As a guy running a charity where I build video game care packages for troops deployed to Afghanistan (Operation Supply Drop, look us up), I’m regularly looking for a cost effective way to toss four Xbox controllers in the care package without spending the equivalent of another damn console. I’m not sure if you realize it, but replacement 360 controllers from Microsoft are ridiculously expensive – usually costing around $35-40 a pop. They’re a quality product, but who wants to drop that kind of money for a controller?
When I received Performance Designed Products (PDP) version of “answer to the inexpensive wired Xbox 360 controller,” named “Rock Candy,” I was a little taken aback. The color scheme for the Rock Candy controller line is a bit jarring, as the casing is made of a thin, bright neon-colored and translucent material. But let’s face it, very rarely are you purchasing a controller for its looks.
The first thing I noticed was the abnormally long cord – 12 feet long, at a guess. Pretty impressive, including the “oh-snap, I just tripped on the cord” emergency break away segment near the base of the USB plug for the Xbox. For me, as I sit at an unhealthily close distance from my television (see also: nose pressed against the glass), the 12 feet of cord is actually a bane for me, as I regularly got it tangled in a variety of other cords coming out of my entertainment center (microphone for podcasting, cord for Xbox 360 chat, cord for the USB web camera coming out of my computer…it’s quite the snarl of cords).
I’m beating up on it early because the important part is coming up: how does the controller hold up against its full price cousin? I’m here to report that the PDP Rock Candy scores top marks against the conventional Xbox 360 wired controller in all the things most gamers find critical when it comes to controllers.
Have you ever used one of those Gamestop branded hunks of plastic they call a 360 controller? Aside from looking at it and wincing, you can tell when you get it in your hot little hands that “things ain’t right.” The buttons feel weird, the triggers feel cheap and everything’s just a half-a-centimeter off center. The Rock Candy, however, feels like a regular controller. The buttons look and feel like the regular 360 controller gems, the triggers don’t stick, it feels like there’s weight to them and the thumbsticks are where they are supposed to be. The feel of the controller in your hand, the plastic casing feels a little thinner than a Microsoft branded controller, but that also makes the controller feel a little lighter in your hands. The only real strange piece to the controller’s layout is the placement of the start and select buttons (if they’re even called that anymore), which are a weird diagonal angle above the center Xbox gem. I found myself fumbling around the controller the first few times trying to pause a game I was playing, but that hardly is a major concern.
What’s the best part? The controller is $24.99, about $10 cheaper than its big brother. Now that right there is a pretty damn good deal.
Here’s the bottom line: I was playing with the controller and I forgot I was playing with a competitor branded controller as opposed to my regular set up until I tried to pause it, had to look down and find the start button and then go, “Oh yeah, this controller!” That’s about as good a review I can give it. It is completely able to take the place of your primary controller without making you feel like you’re playing with a cheap, third-world child labor hammered-together “controller.”