(Pocket-lint) - Until recently we've felt that the controllers that come with Microsoft's Xbox consoles have been far superior to the DualShock ones that have accompanied Sony's PlayStations. And we're not the only ones. We've often heard that hardcore and pro gamers have favoured Xbox controllers over the years.
However, we feel that Sony significantly upped its game with the PS4's DualShock 4 controller and we've been less sure on which gamepad we prefer for this generation of gaming. Until now, that is.
The Xbox Elite Wireless Controller is, quite simply, the best game controller we've ever used. It is the ultimate in games-playing tools, and while it comes with a hefty price tag to match, there is no better out there.
So why does it justify such a meaty outlay? Make yourself comfortable and we'll reveal all.
Xbox One Elite Controller review: Better in every way
There is already much to like about the standard Xbox One Wireless Controller: it sits nicely in the hand; it's reassuringly hefty, solidly built; and the rumbling impulse triggers add to haptic experience that offers more immersion into a game.
But the Elite version builds on that in almost every way. It is heavier and more substantial to hold, with more pronounced rumble in the triggers (by default). With grippier surfaces on the handles and a slightly nicer matte finish on the face it's nicer to hold too. It looks more premium thanks to silver finishes around the Xbox button and on the left and right bumpers.
It is also less garish thanks to the A, B, X and Y buttons not adhering to Xbox's usual primary colour scheme. It makes it trickier to follow on-screen button presses for less experienced players – during games like TellTale's Walking Dead adventures – but the type of player this pad is aimed at will instinctively know where each button is placed without ever having to glance down.
Xbox One Elite Controller review: Customisable controls
The same players will make best use of the Elite Controller's main selling point too: it is the most customisable controller there has ever been from a first-party console manufacturer.
Mad Catz released a controller it designed in conjunction with the Major League Gaming Pro Circuit more than three years ago, for both Xbox 360 and PS3. It had swappable thumbsticks and plenty of other customisation options, and even took the form factor of an official Xbox 360 pad (regardless of what system you used it with), so the idea of a controller you can alter is far from new. And PC owners will know more than enough about reconfiguring controls and sensitivity of devices, with plenty of mice and other devices out there with those features.
However, few are as elegant as the Xbox equivalent. The Elite Controller comes with three sets of stainless steel thumbsticks, that magnetically attach to the controller itself. You can have the traditional dimpled thumbpad, a rounded one more like DualShocks of old, and a longer thumbstick for more pronounced movements.
The d-pad can also be swapped, with the new plate able to make way for a more conventional directional cross – both of which are finished in stainless steel too.
Then there is the rear of the controller, which offers something completely new for Xbox: as well as two flip switches that can reduce the distance each trigger travels in order to add a hair-trigger effect for shooters, there are slots for four steel paddles.
These paddles can be removed if you find yourself accidentally pressing them during play, but can also be assigned to any of the regular buttons on the controller. That way you can use them to specifically access elements of a game more quickly. Up and down manual shifting during a driving game, for example, or scrolling through available weapons.
Xbox One Elite Controller review: App adjustments
There are also plenty of other options that can be manipulated through a dedicated Xbox Accessories app on the Xbox One itself. As well as map button presses, you can also change the sensitivity of the thumbsticks independently, and the triggers too. The amount of vibration in each trigger and handle can also be tuned. Even the brightness of the glowing Xbox button can be toned down.
Pro players and dedicated gamers will no doubt spend considerable time adjusting each setting to make for the best set-up for specific games, and there is a switch on the controller to choose between two configurations so you can have one set for Halo 5: Guardians or Fallout 4, for example, and the other for Forza Motorsport 6.
If you're not the sort of player who will spend hours fine-tuning your experience, you can also download configurations other gamers have designed for different titles. The app will list all those that are currently available and there are several available already – mainly for Microsoft's bigger games. More will appear as the community becomes larger too.
The whole package is rounded off with a carry case for when you want to ensure you have the very best chance of winning games around a friend's house or in a competition. And pro gamers will be delighted by the inclusion of a tough, fabric-coated USB cable. In pro tournaments, you cannot risk disconnection so wired is always preferred in that scenario.
The cable doesn't double as a charger, though, as there's no rechargeable battery in the box, just a couple of Duracell AAs. Which, for some, will be the controller's biggest, if not only, shortcoming.
Having used the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller to finish Rise of the Tomb Raider and plunge into the wastelands of Fallout 4, we can safely say that it offers the most comfortable control experience yet. It takes a little getting used to, mainly because of the additional weight, but it now feels weird when we go back to our original Xbox One controller.
We also found it more responsive during Halo 5: Guardians single-player and multi-player matches, thanks to the offered configurations available through the Accessories app. But it perhaps came more into its own, for us, when playing Forza Motorsport 6 thanks to the rear addition paddles acting as gear-shifting paddles.
If there's one small gripe, it's that we'd like there to have been a rechargeable battery included in the box. The rear cover of the battery compartment features button indicators and any replacement rechargeable equivalent devalues the design immediately, but it's not enough to spoil our enjoyment of the device.
It might be £120, which will be considered steep for a console game controller, but that is a small price to pay for perfection. And after all, serious PC gamers are willing to pay hundreds for mice and keyboards. Why should they have all the fun?