Xbox controllers come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors, as well as specialized feature-sets. What are the basic parts of the controllers, and how effective are they as a whole?
The Controller-S features a 9.8 foot cable with an in-line release to avoid accidental damage to the Xbox console if a controller should be yanked hard away from it, a valuable feature if you have pets or fast-moving children. Six analog buttons provide 256 levels of sensitivity for a great deal of control and precision, while two analog, pressure-sensitive triggers, mounted in an ideal location where your index fingers naturally rest, provide easy and ergonomic manipulation of your in-game exploits. An eight-way navigational pad rests conveniently beneath your left thumb and is wonderfully responsive and accurate. Two joystick-style controls, one for each thumb, provide excellent and precise movement, specially designed for first-person shooters, one to control movement and the other to control aiming. Two out-of-the-way (yet easily accessible) menu control buttons are present, and often have various "secondary" functions within a game. The Controller-S can vibrate with a great deal of fury in games that support its dual-vibration oscillators, providing an extra level of immersion. Finally, each Controller-S has the ability to accept up to two memory cards or other add-on devices (sold separately) to allow you to take your saved games with you or plug in new accessories.
The Controller-S officially comes in several colors in the United States. The standard black version, of course, is the most prolific. Also available are clear-plastic blue and green versions which can be bought at most gaming outlets that carry Xbox products for an average price of $29.99 each.
The Controller-S is not at all the only game in town when it comes to choosing a device to support your gaming needs. Several third party vendors supply a wide variety of choices, including a multitude of wireless options. Mad Catz, Nyko and Hip Gear are just a sampling of the many companies providing various colors and designs of Xbox controllers, many of which are available at your nearest gaming outlets.
From steering wheels to bass fishing-reel look-alikes, the options available to the consumer are many. The wireless controllers have effective ranges approaching 40 feet, although why you would need to play that far from your TV screen I can't really say. Nonetheless the option is there and they work with exceptional reliability.
In talking with the lady gamers, the most popular controller options are the smallest. Mad Catz produces an Xbox controller known as the MicroCON Control Pad, which looks similar to the Controller-S but has a few important differences, such as being slightly smaller, feeling more solid in the hands, having a more comfortable grip, and even employing a set of buttons that look and feel more reliable. One lady I talked to found the Air Flo EX controller from Nyko superior, with a design that promotes greater air circulation through the handgrips to reduce the "hot hands" experience.
No matter what controller you select for you Xbox gaming experience, all of them share a similar feature set. While some are highly specialized in design, like the Bass Champion Fishing Controller by Naki World, most look and respond very much like the stock Controller-S. It then becomes a question of color preference, special interest (such as wireless control), and personal preference. Some gamers have sweaty hands and may prefer the Air Flo EX by Nyko, while others may be perfectly happy with the control afforded them by the device supplied with the Xbox at purchase.