A third-party peripheral maker is releasing a controller for both pro and cost-conscious Xbox One and PC gamers.
The PowerA Fusion Pro for the Xbox One is an $80 controller that goes on sale today at retailers like GameStop. It features back buttons that you activate with your typically unused middle and ring fingers, so that you don’t have to remove your right thumb from the analog stick to press the face buttons. It also has the option to reduce the press on the right and left triggers to make them “hair triggers.” This is good for shooters, as you want to begin firing as quickly as possible.
If those features sound familiar, that’s because they are standard for any kind of “pro” controller. Scuf Gaming introduced the idea of these alterations to the standard gamepad last generation, and now — most recently — Microsoft has brought the idea to the mainstream with its excellent Xbox One Elite Controller.
But a few things set apart the Fusion Pro from the Elite and other controllers in this space. Let’s get to them.
What you’ll like
It’s only $80 and is (in some ways) an improvement over the standard pad
The first big difference between an Elite or Scuf and the Fusion Pro is that it is about half the price. You’ll need to fork over $150 for Microsoft’s exquisite gamepad, but $80 is all you’ll need for PowerA’s device. That’s a big difference, and this is one of the least expensive ways to get some of the features the pros benefit from.
At that price, it’s also $15 more expensive than a standard Xbox One controller. And I’d say that you’re probably getting $15 worth of extras here.
The analog sticks feel nice. The back buttons and hair triggers are useful features. And the face buttons and D-pad feel responsive. I have some caveats to all of that, but — in general — this is a fine way to play competitively or casually.
The lights are pretty
If you’re in the market for a controller that stands out for its looks, this is a contender. The first thing you’ll notice when you plug this thing in is that it’s got three LED light sources: a V-shaped one across its middle, and one in each analog-stick well.
Like other third-party peripherals — especially for PC — these blink and shine in different colors of the RGB spectrum. It’s alluring, and — while I know it’s stupid — I enjoy picking up the Fusion to start playing because it looks cool.
Makes for a great PC controller
The Fusion Pro controller is wired. For me, this makes it difficult to use with the Xbox One I keep in the nook behind my television. It will only reach my couch if I use the USB extension cord I have.
But the permanent cord makes the Fusion Pro a better PC controller. I can leave the thing plugged in at all times and just pick it up when I’m ready. And since most of the sticks and buttons on the pad feel so good, it’s great to just have something reliable right next to my mouse and keyboard when I need it.
What you won’t like
The back buttons are difficult to press
Before you rush out to get this discount Elite-style controller, you should know that it has one serious drawback.
I struggle to press the buttons on the back. Y’know, the ones that are supposed to make it so that you can instantly jump or melee without having to take your thumb off the aiming stick. That just doesn’t work for me because something about the way these buttons are made doesn’t fit with my hands.
Now, I’m not known for my manual dexterity. I struggle to drink a glass of water without spilling it on my shirt. But even with my unreliable fingers, I had no issues pressing the paddles on Microsoft’s Elite. I can’t say the same thing for PowerA’s Fusion Pro.
An example of my troubles came when I tried to play Rocket League and set the face button to the back buttons. To get my hands to place one finger on each button while still holding the pad in a comfortable way was nearly impossible. I had to bend my middle and ring fingers with a weird and unnatural claw-like grip.
Once I came to terms with the way I was handling the pad, I went into a match, and the results were disastrous.
No matter what I tried, I couldn’t press the ring-finger button without accidentally pressing the middle-finger button. The buttons are too close and require too much force to push. On top of that, they’re made with a slippery plastic material that doesn’t provide much friction to hold your fingertip in place. Finally, the button is angled at such a way that, when combined with the material, caused my finger to shoot off clumsily so that I wasn’t pressing anything at all.
The only solution I found for this problem was to only use my middle finger for these buttons, which kinda defeats their purpose. On a Scuf, I can place one finger on each back input all at once. Here, I need to adjust my middle finger depends on what I want to do — that introduces delay and an increased possibility for confusion. Not to mention that even using this method doesn’t make pressing these buttons easy.
It’s possible that my hand size had something to do with these troubles, but I think my mitts are pretty typical for a man.
It doesn’t feel premium
While I do like the sticks, triggers, D-pad, and face buttons, I’m less of a fan of the overall feel of the Fusion Pro. It feels cheap with lots of hollow plastic parts. The handles, where your fingers and knuckles grip the device, feel especially rough. They have no weight and the materials cause it to sometimes slip right out of your grip. That combination makes it so it’s difficult to feel like you have a firm grasp, which is distracting.
Finally, the bumper buttons feel mushy. Even on the standard Xbox One controller, you get a satisfying click from hitting these inputs. But here, it the press feels far from substantial.
An $80 wired pro controller seems like a tough sell for anyone outside the niche competitive console scene, and — for me — if you’re going to spend the cash on something like this, it’s probably worth saving up $70 extra bucks for the Elite.
But, at the same time, I have had my Fusion Pro plugged into my PC nonstop since I opened it up. It does its job, the USB cable is sturdy, and the stuff that doesn’t work almost never gets in the way of the kind of gaming I want to do on my rig with a gamepad. And yes, I’ll admit it: I like the lights.
So there are some people I would recommend this controller to. If you’re looking for something for your PC that has tight analog sticks and a long cord, you could do worse. But I would warn anyone looking for something to bring to tournaments from investing in this without first understanding whether its drawbacks will affect your performance.
PowerA provided GamesBeat with a review unit for the purposes of this review. The Fusion Pro goes on sale today.