The 8BitDo Ultimate is exactly what it says on the tin; the culmination of the hardware company’s innovations in third party game controllers. After a series of other successful gamepads, such as the Lite 2 that works well with 2D games and the Pro 2 for console games, the Ultimate encompasses the best “all-in-one” design that 8BitDo has achieved so far.
Despite its PC and Android-only compatibility, the Ultimate takes much of its inspiration from the design of Xbox’s current range of first-party controllers, including ABXY face buttons, asymmetrical thumbsticks, and comfortable padded grips. Additionally, it includes two back buttons as well as the ability to remap each key to a different function.
But the part of the Ultimate controller I was most impressed with was the D-Pad, which actually feels like how a D-Pad is supposed to. For years, I’ve been sick of Microsoft messing around with the Xbox controller’s D-Pad design. The One’s was a massive improvement over the insultingly uncomfortable 360 controller directional control, but then the most recent Series X/S controller nerfed that back to what it felt like before.
Thankfully, the 8BitDo Ultimate does away with the silly fancy design directional pads have taken in the last few years in favour of a more robust presentation. It’s actually a lot easier to hit each button and you’ll feel a lot more comfortable doing so.
But despite the inspiration feeling very Xbox-centric, the Ultimate’s thumbsticks take a lot more from the DualSense PS5 controller. They’re a lot more comfortable, lighter, and have much more distinct deadzones.You can even adjust them for higher control over your precision, which comes in handy for specific games that may require accurate movement.
The same can be said for the triggers and bumpers, which feel very “PlayStation-like” in their design. They’re angled in such a way that makes it easy for your fingers to rest on, and very responsive for when you do need to use them. Similarly, the bumpers are soft at the touch and don’t sound as “clicky” as other controllers are famous for.
I tested the Ultimate with 10 different games; Elden Ring, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Rocket League, Stardew Valley, Spider-Man Remastered, Hitman 3, Celeste, Hollow Knight, and Yakuza 0.
In that time, I found the controller shined best with 3D games featuring lots of keys and macros such as Hitman and Yakuza. I was able to map some of the more complicated button combos to the back buttons which helped to alleviate the stress of remembering the exact combination. This also applied to Elden Ring and Spider-Man Remastered, which also have certain features that best fit the two additional buttons where your fingers rest.
The controller also performed well in Call of Duty, where pixel-perfect accuracy is sometimes necessary to rack up kills during a multiplayer match. It was here I could take advantage of being able to tweak the precise motion of the thumbsticks, allowing me to perfect my aim during an intense Team Deathmatch.
On the other hand, the Ultimate isn’t as suitable for 2D games such as Hollow Knight and Celeste. By default, movement on these games is mapped to the thumbstick. But even after remapping them to the D-Pad (for more precise X and Y movement), I just felt like there are better options out there. 8BitDo even has really solid alternatives for 2D games like the Lite and SN30 Pro devices, which are probably a better fit if you’re going to be playing a lot of platformers and side-scrollers.
8bitdo ultimate – WHICH DEVICE SHOULD I GET?
The Ultimate comes in three different formats; Bluetooth, Wireless and Wired. The wired version comes with a USB cable attached to the back. Unlike the PDP range of controllers which connect with a detachable USB-C cable, the Ultimate Wired’s is attached with no way to remove it. This will leave it vulnerable to long-term damage if stored improperly, so any buyers who go for this cheaper version of the gamepad need to take proper care of it.
The 2.4G Wireless version, which is the controller I tested, removes the cable in favour of a dongle you can use to pair with your devices. The distance you can connect to the controller is short; which might be tricky if you’re like me and want to connect your PC to the big TV in the other room, but will work for most modest distances you find yourself gaming in.
Finally, there’s also a Bluetooth variant, which now lets you connect without the dongle. This is the most expensive version of the Ultimate Controller, but ends up being the best bang for your buck. Not only does it include a dongle, in case your device doesn’t support bluetooth, but that functionality also allows you to connect to Nintendo Switch in both docked and undocked modes. As an added benefit, the Bluetooth also has a much higher battery life (roughly 25 play hours opposed to the Wireless’ 15 hours).
It’s clear that the Bluetooth version is intended to be used with the Switch, as evidenced by the swapped ABXY button scheme, while the two others are for PC and Android usage.
In the end, I found the Wireless Controller to be the best middle ground between affordability and functionality. It’s a bit more awkward to pair with mobile devices, and you’ll be sacrificing Switch compatibility and a better battery life, but it’s still one of the most impressive 3rd party controllers I’ve ever used.
To put it simply, the 8BitDo Wireless Ultimate Controller is one of the best third-party gamepads you can get these days. Not only is it cheaper than the more expensive first-party Xbox controller (£54.99 RRP) that is a keen favourite of PC gamers, but it actually feels a lot lighter and more comfortable than its counterpart.
Final Score: 10/10It’s here that the word “Ultimate” isn’t just used as a marketing gimmick, but is an evolution of everything 8BitDo has done right with its past controllers. Even as an avid controller collector, I’d happily go on record to say this is my favourite to use at the moment and will probably go down as one of 8BitDo’s best releases ever.
A review unit was sent to FragHero by PR.
Featured Image Credit: 8BitDo