Nowadays, PC gamers are used to play with a keyboard and a mouse, what is more, they even have special keyboards and mouse devices with extra keys that allow them to create macros. Thanks to its huge amount of keys we can have a wide range of functions distributed among them all and like that, it’s not necessary to remember all the combos that you have to remember when you use controllers, which have less buttons available. But it’s also true that in certain cases it’s better to play with a controller instead than with a keyboard, for example you can control much better a driving game with a joystick and the controller triggers than with the keyboard arrows, because it give us more precision among the acceleration/brakes or the turns (we don’t take into account steering wheels, that’s from another world), most of the 2D adventure or platform games are also great examples of a good playability with a controller, although this doesn’t differ from the keyboard, and finally, we also have some shooters, despite it’s true that you cannot control all of them better (among all those that require fluid or continued movements of the user) there are some that will do improve in playability and user experience.
This is why today we are going to show you the Steam Controller. The Steam Controller is Valve‘s bet in order to approach to the PC-console world, because with it they launched the Steam Link, which receives the retransmission of your games and show them onto your TV or wherever you are (but today we are not going to focus on it). Steam has been promoting and giving support to their Steam Machines, their game machines which come with Steam OS and which only have a single purpose, to approach the Steam library to the user in a small and powerful device, as if it was a last generation console and, like every modern console, it also needed its controller, and that is why the Steam Controller was created.
The Steam Controller has been made with the purpose to be used with any game, it doesn’t matter if it’s natively compatible with the controller or not. It has two usage modes: the mouse mode and the controller mode. The first one is used for games that aren’t compatible with the controller because it allows to map different keys and the mouse to the buttons and joysticks from the controller. The second one is the controller mode, and it simply emulates a conventional controller. But this doesn’t end up here, despite having a mode activated all the keys are totally assignable, any user can create a personalised profile assigned to the buttons as wanted and after that share it in the Steam community so that any other user can find and use that profile.
But let’s talk a little bit about the hardware itself. The first impression of the controller is a little bit weird, it isn’t a conventional controller and that can be appreciated when it’s used for the first time. It has the same number of buttons and joysticks that a PS4 or Xbox controller and two more buttons in the backside, which are assigned to regular buttons and offer a direct access to these. It counts with a conventional joystick, the left, and a tactile one, the right, which gives us a haptic response every single time that we use it, as well as the arrows, but these ones are tactile and clickable at the same time.
To conclude, we can say that this is a different controller, not conventional at all. It is quite different to what we are used to until now and causes a though learning curve at the beginning, but very soft once we are used to the controller ergonomics. The joysticks haptic answer is really appreciated when you make actions on the game, because it transmits us that we really are acting on the game. On the other hand, we don’t like the fact that it uses standard batteries, something which will always force us to be pendent of the controller charging level, and despite it can be solved by using rechargeable batteries, these usually tend to have a minor charging capacity in comparison to the conventional ones. Although given the controller shape it looks like in the future it could stand some kind of battery.
Here you have a video that we made about the Steam Controller and a Portal 2 gameplay (a game suggested to enjoy with the controller). Note: The video is in Spanish.