Enter the Evil Controller Evil D-Pad. Instead of settling for a slight design modification that will reduce the inaccuracy of the 360’s directional pad, Evil Controllers is offering a solution that it says completely eliminates it. The controller design eliminates possible errors by reducing the directional pad down to four separate buttons. Instead of the standard cross design, the Evil Controllers D-Pad consists of four buttons which are raised off of the face of the controller. The buttons are similar in size to those of the standard A, B, X, and Y buttons on the controller and laid out with the same spacing as the standard face buttons. Basically, you could look at it as if the controller has two sets of face buttons, but one corresponds to the directional pad inputs. That sounds good enough in theory, but just how well does it work?
The folks at Evil Controllers were kind enough to give me a chance to go hands on with this new design and put it to the test. During my time with the controller, I put it through a number of tests / games, spanning across a couple of genres in order to get a feel of the controller in differing types of games. Ergonomically speaking, the controller feels just as comfortable as a standard Xbox 360 controller. Most third party offerings are forced to use a slightly different physical design due to copyright and patent issues with the first party controller, but since Evil Controllers produces modified controllers and not their own manufactured ones, they can use actual first party controllers for the base of their design.
Aside from the new and improved directional pad design, I also feel the need to give them credit for the improved thumbsticks used on their product. The thumbsticks on the controller have been replaced with the Evil brand thumbsticks which I find to feel much “tighter” than the base design. The tightened design doesn’t make the sticks any harder to move per say, but they do feel as if they snap back to center with a stronger force than any other controller that I have used. Loose thumbsticks is one of my biggest pet peeves and personally, my major issue with Sony’s Dual Shock design. The tightened sticks made aiming (and sniping) in games like Medal of Honor and Modern Warfare 2 much easier and the ability to fine tune my aiming increased greatly. I played numerous levels in both games in order to test out the sticks after discovering their improved design only to become more and more impressed as I used them over time. While the sticks are highly appreciated, we are here for the directional pad. Think of the highly improved sticks as a bonus feature... I did.
The main attraction of the Evil D-Pad controller is the new and improved d-pad design, and let me assure you that it works well. To get the best experience and benefit from the Evil design, I played numerous games of Altered Beast and Pac-Man Championship Edition for the Xbox Live Arcade, as well as many, many rounds of Super Street Fighter IV. I switched back and forth between the Evil D-Pad controller and a standard 360 controller throughout my testing to constantly compare the performances of both.
The thought behind testing out Altered Beast was to spend some time with a game that was designed to be used solely with the d-pad. Since the XBLA version of the game is a direct port of the Sega Genesis classic, I figured it was as good of a candidate as any plus I wanted to get my retro fix. At first, the Evil design feels a little awkward but highly responsive. I found the response times for my inputs in the game to be a lot faster with the Evil D-Pad. It was a lot easier to transition from a walking directly into a crouching position to handle enemies that required lower attacks. I always seemed to have bad luck in those situations with the standard controller and usually end up taking a hit or two during the course of the level; that didn’t happen this time though. The same response benefits were noticeable in Pac-Man Championship Edition as well. I found that using the Evil D-Pad resulted in much betters performances than I usually displayed. I rarely missed turns using the four button set up and increased my high scores on nearly every single course of the game.
The true benefit of the controller was felt when I entered into the fighting game world with Super Street Fighter IV. This controller is almost perfect for games such as this when it comes to my playing style, but I fear other players may not be as favorable. Despite the improved performance that I experienced, there is a caveat though. This benefit doesn’t come without a major learning curve when it comes to dealing with four separate buttons that are spaced as far apart as the Evil D-Pad. While the response times of the pad were greatly reduced, the spacing of the buttons created a hurdle for me early on. Performing moves such as a Dragon Punch or standard fireball motion felt foreign for quite a while; once I got used to the spacing though, I questioned how I could ever go back to the standard design. Unfortunately, the same thing cannot be said for those characters that used circular movements such as Zangief and T. Hawk. Even after prolonged exposure to the pad, I found myself struggling to perform such maneuvers while I could still pull them off at will with the standard design.
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