When playing a video game on computers, it is increasingly beneficial for many of these to use a video game controller.
Not all video games derive much of a benefit from this; for example, you are going to have a much better time playing something like Sid Meier’s Civilization VI on PC with a keyboard and mouse than you are with any kind of controller. But for the kinds of games like Call of Duty: World War II or NieR Automata, a controller is paramount to having the best experience that you possibly can have.
The problem is though, what controller do you get? To try and narrow it down, we are going to examine two of the more popular ones: the Xbox 360 wired controller and the Steam controller.
Microsoft Xbox 360 Wired Controller
The Xbox 360 controller, back before the Steam controller was released, was considered “the standard” for PC gaming controllers. This was due to a number of factors. Perhaps the most notable one is that the Xbox 360’s controller was simply the best controller of its generation.
It was a pretty standard style of controller, for example. It has a standard four face button layout on the top right side, with ABXY (though in different places than Nintendo controllers which bugs the heck out of me!).
It also has a pair of joysticks, one diagonally downward from the face buttons and the other diagonally upward from the d-pad. It also has star and select, and four shoulder buttons called the L/R Bumpers and L/R Triggers. Another big perk of the controller is that the size and shape was a lot different from the unwieldy large Xbox controller.
This was unlike the too teeny tiny PS3 controller and the… well, Wii Remote and Nunchuk, which are entirely too situational to work as a substitute. It definitely also helps that Microsoft is a primarily computer company over a video game company, meaning that they know how a controller could and should work for a computer.
More recently, we have seen the advent of the Steam controller, created by the video game developer and Steam owner Valve. Upon first examination, the Steam controller seems really off the wall.
On the bottom of the controller is the standard stuff, a stick and four buttons. It also has buttons on the top of the controller, though there are a number more than you expect on a controller. What really makes the thing stand out however is its twin touch pads that go where the joystick and face buttons often go.
So as far as controllers go, this is not something that a lot of gamers are used to seeing. The use of touch pads are a decent alternative to mouse and keyboard if they are not your thing, and they certainly make it a bit better for use with strategy games, like the aforementioned Sid Meier’s Civilization VI.
Plus, by having more buttons than most controllers, this allows you to have a lot more control over things, such as key bindings. They both have their positives, but what sets them apart from each other and further justifies them?
How do they compare?
To start with, the Xbox 360 controller is a solid controller, but it is not necessarily everybody’s cup of tea.
As I mentioned above, I cannot stand that the face buttons are arranged the way they are, as it makes it somewhat difficult to go back and forth between Nintendo controllers and the Xbox 360 controller.
Another problem is that it uses batteries, which unless you have a battery pack, may prove to be a bit of a nuisance. Another big issue, perhaps the biggest issue that I have with the controller, is that the d-pad is not all that great.
For 2D games, which I own a lot of on platforms such as Steam and GOG.com, I like to use a solid d-pad to play them. With the Xbox 360, its d-pad is pretty mushy, and not nearly as responsive as I would like.
Other than the d-pad, the batteries, and the at-times awkward face buttons, I find the Xbox 360 controller to be a pretty good one. Not as good as the eventual Xbox One controller, but it definitely has its value.
On the other hand, as mentioned, the Steam Controller has its benefits as well.
As discussed, as far as controllers go, the Steam Controller is well suited to playing strategy games. The problem is that it does not have a great amount of versatility.
I mean, sure, it definitely has that going for it, but I would almost never recommending a controller like this – or any controller for that matter – in place of simply controlling everything with a keyboard and mouse. For as good as they did designing these touchpads, the touchpads just cannot make up for the precision and control you have when using a mouse and keyboard.
The buttons are not nearly as good as the Xbox 360 controller’s buttons either, as they are just a little bit too small. However, despite the size, they are at least good for what they are. So if you have smaller hands and fingers, this could be a more optimal choice.
But for me, the biggest downside over the Xbox 360 is that the controller is just not that comfortable to control for a long period of time, and the utilization of it for many games is lacking.
So if you want a gaming controller that can do a lot more in a lot more games, the Xbox 360 controller is likely your best bet.
It is a lot more comfortable to play, and while it does not have a very good d-pad, the Steam Controller does not even have one. The Xbox 360 controller is especially a good pick over the Steam controller if cost is a factor.
The Steam controller retails at a higher price than the Xbox 360 controller. Perhaps if the Steam Controller is improved further to be more versatile, but as is this is your best bet.