For a company with the name “evil” in the name, Evil Controllers certainly has a lot of good intentions. Recently I got my hands on a prototype of their newest controller, the Shift. I was interested to see where the pro controller company could go in a world where Microsoft’s Elite Controller exists.
Working with near-final prototypes, I went hands-on with the Shift for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One (though we really focused on the Xbox side of the house) and immediately noticed some welcome differences. On the Elite, the paddle design springs from the rear of the controller using long angled paddles. The longer tab floats in space and changes the way you hold the controller, shifting the carefully-calculated ergonomics of the original Xbox One design and leading to a lot of accidental paddle presses. With the Shift, the paddles are replaced by longer buttons that can be pressed by any direction. This omni-directional tactile switch, specifically the Omron B3F, is instantaneously actuated when pressed instead of translating the pressure down the long arm to press a switch. When milliseconds matter, there’s an obvious advantage.
Taking a page from their MasterMod modifications, remapping these paddle replacements is as simple as ever. Pressing the change view button then clicking a paddle will cause the controller to buzz twice, letting you know that it’s ready to remap. Pressing what you’d like that paddle to do (for example, remapping a shoulder button) issues another single buzz to let you know that remap is complete. It’s simple, self-contained, and doesn’t require exiting your game to fiddle with a cumbersome GUI, meaning you can remap on the fly. Better yet, the controller stores 15 profiles, allowing individual users to specify a button combo to bring their saved settings to the fore with a few clicks.
Moving to the front of the controller, there are four major aspects that Evil Controllers has touched that, beyond the first one, are not immediately obvious. The thumbsticks for the Shift come in three different heights, and you can mix and match as the controller mod comes with all three. Rather than using magnetized bases like some mod companies, they use convex-topped custom sticks that immediately rebound to the natural center position – something I could never say about the heavier magnet versions. Better still, they can be swapped between PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, supposedly without the use of tools (though we didn’t get to see how this was accomplished during our meeting).
The second and third items head to the back of the controller with trigger locks and an improved structural spring. I’ve long thought the Xbox One had fairly ‘clacky’ triggers with long throws to actuate, and it seems that Adam Coe, Founder of Evil Controllers agrees as he has made large adjustments in this area. Changing the spring meant that 50% less pull power is required to actuate the button, but when coupled with the trigger lock function, you end up with dual functionality. Trigger Locks, a feature of the Xbox One Elite controller, allows you to pull the trigger half way, putting a physical stop in for a shorter throw. Unfortunately, for games like Gears of War, that breaks things like the Torque Bow which requires a prolonged pull to fire. Worse still, it’s very easy to accidentally hit the aforementioned paddles while turning it off. On the Shift, you can pull the trigger halfway for hair trigger firing, while still pulling the trigger all the way to handle things like the Torque Bow.
The last new goodies for the Shift lives under the hood and isn’t found anywhere else. The face buttons on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 controller, Elite or otherwise, actual via a piece of plastic pressing on a piece of rubber under it that contacts the board with a piece of carbon activates a button press. Evil has replaced the switches under these buttons with something .3mm shorter and with less material between press and action. Tactilely, I could feel a marked difference in the height, and the slightly shallower throw resulted in a minor, but noticeable, difference in action speed. Again, when milliseconds matter, so do these changes.
I came away from my meeting with the Evil Controllers team shaking my head. Microsoft spent over a million dollars redesigning their own controller, and they just got schooled by a little company out of Tempe, Arizona. The Shift is built for usability and performance, as modular as all of their their previous efforts, and manages to preserve the well-worn ergonomics and contours of the original, leaving it resting comfortably in my hands instead of needing the digital gymnastics that the Elite requires. Whether you are an eSports veteran, or just a pro in your mind, you’ll want to keep an eye on what Evil Controllers has in store when the Shift ships for both platforms this summer.