I think that we have all heard various sayings regarding how important first impressions can be. You only get one shot at a first impression and it often sets the stage for the opinions that are formed afterwards as it pertains to people, products... pretty much everything. Something tells me that the crew at Power A has either never heard of this or has mastered the art of the first impression, because the manner in which their new FUS1ON Tournament Controller for the Xbox 360 hits first-time users is a roller coaster ride of emotions. The entire package looks impressive, which puts you on a proverbial high from the start. Then you pick it up and are dropped to a new low. Finally, after you put it to actual use, you will find your opinion soaring sky high with no sign of it ever coming back down.
It isn’t very often that you see a console controller that comes with its own carrying case as well as spare parts and a small toolkit for upgrading and tweaking it. When one does, people take notice, and that is exactly what caught my eye with Power A’s FUS1ON. As soon as I cracked open the box I got excited at what I saw. The wired controller is housed in a stylish, protective travel case that both protects the controller and makes it easier to transport. Sitting inside this case, it looks great with its matte black finish and brightly colored and pronounced buttons on the face and shoulders. The 3-meter cord is constructed with a thick, braided design and includes a breakaway connector to reduce tripping incidents.
The controller just looked cool and then I picked it up... and my heart absolutely sank. The FUS1ON is incredibly light and feels like a simple, hollow shell of plastic; for lack of a better term, it felt cheap and I was afraid that if I dropped it, it would shatter into thousands of pieces. The buttons felt very responsive and had great depth to them and the enlarged analog sticks were promising, but it just didn’t “feel” right. Thankfully, that was just a temporary impression because the performance that I experienced once I plugged it in was anything but “cheap”.
The controller is about the same size as an official Microsoft 360 controller. The face and shoulder buttons are very “tight” and responsive; the triggers in particular can be activated with minimal depression. The directional pad, unfortunately, isn’t as well implemented. While it does utilize the cross-style design that I prefer, it is a little too raised from the surface for optimal usage in fighting games. It gets the job done however and it still leaps and bounds above the standard Microsoft d-pad. The analog sticks used on the controller are an entirely different story.
You can see just by looking at the controller that the analog sticks are a bit different than we’re used to seeing. The ball-modules that drive their movement is much larger than than most controllers, giving them a much larger range of movement. This really makes precision aiming and fine tuning your movements a lot easier; combining this precision with a higher look sensitivity in shooters like Halo 4 and Black Ops2 makes for a better overall experience. They have a very firm tension and quickly spring back to their centered position when released as well, which is good considering their increased size. The actual pad for your thumb on these sticks is concave and coated with a soft robber, which helps ensure a comfortable experience during prolonged gameplay sessions. These are truly some of the most comfortable analog sticks that I have experienced, and perhaps the best performing too.
Not everything is all sunshine and rainbows in the world of FUS1ON however as the hard plastic design of the controller’s body is anything but comfortable. The hard design just isn’t idea for long gameplay sessions, especially if your hands are prone to sweating. I found my hands cramping, even in short sessions, let alone when I pulled extended matches online. In reality, this is simply a matter of personal preference and Power A recognizes that too; as a result, they have included a set of rubber-matted grips that you can swap out using the included screwdriver. Replacing them only took a few short minutes and proved to drastically improve the feel of the controller. The difference was so noticeable that I find myself questioning why these grips weren’t the default grips.
As an added bonus, the FUS1ON also features accent lighting that highlights both of the analog sticks and the face buttons. The color of these lights changes during usage, spanning five different colors. The lights don’t really add anything in terms of performance, but it looks cool when you are playing in the dark. The analog sticks in particular look nice thanks to their increased size which lit up.
Between its overall performance and the added bonuses such as the included storage case, the FUS1ON really turned my initial impressions around. I really thought that this was going to be another, lackluster third party controller, because that is what it physically felt like; boy was I wrong. Every input is uber-responsive and and analog sticks in particular are perfectly designed for the gamer looking to get more out of their “game”. There is a little room for improvement in terms of the directional-pad but I have also used much, much worse. This is definitely a worthy purchase for someone who is interested in taking their game to the next level, either at home or on the go.