While the hustle and bustle of pro controller releases is yet to grapple with the new generation of PlayStation console, the market is taking the Xbox Series X|S release in its stride. Full cross-generational controller compatibility is a boon here, and the wired PowerA Fusion Xbox controller is perfectly suited to plugging into an Xbox Series X, Xbox One or even a PC, adding a smattering a pro features in a very competitively priced package – it’s half the price of the official Xbox Elite Series 2.
The PowerA Fusion immediately feels nice in the hand as you pick it up. It mimics the shape of Microsoft’s own Xbox controllers pretty closely, but with slightly smoother lines around the hand grips and from the triggers to shoulder buttons. It’s essentially the same size and dimensions, give or take a millimetre here and there, but has an added heft to it at 370g (with paddles) compared to the Xbox Series X controller’s 300g (with batteries). It will also feel different in the hands thanks to the soft touch upper shell and waffled, rubberised underside to the handgrips.
It’s a good match and alternative to Microsoft’s controllers, the four face buttons having the same definitive feeling press, the chunky triggers and tapered shoulder buttons feeling equivalent, and the analogue sticks featuring the same indent and roughly textured outer rim. The D-pad has the same kind of button feel as ABXY do, meaning it somewhere between the ultra-low travel and clickiness of Microsoft’s controllers and the squidginess of the DualShock 4 controller. I just wish it was a little more definitive for diagonal directions.
As a pro controller, it’s heavily customisable. There are hair trigger stops, giving you three settings for each trigger that reduce the trigger travel by 25% or 50%, you can swap out the analogue sticks for a taller version or a domed top, and there’s also optional back paddles so you can use twice as many digits to help you get an advantage in a tight battle.
The problem is that, as you actually try to use all of this, the product as a whole doesn’t always feel as well thought out as you’d want from a premium product.
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the silver outlines to all of the face buttons and sticks (which act as friction reducers here), and there’s an odd dimple in the bottom of the Xbox button – minor things, I know. Replacing the sticks is, at least, satisfying and very secure; you prise the front face plate off from the magnets securing it and then swap out the stick and plastic dome as a whole, instead of the Xbox Elite Controller’s magnetic stick tops (which are easily removed and lost).
Round the back, you have the optional back buttons, which take on the flappy paddle form popularised by SCUF and the Elite Controller. They aren’t attached by default, but rather come separately in the hardshell case supplied with the controller. It’s a doddle to attach them though (removing a placeholder panel first), and they’re easy to customise further, potentially removing paddles so you only have two. They’re also easy to program and customise for whatever you need them to do, by tapping a programming button then the desired button to duplicate, and then corresponding paddle. I always take issue with games that put a key function on the click of an analogue stick (this feels icky to me and after a few months use, it’s too easy to accidentally click the stick in a high intensity moment).
The thing is, if you’re using the hard case to store the controller in, it’s moulded to fit the controller without the back paddles, and the back paddles are kept in place by a foam block. It means you have to remove one of the main reasons to buy the controller just to tidy it away. Since you can just remove the individual paddles, it would have been to fully incorporate the back buttons into the body of the controller and just let you take the paddles off. PowerA may have been forced down this path by patented designs, but it’s not a great user experience either way.
Speaking of which, let’s talk about the micro USB cable. It’s a nice 3m long, braided cable that is very nicely secured in a recessed port. About 12″ from the USB-A end you connect to your Xbox or PC, you can break it off with a proprietary looking connector, making it fairly easy to leave that connected around the back of your device and hook it back up when you want to play. If you want to put the controller back into that case, though? Well, prepare your fingers and thumbs for the most pain this side of a paper cut. The micro-USB end has securing hooks that need to be depressed with a great deal of pressure in a tight space, also while pulling out the cable which feels like it’s been secured with glue.
It all just detracts from the experience of a controller that’s otherwise a solid alternative for Xbox gamers. It has all the features of an Xbox Elite Series 2 controller (outside of wireless play), and costs less than half the price – With an RRP of £80. If you’re happy to ignore the supplied carry case and just have a mass of cables between your controller and console even when not in use, then that’s a bargain.