The new Xbox 360 controller, codenamed ‘Aberdeen’, is out now. I’ve had a bit of time with one and while there isn’t a lot of difference between this and the standard controller, the new D-Pad does make a difference.
The new D-Pad might be the headline feature but there’s something to be said about the styling differences too. Gone are the garish colours of the face buttons, replaced with a subdued palette of greys. It looks classy, which is an odd thing to say about a controller. The brushed silver finish accentuates the darker input buttons and sticks (which are also very slightly different) too.
The seemingly endless and largely futile debate about whether the 360 or PS3 controller is better may still be raging but I’ve always been firmly on the side of the PS3 controller. It has always felt like it has a little better build quality than its Microsoft counterpart and the more subtle styling has always appealed to me. I much prefer the sticks and triggers on the 360 pad but the D-Pad and feeling of the face buttons have always felt better on the PS3 controllers. The Aberdeen pad goes some way to addressing those disparities.
So, putting the differences in styling aside for a moment, the sticks have been altered very slightly. They are still concave but the four directional dots that stand out on the traditional sticks are gone. Their replacement is a slightly deeper concave thumb rest and a tiny ridge that runs the whole circumference of it.[drop]The D-Pad, though, is the biggest change. In its default position it feels almost identical to the old style D-Pad but a quick quarter turn in either way lowers the surrounding quadrants around the central cross shape and gives you much more traction. It’s a very minor difference. The movement is still slightly more ‘floaty’ than I would like although it is a little easier to direct, perhaps less ‘spongy’.
I tried the new D-Pad is a wide variety of situations and its usefulness ranged from negligible (selecting visor, explosives in Crysis 2) to mildly useful (directing players in Sensible Soccer from XBLA). Would I recommend it? Yes, if you need new (Play and Charge kit only) controllers then why not go for this one? If you’re thinking it’s worth the outlay just to replace your existing controllers, though, you’re not likely to find enough of a difference to warrant the expense.