Razer's third-generation Xbox controller, the Wildcat is positioned as an alternative to Microsoft's Xbox One Elite Wireless Controller. It is indeed a different way to pay $US150 ($198) to control Xbox One and PC games, just not necessarily a better one.
I love third-party console controllers, specifically third-party wired controllers. In these days of wireless game pads with rechargeable batteries requiring specific USB cables and other such nonsense, I love having a wire running from my game console to an input device that I don't have to worry much about.
My go-to third party controller makers on the Xbox side for the past couple of years have been Razer and PowerA, the former for quality and comfort, the latter for value. If I need a controller for my kids to beat the hell out of, that's PowerA. If I want something a bit nicer that I know the kids won't touch, it's Razer.
That said, the reason this review is full of promo shots is I spilled my scented wax burner all over the controller yesterday. Nothing is safe/ Both controller makers responded to Microsoft's excellent $US150 ($198) Elite Wireless Controller in their own special way. PowerA released the Fusion Pro Wired Controller, an extravagant $US70 ($93) affair featuring coloured LED lighting and four extra programmable buttons on the back. It's nice and subdued, a bit plastic-y but sturdy and dependable in a let the kids play with it sort of way.
Razer, on the other hand, went all-in. They responded with a $US150 ($198) tournament style controller of their own, with a zippered case, four extra trigger buttons (two removable), a fancy control panel and optional padded grips and thumbstick covers.
Going head-to-head, dollar-for-dollar might not have been the best idea.
The Wildcat is an excellent controller. It's nice and lightweight for a tournament controller without feeling cheap. The sticks are responsive. The face buttons have a lovely click to them, while the standard shoulder buttons offer smooth resistance.
The Wildcat's four extra buttons are easy to program on the fly, thanks to that convenient control panel at the button of the pad. Hold down the program key, hold down one of the extra trigger or extra shoulder buttons, hit the input you want to assign to them and you're done. Two separate profiles can be saved at once using the control pad, with additional buttons for handling headset and mic controls.
The Wildcat's pretty much an evolution of the Razer Sabertooth Xbox 360 Elite controller, though that earlier model had four removable triggers instead of two and a built-in LED display to assist in programming. Also the Sabertooth debuted at $US80 ($106) instead of $US150 ($198) and didn't try to make me apply stickers.
Let's talk about those stickers/ The green bits around the grips of the controller? Those are a pair of stickers the user has to apply. They are soft and slightly spongy. Without these applied the controller feels pretty great. With them applied it feels pretty great with stupid soft and spongy stickers applied.
I started out using the Wildcat without the grips, so I got used to the lightly textured plastic. It reminded me of my Sabertooth. After attempting to apply the stickers incorrectly a few times I got them into a somewhat comfortable position. Then I played a few games, peeled them off and tossed them.
The optional thumbstick covers are just great, adding precise comfort to a pair of excellent analogue controls. The optional grips transform the look and feel of the controller in a way that felt awkward and cheap. The grip of a $US150 ($198) game controller should not depend on my ability to apply a sticker.
And really it doesn't. It's just that every promo picture of this thing aside from the accessories shot shows the stickers applied perfectly. The controller feels great without them, either way. Just not quite as good as Microsoft's Xbox One Elite Wireless controller.
It's a comparison that has to be made. Microsoft released a $US150 ($198) controller, Razer releases a $US150 ($198) controller. Razer's offering is expertly engineered, but Microsoft's controller is the work of dark engineering magic. Razer's plastic is soft and comfortable. Microsoft's feels like being licked by a thousand tiny angels. Razer's analogue sticks are smooth and responsive. Microsoft's sticks are downright creamy and delicious. Microsoft's extra bits pop on and off easily thanks to the power of magnets. Razer's removable real triggers — the only bits that come off — have to be unscrewed using a special tool.
It's the difference between a low-end luxury car and a higher-end economy model. The luxury model might not have all of the bells and whistles packed into the economy car, but where the rubber meets the road it just feels better.
I really enjoy using the Wildcat. Had I not accidentally coated it with scented wax it would have become my go-to wired Xbox One solution (I'm still scraping, fingers crossed it's still functional). Were the price slightly lower I'd recommend it in a heartbeat, stickers and all. Had Razer positioned the controller as a less expensive alternative to Microsoft's offering, the decision would be easy. It's still easy, just not in Razer's favour.