Officially-licenced game controller manufacturer PDP’s new Xbox range is affordable and customisable, making it an accessible Christmas gift for low income gamers.
The PDP Afterglow Wave and Rematch controllers for Xbox are the latest in the tech manufacturer’s lineup of console gaming hardware. They’re compatible with Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One and Windows PC devices, although with some tinkering you can also get them to work on certain mobile devices.
Although both controllers are considered separate products, they are both designed similarly enough that we felt splicing them together into a single, coherent article was the best way to review them.
So let’s first talk about how they feel. Due to the lack of wireless capabilities, both PDP controllers are extremely light. Due to this, they’re comfortable to hold and easy to grip unlike the first-party options that Microsoft offers. The shape and size of the controllers are very much similar to these alternatives, so your storage choices for gaming devices will also work for these gamepads.
Although it’s a cheap controller, the hardware feels sturdy and unlikely to fall apart unlike many other third-party controllers on the market. The backside of the Afterglow Wave also comes with a nice padded texture that feels comfortable to hold, and prevents the controller from slipping out of your hands during a particularly intense gaming session. However, the Rematch’s surface feels a lot smoother and I had a few occasions where the controller would slip out of my grip.
Unfortunately, the controllers’ buttons aren’t as enjoyable as the design. The face buttons (A, B, X, Y) are a little harder to push compared to the official gamepad, and the centre menu buttons also feel particularly cheap. The thumbsticks are also extremely clicky and feel quite rigid when you’re inputting a “click + move” interaction. They don’t necessarily feel as good as the official Xbox controllers.
The triggers and bumpers also suffer from a similar problem where there’s a very audible pressing sound every time you squeeze them. I like how the triggers feel at least, as this is probably the closest match to official designs as we get with this controller. The bumpers on the other hand, are much longer and feel a little awkward to press during play.
Then we have the D-Pad, which I’m also not a fan of. It’s too flat and indistinguishable. During regular gameplay, I found myself having to look down at the controller to work out which button the D-Pad I was hovering over.
A brand new addition to these PDP controllers is the inclusion of two back paddles that sit on the grips where your middle and ring fingers usually rest. These buttons default to A and B, but can be programmed to any button you choose. Because of my issues with the bumpers and thumbsticks, I switched to having them utilise those functions of the controller which is where the controller really shined for me.
There is a smaller issue with these though in that these buttons are placed in such a way that it’s easy to accidentally press them either during gameplay or even just when it’s resting in your palms. It’s not fun to be watching a game’s cutscene and then having it suddenly skip because you pushed the back button by mistake.
But still, overall it is a controller that does exactly what you need to at a reduced price. And it’s a sign of how far third-party controllers have come. I remember gamepads of a similar calibre back in the day would have their wires attached directly to the controller, whereas this range uses USB-C, allowing less room for breakage.
Perhaps the best part of these controllers is how adjustable they are using third-party software. The PDP Control app allows you to tweak different aspects of the controller to suit your needs. For example, this allows you to alter the deadzones of the thumbsticks, meaning you can decide how hard or lightly you need to push them to register movement during gameplay.
The app also affects features such as volume when using a headset, as well as reprogramming any buttons to an alternative function. Although this is a fantastic accessibility feature that all controllers need to support, it’s worth noting that Xbox already allows you to do this natively within the operating system for any of its controllers.
Altogether, it’s nice to have a controller that lets you configure the finer details with pinpoint precision using a third-party app. As much as I love first-party controllers, they often come with the stipulation that you’re not going to be able to tweak everything. But PDP’s latest range eliminates that fear.
At £30 for the Rematch and £40 for the Afterglow Wave, these two Xbox controllers are a suitable and accessible alternative to the more expensive first party options provided by Microsoft. If you’re on a low income but need a new controller for your gaming, you definitely need to give this a shot. While they may feel a little cheaper, this is more than made up for with the ability to tweak the function on your controller on the go.
Featured Image Credit: PDP