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X-Planations #3: Control Freaks
Written By: Nick Arvites

One of the major credible cries from Xbox critics has been the size and button placement of the original controller. Microsoft, in an attempt to fix this problem, introduced the S-Controller with the Japanese launch and subsequently brought it to the United States this spring. At first glance, it looks like it would be a much better controller. People started calling for this controller to be the standard issue and to throw the original in the trash can.

But wait! Iím here to tell you why the S-controller is not all its cracked up to be and why people should reconsider ditching their originals. Read on.

Microsoftís original controller went through countless comfort tests to get the correct positioning for trigger button and analog placements. This shows in every way with the exception of the angle of the A, B, X and Y buttons and the placement of the black and white buttons. The S-controller seems to have just shrunk the Xbox controller to make it an equivalent of the PS2 controller. However, the placement of the analog sticks are closer (making it uncomfortable to play dual analog games), the triggers are at a horrible angle so its difficult to play trigger dependent games and the D-pad is in a horrible position rendering it almost useless.

Granted, if youíre only using the action buttons and one analog stick, the S-controller is a good controller. However, many Xbox games require dual analog use and moderate to heavy trigger use. In reality, the S-controller is a spot starter, not a replacement as originally thought.

Sample Performance:

Halo: Hands down, use the original. The S-controller is simply not designed for heavy trigger use and dual analog. Halo thus is better with the original.

Dead or Alive 3: This is a toss up. I prefer the S-controllerís button placement with this game. Iím sure most people will also appreciate the S-controller due to the familiar button placements.

Amped: Initially, one would instantly say S-controller. However, after 10 minutes, I found myself unplugging the S-controller in favor of the original because of Ampedís dual analog control scheme.

Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2X and 3: The S-controller is superior if you can use the analog control. If youíre a slave to the D-pad, youíre out of luck since the S-controller D-pad is placed in an awkward position.

Any football, basketball, hockey and baseball title: S-controller hands down. A good 90% of sports games out there will almost require this controller to be comfortably playable.

Hunter: the Reckoning: Original controller. Heavy trigger use will pretty much rule out any chance of the S-controller. Add in dual analog features and youíre better off using the original.

Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind: This game cries out for the original controller. Since playing this game will likely take up hours at a time and it uses a dual analog setup, using the S-controller can actually be painful at worst and awkward at best.

While that is no complete list of game out there, it does prove my point. The S-controller is only good for sports and fighting games. If you own sports games, you should have at least one S-controller. However, the original still holds the title of best Xbox controller. It is simply easier to use with more games. Anyone that says otherwise has never actually used both controllers.

In the end, the decision on which controller to use is up to the consumer. It would be wise to look at what games you own before buying the S-controller, since it's far from the perfect solution.

Got a gripe? Send it to the XGF Mailbag.

Posted: 8-8-02
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