Note: This post was originally authored on January 16, 2017. For utterly ridiculous technical reasons I couldn't actually publish it at the time.
I can recall remarking while playing hours of pass-the-pad Sega GT 2002 and Jet Set Radio Future at my cousins' place in the mid-2000s, how comfortable and solid-feeling the original Xbox's controller (thereafter nicknamed the "Duke") felt.
At the time, I'd only really spent any meaningful time with the DualShock controllers for the PlayStation family of consoles, and a few times playing with the strange, slimline Nintendo Entertainment System, but I definitely felt like the Xbox controller heralded the future.
Fast forward to about 2007, and I got rather into to Halo 3 on the Xbox 360, and I came to be very familiar with the layout, sensitivity and quirks of the Xbox 360 Controller. For a very long time, in spite of the weird inclusion of a lump for the battery pack, and the requirement of a dongle to connect to devices other than the console, I considered it the pinnacle of controller design. The grips, stick layout and analog triggers just felt right when put up against the DualShock's form factor.
By 2015, the Xbox One had revealed the latest tweak to Microsoft's1 design, fixing the battery lump, if not the wireless connectivity, and producing a very solid feeling controller overall, but one with a handful more flaws. The Xbox One controller's bumpers just didn't feel right versus those of the original Xbox 360 - those on the Xbox 360 were easily clicked while keeping index fingers on the triggers, while the Xbox One's attempt wouldn't budge when pushed at even a slight angle. While I played a few good hours of Halo on that controller, it didn't sway my opinion that the Xbox 360 was the best controller humanity had yet designed.
Then, in late 2016, I discovered that the latest iteration of Microsoft's Xbox One controller, the Xbox Wireless Controller, includes Bluetooth connectivity! After a bit of reading, it sounded like it was indeed simple to make work with pretty much any platform, and that syncing with macOS in particular, was pretty painless.
Pairing it with my MacBook Pro via Bluetooh, I tried it on a handful of games. Unfortunately, despite the ease of syncing, the support for this kind of controller on the Mac platform is lacking. Support via USB is a little better, and via USB you can have it emulate an Xbox 360 Controller using the Xbox Controller Driver for macOS, which improves compatibility significantly.
In games that did provide support, though, the controller proved just as comfortable and straightforward as I'd expect from a refinement of the Xbox 360 design. The triggers are nicely sensitive, the sticks have the right amount of resistance and sensitivity, and the bumpers, they'd fixed the bumpers!
The controller's grips have a subtle texture to the back of them, which is a nice touch. The removal of the battery lump means my fingers rest much more comfortably across the rear of the controller instead of being shoved into the groove between the battery lump and the curve of the grip!
To my mind, the Xbox Wireless Controller is absolutely the controller that finally knocks the Xbox 360 Controller off the top of the pedestal. Now I just wish I could use it with everything...
If you're lucky enough to have access to a postal address within the United States or Canada - this restriction existing despite the product shipping from Dongguan, China in either case... weird
We've since gotten married, but I don't want to edit this post a heap ☺️
Even if I didn't get to appreciate it much from Melbourne, where I remained for a few more weeks 😅