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As soon as the Valve Steam Controller (Check on Amazon.com) was announced the concept of haptic vibration (or Vibration 3.0) was lodged in my head. I wanted to try that madness as if there was no tomorrow, to see if it could make me feel like moving an analog stick underneath my fingertips.
In order to understand the why for all this, we have to focus on Steam Controller’s greater asset, the two discs (trackpads) that sit in place of the left analog stick and the face buttons on a normal Xbox One controller (Check on Amazon.com). They have a smooth surface, similar to all trackpads, so taking the controller in hand and sliding your thumbs across them offers no tactile response. In other words, the feedback of moving an analog stick from one side to the other is sorely missing.
Valve’s idea, however, is that these disks can work both as an analog stick and as a mouse (trackpad), as directional keys and as buttons, and in that amalgam of transformations the smooth surface of these disks must offer both sensations, a slick trackpad for pointing on a screen and a rough analog stick that lets you know when you move it. The key to all this is the haptic vibration.
The really important thing here is that it works like a charm offering that response to the movement of our thumbs. The less pleasant part is that we are all accustomed to a certain layout that gamepads have and this one does not resemble the other at all, so you will have to “relearn” everything for a few days.
The good thing is that once you get used to it, you can do almost anything you want with it. You can use it as if it were a mouse and a keyboard, or a double joystick gamepad, using your thumbs to control the camera movement, a slight wrist turn to aim with the weapons thanks to the motion sensor, and shoot your way through a multitude of enemies using the triggers and rear paddles? And you can either configure it yourself or by downloading templates published by other players.
Believe me when I tell you that this is reason enough for me to buy a Steam Controller and in fact, I own one. I think it’s a huge success and I look forward to the rest of the companies in the sector taking note of it.
Valve Steam controller – Verdict
I always preferred the Xbox 360 controller over the DualShock 3 and I am equally comfortable with the Xbox One controller (Check on Amazon.com) or the DualShock 4 (Check on Amazon.com) despite the general feeling that Microsoft’s is still a little ahead.
- Sony DualShock 4 review: tradition and innovation
- Microsoft Xbox One controller review: the gold standard for console and PC
I do not have especially large hands and my fingers are not too lengthy either, but I am grateful when the horns of a controller are large enough to allow me to rest my whole hand on them without any part being hung. For me, the Steam Controller (Check on Amazon.com) fails precisely there, offering “fat” but not especially longhorns, leaving a part of my palm “empty” and giving me a feeling of forced posture, forcing my thumbs to curl if I decide to embrace the controller higher up.
The user experience, on the other hand, was almost excellent. This gamepad is ideal for both RTS games and action titles but falls short in fighting games. The haptic feedback is good but it cannot replace a physical D-pad.
It is time for the controllers to adapt and probably the idea doesn’t convince most of you, but Valve’s first attempt is greatly appreciated and I personally applaud it. Maybe so should you.