On November 4, 2019, Microsoft released the Xbox Elite Controller Series 2, despite sources saying the device won’t launch until November 15, 2019. While the controller is largely similar to its 2015 predecessor, the overall feel, utility, and dexterity have improved.
Microsoft’s first Elite Controller released on October 27, 2015. The accessory gave gamers more control over the designated commands each button performs when an input is registered, as well as additional buttons in the form of “paddles” on the controller’s rear surface. Moreover, the analog sticks and D-pad could be switched out for a different feel depending on the user’s preferences.
Just like the previous Elite Controller, the Series 2 accessory offers a few different thumbstick styles. The first two pairs are similar in that they offer a standard, indented feel. However, they differ in that one offers a texturized grip while the other offers a wider, smoother feel. The former is the standard thumbstick for most Xbox One controllers and seems better when performing tasks that require heavy use of the thumbsticks, especially if one is prone to sweaty fingers, while the latter provides support for those with drier skin or less intensive use.
The last two joysticks are solo artists that can be used in conjunction with any of the other pieces. The first is a longer version of the standard thumbstick, indented and texturized, while the second is standard in size but is the inverse of every other aforementioned analog stick in that it is not indented. Rather, it feels like a rubber mound with swirls that help prevent one’s thumb from sliding too much.
Players can use any setup they desire, from the standard thumbsticks to a mix-and-match layout. The thumbsticks are easy to change out, as they simply lift off with a slight tug or reconnect by sliding them on the proper position with a magnetic snap.
The Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 D-pad offers two options: The traditional cross or a grid-like circle. The traditional cross, as already implied, is the standard setup for an Xbox controller and is a useful tool for certain aspects of any game (usually navigating menus or accessing miscellaneous features in a game, such as inventory or selecting abilities).
However, the grid-like circle provides users with creased representation of each direction (i.e. the grid), portraying not only north, south, east, and west, but also northwest, northeast, southwest, and southeast. This makes jumping attacks in fighting games (Injustice 2, Mortal Kombat 11, Soul Calibur VI, etc.) far smoother, simplifying combos and leaving players without that pesky feeling of dread when they don’t hit the D-pad’s up and left directions simultaneously, thereby messing up their input commands.
Four paddles are located on the controller’s backside. The paddles serve as additional buttons that can be assigned to any form of input in the Xbox Accessories app.
Players can use the paddles to replace the ABXY buttons’ functionality or give them a new responsibility altogether, such as adjusting one’s TV volume (if one’s Xbox is paired with their TV in the console’s settings), or telling the Xbox to record something, if they’re not needed in some other way for the game one is playing. Beyond miscellaneous uses, the paddles can be used as additional triggers in an FPS, ability buttons in an RPG, or a myriad of other inputs.
Moreover, the paddles do not feel as flimsy as the Series 2’s predecessor. Despite the ease with which gamers can lift the paddles out of their slots (if desired), the paddles sink firmly into their assigned slots on the controller’s rear due to magnetism that keeps them in place. They’re much harder to accidentally remove than the ones on the previous Elite Controller and don’t feel as though they will break as easily. In a nutshell, they seem to be made with a much more durable material.
Like its precursor, the Elite Controller Series 2 contains adjustable trigger locks. These locks have three settings and are engaged via a switch on the rear face of the controller, above the paddles and beside the grips. The first setting is the disengaged setting, meaning there is no lock. This is the setting one would use when playing with a standard controller, giving players the ability to press the triggers all the way down. Perfect for racing games, such as Need for Speed: Heat or Forza Horizon 4.
The second setting is a medium lock, allowing players to press the triggers about halfway down. This setting is great for first-person shooters or fighting games, as a quicker press of the triggers results in faster aiming and firing in games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, or swifter activation of ultimate abilities in games like Injustice 2.
Setting three is the highest lock, only allowing for a mild press of the triggers to compress them about 25% of the way down (if that). This is a great setting for shooters, resulting in the quickest aiming and firing and eliminating that split second of a release so the triggers are ready to be pressed again more rapidly.
While the trigger locks are overall useful and well-made, they are a little stiff, forcing players to exert a little effort into changing the locks’ setting. The logic behind this rigidity presumably has a lot to do with Microsoft trying to help gamers avoid the accidental switching of the lock’s setting by bumping into it with their fingers. However, with the way most people hold their controllers and the sufficient distance between the locks’ switches and the Elite Controller 2’s paddles, an accidental switch is highly unlikely.
Aside from a bit of stiffness, the trigger locks are highly functional and add a lot of value for competitive gamers, particularly in first-person shooters.
The standard Xbox One controller’s handles are smooth, which can often be a problem for gamers who are susceptible to sweaty hands. With the Xbox Elite Controller Series 2, however, this problem is somewhat corrected with the handles’ rubber, texturized grips.
Even if one is not vulnerable to sweaty palms, the texturized grips offer more stability, flat out feeling comfortable in one’s hands. This stability allows for quicker use of the controller’s other features and hardware, as gamers don’t have to worry about it shooting out of their hands every time they shift in their seat or rage at the indignance of losing a match (unless they throw it, which will definitely void the warranty).
The Elite Controller Series 2 can store up to three different profiles on the controller itself. Players can customize these profiles to suit their needs, and can freely switch between them with the press of a button. Examples include a first-person shooter profile, a fighting game profile, and an MMORPG profile. Depending on what kind of game one is playing, fans only need to press the center button and the controller’s buttons will automatically be remapped to suit the player’s needs.
Moreover, gamers can store additional profiles in the cloud and swap them out at their leisure (as long as they’re connected to the Internet, of course). This allows users to have hundreds of controller settings available to them at any given time, making their gameplay much smoother and more efficient. Useful for the consumer who plays a bit of everything.
The controller’s battery lasts a long time and can be recharged with the USB-C cable provided in the box. In addition, a dock is provided, and players can place the controller on the dock and plug the charging cable into the dock or directly into the controller to charge it. Only time will tell if the battery continues to have a long life after extensive use, but so far, it has been a convenient piece of hardware suitable for several sessions of many hours apiece.
The original Xbox Elite Controller, while a useful tool and fan-favorite, had a lot of hardware issues, such as flimsy paddles that would often break or problems syncing with consoles. So far, the follow-up version of a competitive gamer’s favorite accessory seems to remedy these issues.
With all the same functionality as its predecessor, Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 improves upon these features with better hardware that will also feel familiar to fans who used the first Elite Controller. The device isn’t perfect, but if somewhat stiff trigger locks are the only gripe so far, Microsoft seems to be on the right track with upping their accessory game.