Steam Controller Pros/Cons
As per usual with new tech, there are mixed responses and expectations. Employees of various companies were given a run with the latest Steam controller and after looking over their responses... it seems like the Steam controller leaves a lot to be desired, but has a lot of potential.
That isn't to say that everyone will still have the same experiences as those who have already tested them. But be warned: these are just highlighted pros and cons that testers (me included) have experienced. Your experience could be completely different.
It's a minor issue, and common depending on your PC, but still something that needs to be addressed.
Unlike the luck that many people have when they plug in their Xbox controllers - automatically downloading drivers, mapping controls accordingly, and overall just being a simple plug-in-and-play experience - Steam falls short.
Some off-brand PC controllers or sometimes just non-Xbox controllers, tend to have an issue where you can't play without mapping literally everything in existence.
It's a hassle, its annoying, and if you can't do it, buyer beware.
The Haptic Pad takes some breaking in
One experience with the Haptic Pad - that's the touchpad on the right, opposite the D-Pad, that replaces your mouse - is that it leads to using one's thumbs more often than is normal.
As a result, there have been cramped thumbs, aching thumbs, and all around painful responses to this feature, because the best accuracy comes from using the fingertip.
"I tend to bend my thumb when using the Steam controller instead of relaxing it. I try laying it flat, but my overall accuracy and ability to make the cursor go where I want to go way down.
It's a conundrum. A painful conundrum."
-Nathan Grayson, Kotaku
The Witcher Problem
Kotaku's tester found that there were also issues involving complete compatibility between The Witcher and the Steam controller.
Things just went awry, making the game nearly unplayable. It leaves us to question the controller's compatibility with other, bigger titles and titles with similar control layouts. There always seems to be issues with new tech, but when those issues inhibit all gameplay--
"It only allows me to pivot the camera"
--then there might be more issues than meets the eye when it comes to big games.
Big AAA titles are usually created for the PC platform, with many potential personalized specs in mind. That's why PC games sometimes have later release dates - widespread consoles have one set of hardware for everyone. PCs are customizable.
This could mean that some features in the controller are rendered unusable or incompatible with a system that can have multiple spec possibilities. There is also the possibility of it being a solitary problem with just this one tester or a small handful of testers, and not necessarily reflective of any actual issue with the controller.
Not all things are bad. One noticeable feature is increased accuracy with the Steam controller.
A personal issue on my end was being unable to move joysticks fast enough to aim in first-person shooters. Or they were too fast and I overshot the target (no pun intended). The moment I switched to playing the game on the PC, I was actually good at the game.
Meant to replace the mouse, the Haptic Pad allows more precision than a floppy joystick. Whether this will be useful for others of different hand shapes and sizes remains to be seen.
This is heavily a case-by-case situation, but now that your right hand is being occupied with the Haptic Pad, there are no buttons for jump like usual controllers.
Instead, this has been switched to the left handle. To those who remember the "Z" buttons old Nintendo systems had, or those familiar with the Oculus controllers, the handle grip also has a squeeze button that initiates jumping.
If you're able to squeeze and rest one hand with some finger juggling, or just get used to initiating jumps with your left hand instead of right, then this is a great replacement feature.
There are no fingers skirting all over the controller or adding mid-controller buttons that are sometimes crazy hard to reach for such a simple feature. Now, it's just a twitch and squeeze of secondary fingers that might not regularly be used.
For those willing to give it a go, the Steam controller is available for $50 at GameStop.