Everyone wants a piece of the rising popularity of eSports. Even Microsoft itself is vying for the attention of competitive gamers with the release of the Xbox One Elite controller.
One company who was doing eSports before the term even existed is Razer. It’s been in the premium gaming peripheral market since 2005, and while pricey, it has certainly released plenty of quality devices ranging from mice to gaming tablets.
When Razer first put its Wildcat controller out there, I was quite excited. Coming in with the exact same $150 RRP as the Xbox One Elite (though discounted to $130 at the time of review), it seems like a viable competitor.
Setting Up The Controller
This seems like an odd section to lead with in a controller review. How much setup can there possibly be? In the case of the Wildcat, there’s a bit (though much of it is optional), and it’s one of the things I most dislike about it.
In all the promotional pictures you’ll find for the Razer Wildcat, you’ll see it with some slick looking green grips on the handles of the controller. As it turns out, those grips don’t come attached to the controller out of the box. Instead, they’re two large stickers that you need to put on the thing yourself. I assume Razer wanted to make it so the grips were optional for players who preferred not to have them, but unfortunately, putting them on is a pain in the butt, and once they’re on, they’re on for good (you can remove them, but you won’t be able to put them back, as the adhesive will lose it’s grip).
I think I did a decent job of attaching them, and even still, there are a few lumps and areas on the edge where it’s not attached. Try as I might, I’m not a machine in an assembly line and I’ll never be able to install them as well as one. For a controller that costs $150, nothing about attaching stickers to it feels premium. Compared the Xbox One Elite, with its comfortable rubber grips built in, it’s night and day.
Continuing with the setup, there’s also rubber grips that go over the joysticks. Again, these are optional, but unlike the stickers, they can be removed and replaced as needed. They’re not hard to slide on, and while it doesn’t alter the feel quite as much as the Xbox One Elite’s swapable joysticks, they’re grippy and they feel good.
Actually getting the controller running on Xbox One or PC is easy. You plug it in via the included USB cable (you have to use the one in the box, as the port on the top of the controller is shaped in such a way that other cables won’t fit), and go.
The Extra Buttons and Features
These controllers are all about adding features that are designed to improve your performance in competitive games without any kind of cheating. In the case of the Wildcat, this comes in the form of two extra buttons on the top of the controller and two on the back of the controller. These buttons can be remapped to any other button on the controller, and in most cases, you’ll remap the face buttons to them to prevent yourself from needing to move your thumb off the right stick to hit them.
Personally, I never use the rear buttons on controller like this. I find that I hit them by mistake too often. Once I finished reviewing the Xbox One Elite, I removed the rear triggers and went back to normal. I just found that I hit them by mistake too often and it just didn’t feel comfortable to me.
On the Wildcat, however, I actually do really like the choice of putting extra buttons on the top of the controller. They’re not in the way like ones on the back, so you can freely use or ignore them as it suits your style. They’re positioned in such a way that you just need to move your fingers forward from the triggers to hit them. Unlike the rear buttons, I actually use these quite frequently while playing games, specifically in shooters.
There are rear buttons on the Wildcat, and they’re not bad at all. Instead of the quick release magnets on the Elite, it uses a more clicky, traditional button. To remove it, you need to use the included hex screwdriver to take off one piece. From there, you push the other piece down into the controller. I understand why Razer made this choice, as it gives the buttons a different feel, but it also makes it so you’re a bit more committed to buttons on or off.
There are locks for the triggers as well, which is a pretty standard feature of premium controllers. If you’re playing a shooter with semi-automatic guns, this allows you to pop off shots a bit faster, which might give you a bit of a competitive advantage (of course, if everyone has a controller like this, that advantage goes away).
One place where Razer’s controller really shines is with it’s on-the-fly profile creation and button editing. With the Xbox One Elite, you have the use the Xbox Accessories app to set what the triggers will do. With the Razer, you just have to hold a couple buttons down on the controller itself. Razer includes instructions to do it, and it’s definitely easy enough once you get the hang of it. It feels opposite of the physical form of the rear triggers, which prevents quick adjustments, but it’s still nice, especially if you’re the type of player who switches games frequently.
But – there’s no wireless support. Razer says it’s because eSports players need the performance of a wired controller, and that’s true enough in a tournament settings, but at $150, this controller is one that’s meant to be used everyday, and not having wireless makes that an annoyance. With the Elite, you can use the controller wired if you want, but you can also unplug the USB cable and go wireless. It’s 2016; having a controller that needs to be wired just feels ridiculous. Even more so when you’re talking about one that costs double what a standard wireless one sells for.
At this price, feel is everything. This controller is marketed at people who will be using it for many hours at a time. Presumably, a good percentage of players buying a controller like this will be professional gamers who will be using this to make a living.
Thankfully, the Wildcat is quite comfortable to use. The biggest difference between this and Elite is the weight. While Microsoft opted to give the Elite a real sense of heft, Razer went the other way and made this one lighter than average. Neither one is wrong, as it all comes down to a matter of personal preference. I like a heavy controller, but I still didn’t dislike the weight of the Razer.
The aforementioned grips do feel good, though I was able to feel the bumps around the edges where the imperfections of my attachment job shown through. After using it for a while, I flattened them out and eventually forgot they were there, but your milage may vary depending on how well (or poorly), you stick them on.
The face buttons are great. They’re very clicky and they feel super responsive — maybe more so than the default Xbox One or Elite controller, though it’s difficult to say for sure. What I can say for sure is that the face buttons are one of the best parts of the controller, and they feel fantastic for fighting games (though just about all high-level fighting game players will probably opt for a dedicated fight stick over a controller).
The joysticks are okay. The head of the stick is a bit wider than the ones offered on other controllers, and they felt a bit weird to me. They’re also a bit flatter. With the included grip, your fingers won’t slide off at all, but something about the joysticks still felt a bit off to me. And they’re not removable, so if you find that you feel the same as me, you’re stuck with them.
The triggers and bumpers are comfortable. The addition of the extra buttons near the triggers won’t impact performance in a bad way, and everything is accessible and easy to get to.
The d-pad features four separate buttons — one for each direction. It reminds me a bit of the PlayStation controller’s directional buttons, and I have no complaints about it. It’s precise, and it does the job well.
Putting it all together, the Razer Wildcat has an above average feel. However, almost every flaw that it has isn’t present on the Xbox One Elite controller. Perhaps is the Razer was cheaper than the Elite, it wouldn’t be an issue, but at roughly the same price, I have a hard time seeing any reason to buy this one over Microsoft’s offering.
The Good and The Bad
For those of who want a quick look at the controller and whether or not it’s worth a buying, here’s quick breakdown that’ll steer you in the right direction.
The Good Stuff
- Comfortable feel
- On-the-fly profile creation
- Solid build quality
- Clicky, responsive face buttons
- Fantastic location for second set of triggers
The Bad Stuff
- Hand grips difficult to apply
- No wireless option
- No support for original Xbox One headsets
- Hex screwdriver required to change rear buttons
- Triggers don’t feel as good as Xbox One Elite
- No customization of d-pad or joysticks
While the Razer Wildcat is a solid premium controller in a vacuum, the fact is, the Xbox One Elite controller costs roughly the same amount and reamins the best controller I’ve ever used. Just buy the Elite and you’ll be much happier.