Anyone serious about their games spends a lot of time and money on trying to bring out the best in our experiences. This applies to the latest and greatest consoles, headsets, televisions, ambient lighting and of course controllers. After all, the controller is our one tangible connection to the games we are playing (unless you are using a Kinect. In which case, good luck with that accuracy…). They need to feel precise, be durable and look good.
Last year I had a chance to get my hands on (literally) a Sticker Bomb Xbox One controller by Evil Controllers. It was well-constructed, it looked great and it had some features that made it stand out from the competition. I had high hopes then, that the PlayStation 4 controller by the same company would be held to the same standards, and I did not come away disappointed.
These things are very customisable when you order it off the website. This time around, I went for a far less colourful design than the Sticker Bomb, as I tend to like greys and blacks anyway. That being said, I chose a couple of clean and clear accents. Since most of my first person shooters get played on the PlayStation 4, I opted for slightly more aggressive aesthetic as well, to get me in the mood. I had a white grenade controller icon put on the left handle and a flaming skull with a headset on the right. Because the Steel Nightmare pattern I opted for is fairly dark, these actually wound up popping very nicely on the controller and the website did a nice job of helping to set these up.
After choosing your shell, the website directs you to customise it in a few ways. You can add a dark splatter effect (which I opted against since the design already has a very splatter-like, random effect to it). You can then choose a graphic or text for the handles as well as the back of the controller. For the graphics, your only option is colour – but for the tag/text, you can choose font as well. For the back of the controller, I went for a more subtle Rock Salt black lettering as I added: Digitally Downloaded. It is worth noting that the website points out to you that this level of customisation means that the controller cannot be returned later.
The next step is to decide whether or not you want the Master Mod added to your controller. These allow you to use programmed in features for specific games (like identifying players in Battlefield) or setting up your own rapid fire options. It is a cool feature that is pretty easy to set up, though it does take some trial and error right at first to make the best use of it.
Next up you can choose your buttons. The stock ones still look good, with your standard PlayStation shapes, but I imagine most people who are investing in a controller like this already know exactly what button they are pressing without needing a visual reference. For those players, you can come up with colours or patterns for your buttons. In my case, Chrome definitely looked the best with the colour scheme I had chosen, as it sort of blends in while still remaining distinctive. The buttons themselves, like the triggers are standard DualShock 4 fare. They are responsive and the entire controller has a feeling of quality to it.
However, the one feature I decided to deviate on heavily from the DualShock 4 was in the thumbsticks. You can of course stick with the stock for no extra charge, or choose from a variety of colours. However, you can also choose sticks from the Xbox One controller – which I chose to do. In part, because I wanted to see how they looked and felt on the the DualShock style controller, but mostly just because I prefer the Xbox Sticks.
The last two steps are about picking up some extra accessories or adding warranty protection to the controllers. I did not opt for either, but I suspect the durability will be just fine. I have been using my Xbox One Evil Controller for about half a year now as my primary device, and it is as good as new. Still, these are not inexpensive controllers and if you have a tendency to wear yours down, picking up some warranties might not be the worst investment ever.
Otherwise the Steel Nightmare is every part a typical PlayStation 4 controller. It has a speaker, the fully functional touchpad, the PS Button in the middle and it synced with my system without any trouble. It only took about a week for it to arrive, and that was with my customisations.
Spending close to two hundred dollars on a controller is not going to be for everyone, and of course the choices you make will impact that purchase price. That being said, the controller is our direct link to the games we play, and I myself enjoyed not only the process of personalising my controller – but also in using it. The Steel Nightmare has proven to be precise, durable and with the Master Mod – flexible as well.
– Nick H.