I was able to dive into it without any attachment to traditional analog sticks. I completed the campaign in its entirety with the controller and didn’t fall back to my preferred method of input even once. If I were to criticize one thing it would be the somewhat odd bindings, although that’s not a flaw of the controller, is it?