An attempt to emulate the Xbox One Elite for the PS4 falls short of greatness.
SCUF’s Vantage Wireless PS4 Controller is possibly the closest thing the PlayStation has to the Xbox One’s Elite Controller. It’s a well-made, comfortable controller that delivers some handy customization options you don’t get from the standard DualShock 4. It has made me at least feel like I’m performing a little better. But as much as it does right, it misses the mark just as often, and at $200 it’s too expensive for that, especially for more casual players.
The Vantage is roughly as comfortable to hold as a standard DualShock 4, though definitely a little larger, thanks to the sturdier, textured grip. and feels familiar aside from the very obvious change of the offset analog sticks that resemble the Xbox One’s configuration. Obviously symmetrical versus offset can be quite the personal preference — I’ve grown fond of the DualShock setup having used it so frequently over the years. But playing offset on a PS4 feels good in my hands, especially when combined with analog stick height and contour customization options that let you tune it to your liking for fast-paced genres like first-person shooters.
Being able to adjust the faceplate, L2 and R2 triggers, D-pad, and sticks with different color variations allowed me to add some self-expression, though additional sets of colored accessories will cost you extra. And, unfortunately… most of SCUF’s color choices are ugly and don’t combine very well. The matte plastic or shiny looks of some of the faceplates can look pretty tacky, while differently colored analog sticks, well, stick out like sore thumbs when going for a quieter look. I’m relatively happy with the muted, mostly pale blue look I settled on, but adding any of the brighter looked more distracting than cool.
I liked being able to adjust the triggers to find a sweet spot.
I appreciated being able to adjust the triggers to find a better sweet spot in how far you have to move them before they’re considered fully pulled. It definitely made up for some of my own mental latency while fighting enemies in an action game like Assassin’s Creed. But while most other customizable parts are magnetized, different triggers need to be awkwardly snapped into place, while the analog sticks need to be pushed into place without a satisfying snap or other feedback. It’s easy to do but feels a bit cheap, especially when compared to the magnetized thumbsticks of the Elite.
Putting new faceplates on is much simpler and nicer, though, thanks to its magnetized mechanism, which is also the case for the D-pad. It’s clean and easy to mix and match these parts, and thankfully the process for switching up gameplay capabilities is similarly painless.
The SCUF’s four paddles are located on the bottom of the controller and can be assigned to mirror any other single button press. The process is pretty simple — flip a switch on the controller, press a paddle and button simultaneously, and then let the button and paddle go, flip the switch back, and you’ve got yourself an extra way to push that button. (I realize that sounds like a lot written out, but it’s quite painless in practice.) It’s nice having options from the D-pad, for example, so naturally accessible to where my hands rest. I wish the process offered some type of feedback, though, like a rumble or light flash — the first couple of tries I had to just hope I did the process correctly.
The extra paddle placement is…pretty awkward.
But the paddle placement is…odd. The Xbox One Elite’s four paddles fan out toward the controller grips, with two on each side, making them naturally easy to access with where your fingers rest. But the SCUF’s paddles, bizarrely, point downward. The two outward paddles feel great — they’re comfortably contoured to the controller. But the two inner paddles have been largely useless because of their placement and how they make me reach for them. They’re in a place I’d never normally rest my fingers, and my relatively smaller hands have to contort a bit to reach them. I’ve largely given up on using them because it’s just not worth the effort to retrain my brain for such a specific, awkward setup.
Similarly, the Vantage adds two buttons on the side of the controller — S1 and S2, which can also be customized like the paddles. Again, it’s great to have more buttons within natural reach. I got used to using them to easily call my horse in Assassin’s Creed. But the catch is that my fingers often rest there regardless, and it’s not so nice to accidentally call my horse when I’m furiously tapping R1 during combat. I found myself more often than not awkwardly straightening my finger to only press S2 to avoid a shoulder button.
In general, though, whether I was playing action games or shooters, I definitely perceived some difference in my response time thanks to the Vantage. The sturdier grip, trigger modulation, and two outer paddles did make me feel like I was able to land a few hits that I might’ve missed otherwise, but it’s not a dramatic difference as a more casual player.
What I can be grateful for is the vastly improved battery life over a traditional DualShock 4. I normally have to charge my controllers after about six or seven hours. But the Vantage lasted two full days before the need for a recharge, and were the controller a bit cheaper, that would honestly be a much stronger selling point for me.