Up For Debate - Is The Steam Controller Any Good?

Written by Jon Sutton on Sat, Jun 11, 2016 2:00 PM

The Steam Controller has been out for a good long while now. Love it or hate it, there’s no denying Valve created one of the most radical mainstream controller designs in recent memory. If you’ve had an interest in then you’ve probably had time to pick one up; at least 500,000 of you according to Valve. But where do you stand of this weird mish-mash of console gamepad and PC gaming?

By comparison to its initial reveal you could possibly argue the final revision of the Steam Controller is a little conservative. That telltale left thumbstick which appeared is a taciturn nod towards what we all know - certain games just play great with a traditional gamepad layout. You can see through every revision how Valve found itself moving closer and closer to the norm, but there’s still enough there to make the Steam Controller a real oddity.

The main difference is of course the two trackpads. Utilising haptic feedback for responsiveness, users can trace movements with a mouse-like degree of efficiency. Perhaps not quite, but certainly faster and more accurately than a traditional controller.

This is backed up by dual-stage buttons, 100% remappable controls, and no less than six triggers on the back for use with complex control schemes.

Valve touted it as being a controller which is compatible with every game on Steam, and they’re not wrong. The Steam Controller is indeed usable in each and every game, albeit with varying degrees of success.

But does this cause the Steam Controller to be the jack of all trades, master of none? Are you at a disadvantage in both mouse and keyboard-centric games and those focus on gamepads? Is there game at all which is best played on a Steam Controller? Over to you GD’ers, what do you think of Valve’s admittedly bizarre Steam Controller? Let us know!

Have you bought a Steam Controller?

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04:09 Jun-16-2016

was really curious to see what people thought of the steam controller, some what surprised at just how strong the no never vote is, thought more people would have liked it

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12:42 Jun-13-2016

A lot of the things they did with the steam controller were great, the triggers and button customisation options are fantastic. But coming from a controller like the xbox controller, or even from a mouse and keyboard, it's a compromise

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12:46 Jun-13-2016

It doesn't do mouse as well as a mouse would. and doesn't do thumbstick as well as a controller. I like it, but i'm a little disappointed with the lack of accurate tactile feedback on the right touch pad.

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12:49 Jun-13-2016

as a steering wheel or gyro flight controller it plays amazingly, for slow paced or turn based strategy games it works well, but it won't replace an xbox controller or K&M for games where precision is key

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14:00 Jun-13-2016

Exactly as I said too - it tries to do both but hovers in the middle ground doing well with neither :)

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00:42 Jun-13-2016

I've got my lunar white edition Xbox One controller and I don't ever plan on replacing it anytime soon.

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09:33 Jun-12-2016

what steam should be making are Flight Sticks, I can see many awesome uses with that type of touchpad on flight simulators

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23:05 Jun-11-2016

It takes getting used to but the steam controller is great. You may have to tweak the bindings in some games but in more popular titles someone has probably already uploaded a configuration that you'll find comfortable.

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22:07 Jun-11-2016

I have it and I love it. It does take a little while to get used to, and you will probably need to tinker with the controls for a new game, but the level of customization and control that it gives is crazy. Fifty bucks well spent.

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22:05 Jun-11-2016

i just recently got one. it's really different and will take time to get used to but i think the more i use it the more it'll become natural. I think it has the potential to be better than a normal game pad with a bit of practise.
the problem is, game pads have been unchanged for such a long time, the layout is hardwired in all of us.

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22:21 Jun-11-2016

But what about games that require good d-pads, like fighting games?

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07:01 Jun-12-2016

don't get me wrong, i'm struggling to use it with every game let alone fighting games. the steam controller learning curve is a long road. the question is, is it worth it?

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13:28 Jun-12-2016

Depends on whether or not you REALLY need to ditch that mouse...

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23:19 Jun-11-2016

I don't think the d-pad is as big of a deal as people think. The touchpads can perform the same function, it's just a matter of getting used to the more subtle feedback and using smaller, finer gestures to input commands. I think the real question is deciding if going through the learning curve is worth it to you.

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01:13 Jun-12-2016

I can't imagine playing games like Mortal Kombat on it. The X360/XBONE D-pad sucked so bad I bought a DualShock4 just for that purpose! And we're talking physical buttons here. A touchpad would be terrible, I think...

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21:50 Jun-11-2016

Maybe when I'm old, feeling adventurous and have too much time and money on my hands...
Otherwise - why would I want to compromise the accuracy of my mouse and the lay of my keyboard? Likewise, why would I want to buy a controller without a proper D-pad that wouldn't even work well with fighting games?
In my mind the Steam Controller tries to do both things (PC + console) but kinda hovers in the middle ground doing particularly well with neither.
Its customization saves it somewhat, but unless one REALLY wants to ditch the mouse for non-competitive gaming and lay on the couch sideways (in a fashion that a wireless mouse/keyboard would be impossible to use) - I don't see the fascination...

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21:48 Jun-11-2016

I plan on eventually getting an X360 controller eventually, because I just can't get the hang of keyboard controls for The Witcher 3. Other than that, I guess I would use it for GTAV, but other than that I don't have much of a reason to own a controller. I don't play the kinds of games that would benefit from a Steam Controller.

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21:52 Jun-11-2016

What are you having difficulties with? The speed of the camera rotation would get me dead if I played with a controller (playing on Death March here) so I can't imagine it being better in any way. Do tell!
I've tried playing with my X360 controller for a bit to try out the smooth camera pans but it felt very weird to me (probably because I don't generally play games with a controller unless they're a racing or a fighting game or if I'm emulating)

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22:08 Jun-11-2016

For me it's the sheer number of buttons used for combat on keyboard. Maybe it's just because I haven't played long enough to get the hang of it, but I end up fumbling for the right button. I died quite a few times on the first boss at the easiest difficulty. I tried borrowing my friend's PS3 controller and it was way easier for me. But, getting a DS3 to work with bluetooth is a nightmare.

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22:24 Jun-11-2016

Buy a DS4 - really easy to get that one going (you do need an external driver, though, like the DS4 Tool).
As for the controls - give it some time. If you are adept at playing PC games (I've been on PC since I was 5 - I'm now almost 24 xD) - there is nothing at all unnatural about the keyboard. Heck - it's even better because you can use the consumables and swap signs at the press of a button. Much more control on a keyboard, IMO.
But at the end of the day - it's YOU who makes the decision. I'm just saying that I personally saw it the other way around - but that's where people's differences kick in :)

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22:27 Jun-11-2016

I've just re-read your comment and you seem to have mentioned GTA V as well. Why would you use a controller for a shooting game? :D

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00:04 Jun-12-2016

I don't play GTA V online (I prefer single player mods over microtransactions any day), and the X360 controller has a happy medium between flying and driving controls. Keyboard is excellent for driving and shooting in that game, but the flying controls are like using a brick to move the joystick.

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01:15 Jun-12-2016

Hmm, I don't really do flying in GTA V, but I did find the controls a bit weird at first. Still completed all the missions on M/KB.

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03:21 Jun-12-2016

@Qnomei You could also try an MMO mouse. I do that for games like The Witcher 3. You split the bindings between the keyboard and the mouse. I use the Logitech G600 and it works great for that. Takes some getting used to, like anything else. For a controller, try the Steelseries Status XL for Windows. It's bluetooth and very easy to set up and use. Excellent controller, more like the PS3 controller. Hope that helps.

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13:31 Jun-12-2016

@Boris - haha, is there anywhere to put your thumb down on that bag of buttons (G600)? :D
I've only got two bindings on my dual thumb buttons. And those are - Draw Steel Sword and Draw Silver sword. Hardly anything unique :) (usually I map them to reload and melee for shooters)

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01:14 Jun-13-2016

@Boris - I'm cheap, and technically poor (all my money is to pay for college. All of it). I don't see a need to spend more than $10 for a mouse. My wireless mouse came with my laptop sleeve, actually. I appreciate the help though.


@Xquatroz - That would probably solve most of my problems. I get the swords mixed up often. Maybe I can find a cheap one with two thumb buttons.

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09:16 Jun-13-2016

That might be it. For gaming and even working on the PC in general I outright refuse using a mouse with anything less than the two thumb buttons. They're life savers :)
Though you don't necessarily need to bind anything because Geralt automatically pulls out the right sword when facing enemies (unless you have that setting turned off in the settings menu).

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16:32 Jun-11-2016

I have been contemplating buying a Steam controller. I mainly play RTS games alone so it isn't like I would be in fear of getting owned by other players. Can someone please tell me how well the Steam Controller works on games like Total War? Can the Steam controller be used on games that are not on Steam like Diablo 3? These are the kind of questions that I have about it. I want one, but only if it can be used for more than just my Steam Library. Like I would really love for it to work on all of the Mass Effect games, but I got them from Origin & I don't know if it would work. Please reply?

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16:57 Jun-11-2016

RTS might be a bit tough but all the buttons can be remapped and there are also mode shiftin (hold a button to make analog to do something else, etc.)
So you'll be able to configure it as you like.


You can use it on any game that doesn't crash with Steam overlay.


I'm going to try it with Total Warhammer now and see how that goes.

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17:33 Jun-11-2016

I made some configs for it and they worked pretty well. (then there are community configs that are even more refined)


Steam controller needs lots of love and I hope you like customization because that's something it doesn't lack.

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18:04 Jun-11-2016

Thanks for the reply. So if Steam Overlay works then the controller works? That sounds strange.

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21:37 Jun-11-2016

On the up-side - even emulators that I've tried work with the Steam overlay, so you should be fine using it in 99.5% of the cases at least :)

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15:22 Jun-11-2016

PC gamer using ps3 controller, because to play games like AC or fifa is better than keyboard. I'm happy with it for now, but when it brakes i will switch to xbox controller. Why? cuz some games supports only xbox like dark souls...

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16:03 Jun-11-2016

You can play Dark Souls with DS1, 2, or 4.
There are software to enable that and also mods that will change the button icons.

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21:38 Jun-11-2016

+1 I use DS4 Tool to use my DS4 as I would an Xbox controller. And it works great due to the superior D-pad :D

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16:09 Jun-11-2016
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16:42 Jun-11-2016

once i found it but i dont like to download much stuff ...

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14:55 Jun-11-2016

Steam controller beats all controllers, but only when you get past the learning curve. You won't find anyone complain about it once they're past that point. Me included.
I can say this with confidence as I was a console gamer for 20 years.

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15:01 Jun-11-2016

was a console gamer ? as in not anymore ? may i ask why

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15:04 Jun-11-2016

I bought a ps4, couple weeks later something made me click and decide that pc gaming may really be where it's at......I was right. Graphics, framreate, no need for backwards comparability, input devices etc. Should of done it long ago.

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16:26 Jun-11-2016

I stopped buying consoles because I am tired of not getting enough backwards compatibility. Plus games are way more expensive on the consoles. I can wait just a few months after a game releases and get it dirt cheap on PC while the console versions are still at full price. In the long run that money saved on cheaper games can be used for better hardware which gives better visuals & performance than consoles. The Xbox 360 & PS3 are the last 2 consoles that I bought, & they will probably be the last consoles I ever buy.

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22:26 Jun-11-2016

I still get to play my 1999 3D games like Unreal and even older games like Ultima... Plus then we have the emulators for just about any other console and PC that existed. Try having THAT much backwards compatibility on a console.. xD

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17:47 Jun-11-2016

Traditional consoles are on the way out anyway. MS will likely stick to its plan of a modular system and Sony releasing what is essentially an interim system (PS4.5) is a admission to the trap of inflexible hardware. Leela is spot on about all of the reasons to go PC; I would only add that it is also a better multimedia and productivity platform than a console could ever be.

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18:30 Jun-11-2016

Somethings, i do not like about steam gaming[pc gaming] are games cannot be installed offline, game updates are forced on me & i cannot skip them [I don't like to download 5gb + before i can play singleplayer offline] , some games are region locked. games require online activation whereas somethings I like about PS4 Games[Physical Copy]require no online activation. can be installed offline, game updates are optional & can be skipped and PS4 Games[Physical Copy] are region free if i am accurate.

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19:32 Jun-11-2016

If you want to play offline without being forced into updates then launch Steam in Offline Mode. Problem solved

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19:41 Jun-11-2016

You think i have not tried that already? In the past,I tried playing video games with steam being in offline mode several times but the game refuses to start. Steam does not let me play and start games until they are completely updated and patched unlike uplay which doesn't force game updates on me, i can avoid them and play single player offline peacefully.

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20:18 Jun-11-2016

Sounds like you need to clear all of Steam's caches and let it repair itself. Delete everything in your Steam folder except for the SteamApps folder & the Steam exe. Also delete all shortcuts to games & to Steam. Then launch Steam from the exe and let it repair itself. You will need your password to sign in the first time, but after that it will be saved again. Do NOT delete the SteamApps folder (your games),or the Steam exe (application).

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21:07 Jun-11-2016

Have you tried playing steam activated games without downloading all updates/patches,by skipping/avoiding them and just by installing a game from the disk/dvd?

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21:36 Jun-11-2016

Dunno, Steam never blocked me from launching a not updated game in off-line mode. They where digital versions though, i'm now owning any physical game released in the past 7 years.

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03:38 Jun-12-2016

You might want to check out GOG. Buy from them and you own the game. You're always offline unless playing multi. Mostly older games, but with checking out.

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21:41 Jun-11-2016

I know a few games where the Steam controller would be total rubbish. That would be fighting games where you need precise d-pad commands to do combos. That's the reason why the XBOX controllers are also total trash when it comes to Mortal Kombat. Getting a DualShock4 controller for MK was the best thing I've ever done :)

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23:22 Jun-11-2016

Yeah I am mainly looking for a lazy way to play RTS games and a few older RPGs. I have a Logitech F710 that works alright, but controlling a mouse cursor with an analog stick is a bit tricky. I am thinking that the track pad on the Steam controller would work better plus it has more buttons to program. However I want a little feedback about them before I spend any money.

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01:16 Jun-12-2016

I thought RTS games rely on pretty swift commands? In which case I'd personally take the mouse any day :D

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01:46 Jun-12-2016

Well I mostly play Total War games and they have a pause & slow motion button. It is RTS, but with the option to sort of make it turn based by pausing to give each unit specific commands. Then un-pause & watch the carnage happen. If things get crazy then pause again and make adjustments. :D

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03:42 Jun-12-2016

Check out the Steelseries Stratus XL for Windows. For me, it was far superior to the Xbox 360 controller. I don't use it for many games, but when I do, it's a joy to use. It's wireless (bluetooth) as well.

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13:32 Jun-12-2016

The D-Pad looks no good. Seems like only SONY and Nintendo still make decent d-pads...

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15:27 Jun-12-2016

For an excellent d-pad I use an old & cheap Madcatz 360 controller. It has the old school cross d-pad just like the old NES had. I have not seen even one controller out there that has a better d-pad than my old Madcatz. It is perfect for fighting games and old school side scrolling games. However I cannot use it on games that don't have native controller support. That is why I also have a Logitech F710, but as I said before it is kind of tricky to use it's analog stick to control a mouse cursor.


Oh & I absolutely hate the d-pad on PS controllers. How can you claim that they are even good?

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23:26 Jun-12-2016

Why do you hate SONY's D-pads? DS4 is perfectly fine for me, though I would still ofc give Nintendo the edge there.

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01:15 Jun-13-2016

I like an actual 8-way d-pad not 4 separate buttons in the shape of a d-pad. That was the only thing that I hated about my PS3 controllers. They are almost impossible to pull of certain moves with on fighting games because there is no way to roll the pad in a 8-way circle when needed because there is no actual d-pad. Basically using a PS controller means that I will always lose because of how difficult it is to pull of special moves on games like Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter. I mean just pulling off a simple slide of the thumb for a down forward move doesn't work properly.

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09:21 Jun-13-2016

Bro that's the complete OPPOSITE with me. In MK the 8-way d-pad is total garbage for me because it's too sensitive and keeps registering as a diagonal unless I'm VERY careful to press it precisely in one direction (I've got two original X360 controllers, btw, so not a case of a single bad/broken sample). Total rubbish for MK and I found that when I upgraded to a DS4 I had ZERO problems pulling off kickass combos in MK because I could now precisely press the right directionals with speed.
The 8-way dpad is like playing with the analogue stick, which I have tried too and found it actually better than the garbage 8-way xD

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09:23 Jun-13-2016

Besides, any oldschooler ill agree that Nintendo makes the best D-pads to date and they have always been 4-way and feel great. I like the one on my 3DS and the DS4 one is the next best thing.


Also... I have literally just noticed the XBONE has done away with that 8-way garbage. Woohoo!

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21:08 Jun-13-2016

All of the old Nintendo controllers worked the same as an 8-way. You can roll your thumb on them and you cannot do that with PS controllers. Rolling your thumb is a lot faster & easier than 2 separate button presses. For me it makes the difference between being able to make a special move or not. Anyone using a PS controller against someone like me that has the feel for a traditional 8-way d-pad will get owned quickly.

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21:13 Jun-13-2016

After thinking about it even the original Nintendo used an 8-way d-pad. Did you never play Contra? If so then how do you think that shooting at an angle worked?

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21:29 Jun-13-2016

I have no clue what you're on about... You can do diagonals if you want to on the DS4 as well, it's no problem. Just tried it.

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15:02 Jun-16-2016

It is a total pain in the @ss because there is a delay in the transition with PS controllers. Don't pretend that there isn't because that is a cold hard fact. A person using a real d-pad will own someone using the PS controller's bullsh*the d-pad. I have proven it before & can again at any time. I can perform a special move multiple times without a miss on a normal d-pad, but with a PS d-pad I will fail in the attempt 1 out of every 3 tries. They suck. Period

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14:54 Jun-11-2016

I've been using playstation controllers for years and I don't plan to replace them.

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17:18 Jun-11-2016

Same, I use my Dualshock 4 for my PC as well.

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14:49 Jun-11-2016

Im more than happy with my xbox controllers for my games on Pc

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14:49 Jun-11-2016

Keyboard mouse master race :D

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15:06 Jun-11-2016

LOL

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14:32 Jun-11-2016

I've tried my friends one but I couldn't get used to not having thumb-sticks. If you want to run forwards with a normal controller you just hold the stick forward as far as it goes. If you try to do that with a steam controller theres not enough feedback to tell where your finger should stop.

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14:45 Jun-11-2016

But... It has an analog stick and it's the default way of movement.

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14:53 Jun-11-2016

True but it wasn't comfortable placing for me, and I had the same problem with the right stick.

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16:19 Jun-11-2016

There is no right stick...

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18:57 Jun-11-2016

That's the problem...
idk what its called, touchpad?

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14:24 Jun-11-2016

I am fine with xbone controller

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21:43 Jun-11-2016

That D-pad is so bad though... fighting games just don't play well with it. DualShock4 FTW!

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14:17 Jun-11-2016

Excellent controller for turn-based strategy, third-person action games and platformers.


Been using it for quite a while and I really like it.

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14:06 Jun-11-2016

I have it and I don't use it much i thought it would replace my Xbox 360 controller i thought wrong. It is one of those pretty much just for casual type games like Civ 5 or timberman. So if you just want that then go get it.

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14:04 Jun-11-2016

Never used it but it looks like garbage.

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