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ups: Smaller size; raised cross direction pad; alternate button layout.
downs: f you didn't mind the old controller, not much reason to switch.

Xbox Controller S Review (Xbox)
five star
posted by: Shawn Rider
publisher: Xbox
date posted: 09:10 AM Sat Jun 1st, 2002

Microsoft has released the Xbox Controller S ? a much smaller version of their original behemoth controller. Just a few weeks after its release, the Controller S was shown all over E3, definitely the preference of many developers working on Xbox titles. It's no wonder the new controller has been so readily accepted ? one of the most vocal complaints from Xbox supporters and detractors alike is that the controller is too large. I, for one, like the original size and button configuration. It's not that I have very large hands, but for some reason the original controller fits me nicely and helps prevent hand cramps after serious gaming sessions. Still, I applaud Microsoft for listening to their audience and putting out an official controller which addresses all of the complaints about their original.

Of course the first complaint is about the size. The original Xbox controller is quite large, designed in large part based on the Dreamcast controller. The Controller S is a compact little package, about the size of Sony's DualShock II controllers. The giant X logo in the middle of the controller has been replaced by a much smaller X logo, and that seems to make all the difference. To accommodate the smaller size, the Back and Start buttons have been moved to the lower left corner of the controller. This change is a bit awkward at first, but not a problem once you become used to it (and how often are Start and Back used in a game?). The black and white buttons have also been moved ? to the lower right side of the controller. Again, this is weird if you're used to the original configuration, but easy to acclimate to.

But size wasn't the only issue with the Xbox controller. On the original game pad, Microsoft used the same style direction pad they had used on their PC controllers. This style of d-pad has divots instead of the more standard raised cross, and some people just couldn't get used to that. Responding to the cry for a raised cross direction pad, Microsoft endowed the Controller S with a much more traditional looking button. This should make the fighting game fans and the wimpier THPS players pretty happy.

In addition to the new direction pad, Microsoft made the tops of both analog joysticks the same ? apparently the concave versus convex joysticks on the original got in the way? This is the only change I don't really understand, but so be it ? both sticks still work just fine. The last thing Microsoft changed is the A, B, X, Y button configuration. On the original controller, the buttons are configured in an irregular diamond shape. On most other console system controllers (okay, on Sony's controller, which everyone loves) the buttons are arranged in a more regular diamond shape. Some gamers also complained that the tops of the A, B, X, Y buttons themselves were a problem, being fairly steeply angled on the original controller. Microsoft has addressed this by making the buttons on Controller S much flatter and a bit wider.

Microsoft has answered all of the complaints about their original controller. As many Xbox owners will tell you, the controller wasn't such an issue ? once you got used to the original it worked just fine. However, there was always a vocal group of disgruntled gamers, and more importantly, the perceived discomfort of the original controller was often being used to justify not even trying an Xbox. Clearly Microsoft saw this problem and they have succeeded in solving it. In doing so, they have also remained true to their commitment to support their gamers. Since the beginning of Xbox development, Microsoft's governing credo has been to put the gamer first. The Xbox controllers are still the only ones with a nine foot cord, and you'd be hard pressed to find beefier, more solid first party controllers on any system. If your Xbox controller has been giving you a hard time, or if you just could never bring yourself to really get close to it, check out the Controller S. Choice is never a bad thing, and one of these controllers will make you a happy gamer.