Review: Evil Controllers Evil D-Pad Controller

Few issues with the Xbox 306’s standard-issue controller have plagued gamers like its finicky, hard-to-press directional pad (d-pad). Originally a grey circular “button” rather than separate directions, its long been the bane of fighting enthusiasts’ existence on Microsoft’s more-than-capable console, as well as Netflix fans navigating through queues. Or anyone who wishes for a bit more precision than the analog sticks offer. Or any game that relies heavily on 8-directional digital controls, such as classics or re-imagined classics available on the Xbox Live Arcade. I think you know where I’m going with this, and that’s why I’m always happy to see companies looking to rectify such a game-crashing design flaw.

Enter Evil Controllers, which despite fueling those who feel the need to artificially up their game with specialty modded controllers and going about spotlighting female gamers the wrong way completely, actually makes a pretty decent alternative to the standard 360 controller d-pad. It’s called the Evil D-Pad, and after even only a bit of time I found using one actually DID beef up my game – especially those reliant on digital controls like classic games and fighters – but only slightly, as the other problems I had with the product did outweigh the benefits.

The Evil D-Pad controller’s d-pad is not a traditional set of keys, per se – there are four buttons with arrows emblazoned on the top positioned beneath the left analog stick, not unlike Sony’s DualShock 4-button design. At first glance it’s a little jarring, but these separated directional buttons offer a decent feel of depression when pressed, snapping back with no sign of sticking and offering up a satisfying “snap”. Other than that its matte black finish and coloring was exactly the same as any normal controller, though my sample was wired. The controller is available in a wireless version as well. So for the entire controller as a whole, I wasn’t exactly satisfied with the low-quality feel of the proprietary Evil Controller parts, namely the analog sticks.

As far as putting the D-pad to good use, I broke out some old-school Genesis platformers and music game Boom Boom Rocket to test out the input. I improved my game from previous attempts dramatically with the manufacturer’s D-pad and managed to not go down in a single round in Dead or Alive 4. Moves were much simpler to pull off, except for those that required an arc, and I found that pressing a button rather than tapping the analog stick forward obviously did improve my ability to pull off combos, which is a viable option to turn to rather than casual fighting fans purchasing a fight stick. Of course, moves that require rotations didn’t function as well, but for the most part I found that my thumbs were considerably less painful than during my typical playing sessions.

Unfortunately, the rest of the controller does not fare as well, and feels like a bootleg controller you might receive from a Hong Kong discount store. The twin analog sticks (emblazoned with Evil’s logo) resemble the PlayStation’s rather than the smooth, rubberized, beveled sticks of the original 360 controller. The guide button also seemed to give a bit too much, as if one wrong push would crunch it into the back of the controller, rendering it useless. On the plus side, the company offers a full assortment of pre-purchase customization, including Evil Sticks and special engraving, so you’ll definitely want to play around with these options before deciding whether or not to invest in one.

How useful you will find the Evil D-Pad really comes down to how much you prefer to use its customized d-pad. I rarely tend to use it, preferring the smoothness of the standard analog sticks, not these at all, so I would not recommend this pricy purchase to typical 360 gamers who rarely play platformers or fighters – the sticks should serve them well enough. And considering the fact that Microsoft is now offering a controller with an improved, ‘transforming’ d-pad, which is clearly the better and cheaper option if you’re strapped for cash, because Evil’s controllers don’t come cheap; I would suggest saving the money and picking up the improved Microsoft edition, unless you have the extra cash to spend. In that case, the Evil D-Pad will improve your game, as long as you’re using the inefficient factory d-pad as an excuse for your inadequacy.

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