Xbox 360 Controller Review

Xbox 360 Controller

If you’re looking for an easy-to-use, well-designed and functional PC gamepad that works well across many games, the Xbox 360 Controller is a good choice. Besides fitting well in your hands, and offering the standard feature set, it’s got the backing of Microsoft, ensuring that it’ll work well in all of the games that come out with the new Games for Windows branding. Quality is top-notch, (as expected, since the controller is in wide use with the Xbox 360 system), and it’s available in both a wireless and wired version. I decided to buy the wired version over Christmas, and here’s my quick review on how it’s been since then.


Let’s face it – not all PC games work well with just the defacto keyboard and mouse combination. Don’t get me wrong – the vast majority do, and for these, the keyboard and mouse is more than enough. In fact, PC gamers have always looked at consoles with disdain because of a lack of control options. Many of us (myself included) could not imagine playing an FPS on a console because of the lack of keyboard and mouse control. However, there are certain game types that do work better with a gamepad, and when a good one comes along, you don’t want to be stuck fiddling with your mouse and keyboard in a vain attempt to enjoy the game.

For me, this moment came when I got Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy. Admittedly, this game could’ve been designed to work better with a keyboard and mouse, but the way it was made just made it damn near impossible to play without a gamepad. So, I decided to get an Xbox 360 Wired Controller to improve the experience.

But why wired? Clearly wireless is better, is it not? Well it depends on your needs. I knew I wouldn’t be using the gamepad all the time, but only occasionally. Thus, the benefit of going wireless for me didn’t outweigh the additional cost, and additional trouble of having to use batteries. Also, to use the wireless Xbox 360 controller with a PC, you must buy a separate wireless receiver that plugs into your PC – adding another dongle to the mix. For me, it didn’t make sense for something that wouldn’t be used that often – however, if you are going to be using it constantly, wireless is definitely the way to go. And, of course, if you have an Xbox 360, either one of these controllers will also work with it – consider it an added bonus.

The gamepad itself is pretty much standard as far as PC gamepads go. There are two analog sticks, one in the top left corner and the other just right of the bottom center. Both can also be pressed/clicked for another button function. The standard four-button group of thumb-buttons is unchanged from the original Xbox controller. However, the black/white buttons have been redesigned as left/right buttons above the front analog triggers, so your index fingers have a little more work to do. This is a better setup, as it reduces the number of buttons your thumb has to work. Lastly, there’s also the start and select buttons, which are in the top center, just around the Xbox “ring of light”. While the “ring of light” button is useful when used with an Xbox 360, it’s less so on the PC, unless used with titles with the Games for Windows branding.

How it plays

Xbox 360 Controller

I have been using this gamepad for several weeks now, mostly with the previously mentioned Lego Star Wars II, and with Need for Speed: Most Wanted. These are ideal games for gamepads. I’ve also tried in a little bit of Flight Simulator X, but that’s more of a joystick game and it wouldn’t go well with any gamepad.

Installation is easy, as it just connects to any USB port. You will, however, need to download the drivers for it, which are available at Microsoft’s site. (I’m not sure if you need this if you’re already running Windows Vista)

The first thing you notice is how comfortable the controller feels in your hands. The shape and fit are definitely top-notch. My hands aren’t that big, but I had no problem reaching any of the buttons or triggers. If you have huge hands, it might feel a little small. Microsoft has sure learned a lesson or two about design and functionality, when you compare this controller to the original gigantic Xbox controller that many people did not like.

In games, all of the buttons and analog controls worked well and were responsive. About the only complaints I had was that the D-pad could be a little to control. For example, when pushing left or right, it’s easy to accidentally activate one of the adjacent diagonal directions. This isn’t a problem most of the time, but if you’re using the gamepad for retro gaming, say in an emulator for an old console system, this could be a problem. Many of those older games require precise D-pad control. However, this is a problem I have noticed with many PC gamepads, and the 360 controller is actually not as bad as some of them. My second (minor) complaint was that the buttons can feel squishy. Though they provide good tactile feedback when they’re pressed, if you push too hard you can feel them squish down more. This, however, is inevitable with type of contacts used, which I assume are the rubber push-button type.

Other observations

Another good reason to get the 360 controller may be due to Microsoft’s weight in the PC arena – they have the ability to effect changes in the market. Something that is sorely needed for PC gaming is some sort of standard controller. This will help game developers to make interfaces that they are sure will work across a wide variety of systems.

Since Microsoft has a near-monopoly on the PC market (at least those used for gaming), they are best poised to introduce something like this. While the standard DirectX inputs for controllers have worked well for games, (thus removing us from the ancient days where controller support had to be specifically built into the game, much like soundcard support back then), it still leaves many unknown variables to the game designer.

Default controls don’t work well across a wide variety of game controllers, forcing designers to include customization options. While this isn’t bad per se, it adds an extra level of complexity – something that shouldn’t be required for playing games. Complicating the situation further is the fact that many companies provide configuration software for the game controllers they make – adding yet another level of configuration.


One thing that consoles have had that PC games were sorely lacking was a unified, default controller that game designers could count on. This seems like something simple, but it goes a far way to making games easier to play. While I used to decry the lack of control customization in consoles (the “if it’s not complicated, it’s not worth it” argument), I’m leaning the other way right now. The Xbox 360 controller could be the thing that brings a default controller to the PC finally, since it has the weight of Microsoft behind it.

Furthermore, most gamepads for the PC generally offer the same features nowadays. The Xbox 360 controller takes these features, and puts them in a standard package that is, most importantly, comfortable, easy-to-use and quality-made.

Lastly, when you go to the store, you may notice that they are selling an Xbox 360 controller “designed for Windows”, or something to that effect. It may even cost more than the “standard” 360 controller. Don’t worry about this – get whichever one is available and cheaper. There is no difference between the two. The only thing to keep in mind is that with the wireless controller, you will need the receiver as well.


  1. Hey Peter,

    Just wanted to let a fellow unitstep person know that is back and running again; hope to see you around the comment sections!

  2. Glad to see you guys finally got the site back online!

  3. A lab tech that works for the department formatted the server one day last semester. We were all pretty bummed, but I got the urge to get the site back up over Christmas break, so here we are!

  4. First I Have wwe 12 I cant Play it can you help me

Comments are now closed for this entry.