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Steam Controller Review
Is the Steam Controller Worth a Buy?
The Steam Controller was announced earlier in the year, in conjunction with Steam Machines and later joined by Steam Link, a streaming gadget to allow you to play from your main gaming PC to any TV in the house that has a HDMI connection.
The question on mine and many other gamers minds was "do we really need another controller?"
The answered is maybe?
There are going to be a lot of photos in this article, please feel free to scroll on by to get to the text!
Looking Good So Far
Unboxing the Steam Controller
Right off the bat, the packaging impressed me. This is some seriously nice quality packaging and felt good in my hands. It is obvious a lot of thought has gone into the choice of materials to give a good first impression. The box is east to open without damaging it and once you get inside, it continues to impress with a great layout.
In the box you will find the Steam Controller, naturally, and USB cable with "dongle" and docking station and a couple of AA Duracel batteries.
AA Batteries? At this price point I was immediately disappointed to see that there was no built in LI-Ion battery or even an option for a battery pack. Due to the layout (the batteries are in the handles, see picture below) there seems to be little to no chance of a third party option, apart from standard rechargeable AAs which are not renowned for their battery life.
PackagingClick thumbnail to view full-size
So long as you have Steam installed, perhaps a bit of a no brainer, then installation is a breeze! Simply plug in the USB and dongle, turn on the controller and that's about it.
That being said, getting the controller up and running in games is not always so easy. Thankfully there is a warning message that pops up letting you know if there are no ready made profiles and allows you to create one that suits the game and your play style.
The Steam Controller
Hands on with the Steam Controller
In my opinion, and this might be controversial, the new Steam Controller feels cheap, which was a total surprise having seen the pictures on-line, and given the quality and presentation of the packing. The plastic feels nasty and on my particular example there is a nasty sharpness on the join line that runs around the middle of the controller. That said I am sure this will wear off with extended use. It just felt disappointing.
The haptic feedback is nice, and is especially welcome on the touch pads, the right side of which is used for mousing around in Big Screen Mode and for changing your view in 3rd person mode and aiming in 1st person.
My biggest criticism however comes with driving games. The triggers (usually used for brake and throttle) simply do not have enough travel for accurate control. They feel more like a digital input thanks to the short throw and this just does not work for me. To give a rough comparison the throw is about one half to one third of the travel on an Xbox One controller.
Button placement is odd, due to the large touch pad taking up so much room. Also, if your are using the thumbstick to its extreme right, and try to use the "x" button your thumbs may well clash together, which is simply unacceptable at this price point.
Is it Worth a Buy?
Let me be blunt, right now I don't hate the controller, but with an Xbox One controller right next to me I simply cannot find anything to recommend the Steam Controller.
The only thing it offers me is the ability to use the mouse pointer whilst sitting feet away from my desk by using the touch pad.
That being said, I realise that there is a huge learning curve with such a revolutionary controller. Perhaps my views will change when I use it with the new Steam Link which arrives next week. I also realise that I am in the minority, judging by the overwhelmingly positive feedback in Steam itself and on-line in general.
Maybe in its next iteration they will think to swap the touch pad and buttons around so ergonomically the controller actually works. This feels like step one in a long and ongoing design process, which makes this controller an expensive experiment for most gamers.