Those of you who have been reading Gaming Trend for a while know I have very little love for third party controllers. Microsoft and Sony spend millions developing each and every component, and the end results are usually pretty fantastic. We spend hundreds upon hundreds of hours with these controllers in our hands over the lifespan of a console — literally nothing but the console itself gets more use. So why is it that third parties are so out of touch with what makes this vital piece of the system work so well?
There are a few companies out there making custom controllers. Put simply, a great many of these are just plain awful. They use custom shells, lesser quality components, and often change the shape and feel of the whole device. You’ll note that I don’t typically review these controllers as they aren’t worth my time or your money. When a Florida-based company called GamerModz hit me up for an opportunity, I had to do a little bit of research before I said yes.
A world of options
GamerModz was formed in 2007 — for those playing the home game, that’s two years after the Xbox 360 was released. Since that time they’ve released mods for some of the most high profile games adding rapid fire, drop shot, quick scope, auto scope, auto run, burst mode, double-tap, auto-drop, jitter, fast reload, and dual-firing akimbo support to games like Halo, Call of Duty, Dying Light, Titanfall, and the Battlefield series. Now, if you don’t know what some of those things are, you aren’t alone. Rest assured, I’ll help you out.
Rapid fire doesn’t make a single fire weapon into an automatic one, but rather fires the weapon as fast as the game allows, regardless of fire selector setting. Drop shot makes your character immediately drop into the prone position to fire shots until you release the trigger. This means your opponent will send bullets overhead while you dive for the ground. Quick scope is a technique where, when using a sniper rifle and you bring the weapon to bear, for a brief moment the reticule is on target and your sight aperture has not yet begun to sway with your breathing. If you fire at this exact moment, your shot will be completely accurate. The Quick Scope mod brings up the scope, fires, and drops the scope in one fluid motion.
Auto Scope is a sniper shortcut mod, immediately holding your breath when you bring up your scope, meaning you are ready to fire without having to click in the thumbstick to steady your shot. Auto run isn’t as simple as it sounds — it doesn’t just make you run without having to click the thumbstick. Instead, it’s more intelligent, running without forcing you out of breath (which has a longer rest period), shutting off when you crouch or reload (as running would cancel either of those actions), and temporarily disabling it when you fire. Burst mode is similar to rapid fire, but it allows you to select a burst level for every weapon. This means you can have a single trigger pull release 2, 3, 4, or 5 rounds, allowing better recoil control and ammunition conservation.
Double tap shares the same name as a perk in Call of Duty: Ghosts. That perk fires a round when you pull the trigger, and another when you release it. The GamerModz controller mod allows you the same functionality, but without having to spend a game perk to get it. Jitter is a scary mod, taking weapons like shotguns and the M18 rifle and giving them spastic machinegun-like firing. While most of the shooters out there have patched out this ability, it’s still available as a mod for older titles. Fast reload, again, allows you to perform a faster reload by shortening the animation for that action by the smallest of fractions. How much it’s reduced varies wildly with each weapon and which game you are playing, but in a firefight every second counts. The final available mod is the Akimbo mod. Akimbo allows you to simultaneously fire both in-hand weapons simultaneously without tiring out your forearms from yanking the triggers.
All of these mods make up the guts of what can go on inside a GamerModz controller, but if none of these are for you, you might be more interested in some of their more cosmetic options.
GamerModz doesn’t create their own controller shells. Instead, they preserve the well-researched feeling of the first-party controllers by…well, simply using first party controllers. They purchase first party PlayStation and Xbox controllers for PS3 / PS4 and Xbox 360 and Xbox One to use as the starting point to build their creations. It all starts with the Create-A-Controller portion of their site.
Create-A-Controller starts off with 165 different shell painting options. These range from flat matte controller looks to bright candy-like shells, satisfying everything from the elegantly simple to the incredibly busy. “Sticker Bomb” looks exactly like its namesake. With your shell and battery pack paint scheme selected, you can move onto paint splatters, which are exactly what you imagine it to be. Graphics give you a choice of 57 sticker-like graphics ranging from the Skyrim symbol, a Superman or Batman logo, or brass knuckles to the Call of Duty Ghosts logo and a few other odd bits of clip art, all being offered across 10 different paint colors.
Your bumpers can come in 15 different varieties, in flat or chrome colors. Triggers come in 18 similar colors, adding clear ones to the mix. 15 thumbsticks are split into 10 matte colors, as well as 5 clear colors. This pattern proceeds across the 18 options of D-Pads, 16 button choices, and four colors of Xbox ring of light colors. With all the pretty pieces out of the way, you can also select your mod package, as well as a warranty.
The mod packages are not split a-la-carte, instead bundled into four different packages. The SPSX1 gives you single trigger rapid fire that you can program with speed adjustments, and it’ll cost you nothing on any controller GamerModz builds for you. SPSX2 raises the game to offer the Akimbo dual rapidfire option, all for $14.99. SPSX3 opens things way up with 20 different modes of rapid fire, five user-programmable modes, 15 presets, and Left Trigger Rapid Fire, Right Trigger Rapid Fire, Dual Trigger Rapid Fire (Akimbo), and Burst Mode mods built in for just $19.99. Master Juggernaut Mod includes every mod I mentioned above, as well as all of the rapid-fire and programmable options, all for $29.99. The reason I specifically call out these prices is because they are infinitely lower than nearly any I’ve seen. Even their 1-year warranty only costs $14.99 — a small price for peace of mind.
GamerModz offers an option to send in any working controller for the team to work their magic. For $39.99 you can have mods added to your favorite controller — important if you wanted to make some adjustments to that special Day-1 or Titanfall Edition controller. You can even just buy the parts if you have the knack to do it yourself. One of my favorite things about GamerMods is that the whole affair is highly-customizable, with over 5 million possible combinations.
So with all of the backstory around how the controllers are made, let’s talk about the one I have in hand.
If you’ve seen other custom controllers I’ve had made, you know that my style runs more to the side of simple and elegant. I selected a white glossy shell, blue thumbsticks, a blue D-Pad, blank blue buttons (rookies need not apply), and chrome blue bumpers and triggers. I also tricked it out with a blue LED for the ring of light, with a blue dragon head on the left side to round things out. If you are immediately noting the colors of Gaming Trend, you’ve got the right image in your head. I also stuffed it to the gills with mods, option for the Juggernaut. Could GamerModz deliver on this design with any level of quality, while managing to stuff all of those mods into a standard-size Xbox One controller?
Damn right they can.
The white glossy shell has seen a lot of use and abuse lately, showing neither smudges or fingerprints. The dragon logo isn’t a sticker, but instead is baked directly into the shell with a technique called Hydro-dipping. Essentially, the graphic film is applied to the shell and then immersed in water to adhere it. For decal graphics, the team does these with an airbrush. Once the graphic is fully adhered (or paint has dried), the team at GamerModz then paints the shell with a thin layer of clear coat to lock it in and protect it. This ensures that the graphics will never fade, discolor, or scratch off regardless of wear and tear. It speaks to the quality present across the entire device. “Hand crafted” is not something you often hear nowadays, but every one of these controllers is built in-house by hand according to your spec. It’s simply amazing to see that level of attention to detail and care paid to a product.
The biggest compliment I can offer to the controller in my hands is that it doesn’t feel any different than the one I picked up from Microsoft, with one exception — the face buttons. It could be as simple as adjustment when the shell is assembled, but the blank face buttons on the GamerModz controller are a bit of a shorter throw than the official version. I can’t speak to whether this is a good thing or not as I’m not at the competitive level, but in practice I didn’t find it made a difference for me. Beyond this one difference, the whole experience felt exactly the same — until I turned on those mods.
I’m not a competition level gamer, and for any bravado I might trot out when I send a wrecking ball through my fellow press at events, I doubt I can hold my own against the professional level folks for very long. The mods in this controller, however, could give me a real fighting chance. I was shocked and surprised how easy it was to cut through opponents using some of these mods. There is a 15 page manual that you can print out from the website that shows how each and every mod is activated or deactivated with simple button presses. The level of complexity available across those mods could easily be daunting, but I was surprised how well things worked at the default. Tuning of shot speed and such is at your fingertips, but I didn’t need to do much of that to achieve the desired and deadly results. If you are inclined, GamerModz has also turned all of these into easy-to-follow video instructions that you can reference at any time on YouTube.
My only real complaint here is that, despite the over 5 million combinations available, I can’t upload my own graphics. It was also strange to see Halo and Gears of War logos on the PlayStation controllers, though that last bit is more of a nitpick. With the level of customization available, I am surprised I can’t at least put my gamertag or a small logo on the back.
Legality and detection
The next thought I had sent a shiver up my spine. “What if Microsoft detected this controller mod? Would this get me banned?” shot through my mind. It turns out that court cases have already been fought and won — modding your controller is not illegal. That said, the team at GamerModz have created mod chips that are fully undetectable by Microsoft or Sony.
The larger debate, especially when I saw the damage I was able to do with just a few mods, is whether or not this sort of controller should be allowed in the gaming ecosystem. The fact of the matter is, with this controller, a casual like myself was able to play Call of Duty: Ghosts with folks who play it every single day on a somewhat competitive level. I wasn’t dominant by any stretch, but it allowed me to play and not be frustrated. I leave that larger debate for a future Metatheroy Podcast, or a forum battle.