You’ve stared at the price. $199.95. That’s a hell of a lot of money. The standard Xbox One controller costs around $80. The Xbox 360 controller works perfectly fine.
Why the hell would you consider shelling out that much on a controller — especially if you’re playing on PC? Well, as it turns out, there are plenty of reasons. Here’s five games that might make you reconsider.
Before we start, it’s worth noting that you’ll get the most out of the Xbox Elite controller on PC if you’re running Windows 10. It’s perfectly functional on older versions of Windows — as long as you install the Xbox One driver from the Major Nelson blog, it runs without a hitch — but the Xbox Accessories app on Win10 will let you remap the controls, which you’ll want to do (since the paddles on the back are originally bound to the face buttons, which isn’t much help).
With that out of the way, let’s begin.
Sure, you could be playing Project CARS on a console, but then you’d be missing out on the wonderful frame rate, 144hz monitors and the gorgeous effects that the PC can dial up to 11. Unfortunately, if you’ve got a rig that can do all that, then you might find yourself lacking the many hundreds of dollars required for a suitable racing wheel.
I played about 50 hours of pCARS before hitting the wall that inevitably happens when playing a simulation racer with the stock standard Xbox One controller. The Xbox Elite controller is much more suited to the task, though. Having the paddles on the back of the controller, like the many excellent third-party controllers have in the past, is infinitely nicer for shifting gears.
Even if you want to stick to using the bumpers for gears, that works just fine too. Microsoft has made the bumpers far less rigid on the Elite controller, correcting one of the greatest annoyances with the Xbox One pad. You can also ensure that DRS and KERS are bound to the paddles, saving the annoyance of having to remove your thumb from the steering to perfectly time that extra bit of boost.
Ultra Street Fighter 4
The D-Pad on the Xbox One controller is actually pretty good. If you want to keep using that for fighters on PC with the Xbox Elite you can keep doing that, since the original D-Pad is included in the little case along with two sets of replacement thumb sticks.
But the Elite’s inverted D-Pad, which looks a bit like how a silver plate might have been rendered in polygons in a early 1990’s game, has just as much flexibility, is more comfortable for your thumb and ultimately a better tool for fighting games. USF4 has a decent player base on PC too, and being able to remap the high kick/punch (or throw/focus attack) to the paddles makes the experience a lot more comfortable.
Alternatively, you could map two of the paddles to left and right on the D-pad (for fast dashing), while having the throw and focus attack buttons mapped to the other two. That would enable you to use the analogue stick and still dash with ease. You’re probably still better off using a fighting stick, but the controller is more practical for a wider range of games than a fighting stick would be.
Sublevel Zero is a recent six degrees of freedom indie roguelike that left Early Access about a month ago, and it’s one of the few games on the horizon to really channel that Descent vibe. Descent: Underground won’t be around for a while, having only just gone into EA itself a few weeks ago.
But Sublevel Zero highlights a really interesting problem that flight games have on gamepads — the inability to smoothly have roll, pitch and yaw bound without breaking the flow of the game. Often you’ll have to take your hand off the stick to roll, which breaks up the flow of the game and ruins the experience somewhat.
You can even use the same profile for fighting games here, since roll is often mapped to the D-pad. That leaves aiming, strafing and traditional movement to the left and right sticks, making for a more enjoyable game than you’d ordinarily have with any other controller.
It’s similar territory to Sublevel Zero, although Elite: Dangerous — and you can lump Star Citizen in here as well, since the game is designed for gamepads too — is distinct enough and expansive enough that it warrants a mention.
The game’s actually designed to be used with an Xbox controller. Not exclusively, of course, but Frontier did push out an Early Access-esque build of E:D to Xbox One earlier this year. It’s also infinitely easier to justify dropping $200 on a Xbox Elite that can be used to play a variety of games, Elite: Dangerous included, as opposed to spending the hundreds on a HOTAS setup and only being able to play E:D, Star Citizen and occasional rounds of X-Wing vs TIE Fighter. Or Evochron Mercenary. Or Hardwar. Or Forsaken. (You get the idea.)
The rolling issue with Sublevel Zero/Descent: Underground comes in handy here too, particularly if you need to make some last-second adjustments while docking. And while this counts for all the games, it helps that the Xbox Elite feels nice and weighty — just like a piece of equipment in a space-craft should.
Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin
You don’t really play Dark Souls on PC with mouse and keyboard. I mean, you could. There’s certainly nothing stopping you. But it’s a terrible, woeful experience, and you’re much better served by picking up a controller instead.
It goes without saying that the ability to remap controls to your will can make some of the various actions much simpler, particularly if you want to run without the pain-inducing tradition of pushing in the left thumb stick. Being able to switch weapons without having to flick to the D-pad can be a lifesaver if you’re managing minuscule attack windows, particularly with Scholar of the First Sin’s added difficulty.
There’s also a whole raft of other games that are far superior with the Xbox Elite controller than the Xbox One or PS4 pad on PC. I thought about mentioning a few shooters, considering the portion of gamers who aren’t physically capable of using a mouse and keyboard for various reasons, and there are plenty of other games similar to the ones above such as Next Car Game: Wreckfest, Skullgirls, F1 2015 or the GRID series. It’s also worth noting that those with Xbox One’s can stream games to their Windows 10 PC, so you could conceivably include titles like Halo 5: Guardians and Forza 6 as well.
What games on PC do you prefer to play with a controller — and what games do you think would best benefit from having the accessibility of the paddles on the back, the hair-triggers or the greater surface of the D-pad?