With Sony opening the door to third-party pro controllers in 2016, a few rivals for the market soon emerged to challenge SCUF’s dominance of the custom controller market. Time marches onward, and while SCUF and Nacon followed up with sequels last year, it’s only in the last couple of months that Razer have responded with their own follow ups, the Raiju Ultimate and Raiju Tournament Edition. We’ve been putting the Ultimate version through its paces over the last few weeks.
The Raiju design is on the chunkier side of what I’d want a controller to be. It’s certainly much larger than a DualShock 4, while the boxier design makes it feel like it’s going beyond the Xbox One controller in size as well, even if it’s actually not that great a difference. Even so, it’s still more than comfortable to hold for those with fairly large hands, and the textured rubber grips and soft touch rubber body makes it easy to grasp even in the most stressful gaming scenario.
The build quality feels really nice, as you’d hope. The analogue sticks are so smooth to twiddle around, with practically no dead zone to be found in their movement and a rubber rim around the base both looking more premium and reducing a minor point of wear and tear. They do take some getting used to though. The tension within the stick is lower than in the DualShock 4, and the speed at which it springs back to centre is slightly slower and looser because of this. These sticks feel intended for staying under your thumbs, instead of letting go and flicking them back and forth.
You also have fuller Xbox-style triggers, which are much nicer to use than those on the DualShock 4. The one area where it possibly doesn’t feel as nice is with the smaller, more clicky face buttons. The travel is perhaps ever-so-slightly reduced compared to a DS4, and the click feels more definite, but I have a fondness for the flatter faces and slight squidginess of the stock controller.
This being a pro controller geared towards the esports crowd, there’s a ton of professional gamer functionality. You have hair trigger switches for both triggers, reducing the travel before they, well, trigger. You also have four additional buttons – two on the rear beneath your middle or ring fingers, and two more on the top, between the triggers and easily tapped by your index finger – and these can be programmed to reproduce any of the other buttons on the controller. There’s a few defaults, but it means you can keep your fingers on the two analogue sticks, letting you more easily slide and turn as you go round a corner in a shooter, or having gear shifts on free fingers in a racing game. You can even have a “sensitivity clutch” to reduce the sensitivity of either or both sticks when they’re pressed.
It’s up to you, thanks to an iOS and Android app that can tweak the extra button mapping, adjust the rumble strength and fiddling with the controller’s lights. Four of these profiles can be saved to the controller and switched between on the fly – the Tournament Edition only has the one on board profile at any time.
Opening the box you find the controller in a lovely little carry case, letting you take it on the go and keep it protected – it’s a soft case though, so too much pressure and those analogue sticks will click in. There’s an internal pouch that the provided USB cable just about tucks into, while the space between the handgrips is filled with foam that has a few custom elements embedded within.
The D-pad and the analogue sticks can be removed and swapped out on the fly. The D-Pad can be switched from individual buttons to a tilting circle that’s geared toward fighting fans, while the analogue stick tops can be swapped for a soft rubber dome and a similarly indented top that’s raised up, allowing for more sensitive motions within the wider arc it creates. However, you only have one of each of the additional analogue sticks, reducing the options available to you – by comparison, the Xbox Elite Controller comes with two of each. Coming in at a cool £200, you expect comprehensive features and simple perfection from a premium game controller. In this and other areas the Raiju Ultimate doesn’t quite live up to that price.
It touts a trio of connectivity options, with a toggle switch on the rear of the controller letting you switch between Bluetooth to PS4, Bluetooth to PC and a platform agnostic wired mode. It’s great to have wireless in there, and the battery life feels like it’s a step beyond the stock DualShock 4, rated for 11 hours with the Chroma lighting effects turned on.
However, it’s not the best Bluetooth for PlayStation owners. Sony only allow third parties to run at around 12ms of latency, while going lower with their own controller. That can feel noticeable depending on the pace and sensitivity of a game, but potentially more awkward is that the Bluetooth connection isn’t quite as strong, and unable to reliably punch through the cheap metal grating on my TV cabinet. I can simply open the door or play wired to resolve the problem, but it’s susceptible to interference in certain situations.
More minor annoyances come from Sony not affording third parties the same access their own peripherals enjoy. To pair the controller, you need to use a DualShock 4 or USB keyboard to navigate the system settings, and you can only use the Raiju’s headset jack when in wired mode (this is true on on PC as well). The Razer Chroma lighting strip around the Touchpad is actually quite lovely, offering a vast array of colours that can shift constantly, pulse to actions and with rumble… or simply be turned off to save battery. What you can’t do is have them match the colours that the console and games would pass to a DualShock 4. Chroma is much more visible than the tiny strip of light you get on the updated DS4, and could have been useful for those games that highlight when your abilities are ready or health is low. It’s a missed opportunity for both Razer and Sony.
Of course, for pro gamers, most of these flaws won’t matter. They’ll be playing over USB to cut out every millisecond of latency possible, piping audio through a custom set up, using the one raised analogue stick for aiming, and the lighting effects mean nothing when you’re staring so intently at the screen.
There’s a bit of an upsell to the Raiju Ultimate over the Raiju Tournament Edition that launched alongside it. The main body of both is identical in design, they both feature the same Mecha-Tactile buttons, touch pad, triggers and the four customisable buttons, but the £50 price different is a little tricky for me to justify. The swappable analogue sticks and D-pad are nice, but I ended up preferring the default sticks, the Chroma lighting is fun and flashy, but I’d likely turn it off without in-game functionality for improved battery life. The Ultimate features four onboard button mapping profiles, but the biggest deciding factor between the two is the stick layout, with the Ultimate featuring PlayStation’s traditional symmetry, while the Tournament Edition adopt’s Xbox’s asymmetry.
The Raiju Ultimate is a great controller geared toward the pro esports market, and with more than enough customisability to really tune it to what you want on a game-by-game basis. A few issues and missed opportunities spoil the perfection that you’d expect for the £200 price tag, especially for more casual players, but for those that demand the absolute best and play over USB, this or the cheaper Tournament Edition are certainly worth it.