True story, just one hour with Microsoft’s Elite controller resulted in me going out and spending a stupid amount of money to get my own one. I loved that controller so much that I have ended up buying two more, but at more reasonable prices via sales at an overseas e-tailer. Ever since, I have waited and waited for Sony to finally officially release their own competitor, but that never came. Sure, there was Razer’s Raiju and Naicon’s attempts, but those were wired only and never up to the standards that MS set.
But now we have the Scuf Vantage; the team that helped Microsoft create the Elite now have the license to create a Sony-approved and branded premium controller... and boy, have they dropped that ball.
The experience starts well with the packaging - a large box that promises a premium controller experience. Inside, you get the controller in the carry case and foil bags?! Yep, the extra triggers, analogue sticks and D-Pad disc don’t sit comfortably within the carry case, but inside a cardboard cassette inside a silver foil packet. When you open the carry case you will see your controller and the braided micro-USB cable. That is a non-negotiable these days for premium controllers. Braided cables last longer and aren’t prone to weakness at the connection that plastic sleeved cables are prone to. The packaging problem continues in the case as there actually isn’t enough space for the cable and the controller. You must force the case closed, increasing the risk of damaging the controller.
Changing the parts is easy, but just doesn’t feel as well thought out as the Elite. You simply lift off the face plate, held on by magnets, and can swap out the analogue sticks, the D-Pad and the anti-friction rings. A nice touch is that the vibration components can be removed which will reduce the weight. There are no magnets that secure the parts on the controller and that just feels cheap. Disappointingly, the battery is not accessible so if you want to swap in a higher capacity battery, you will have to take the controller apart. That should not be a problem as the battery lasts almost as long as an Xbox one.
Despite those issues, the controller feels better in the hand than a DS4, the weight is more comforting than uncomfortable, and even after extended play sessions I did not experience any sort of fatigue. Like other Scuf controllers, the Vantage has paddles that can be mapped how you want, but by default are mapped to the face buttons. Unlike the Elite, the paddles are set further to the centre of the controller and at first, I thought that it would be uncomfortable, but was actually more comfortable than the Elite. However, for every positive there is a negative.
The inside paddles do not lie in a position that will allow you to use your pinkie fingers. To use them you have to use your ring fingers on both paddles. Luckily, Scuf have added what they call the SAX buttons on the side of the controller. I reprogrammed them to the square and triangle buttons, meaning that by just pushing with my index fingers I don’t have to take any fingers off any other controls. The paddles are also attached to the controller, so you cannot remove any of them or if they break, you won’t easily be able to replace them.
Before you get to play with your controller, though, you have to pair it with your PS4 and that is where the issues start. Unlike almost any other controller, you don’t just simply plug the controller in to your PS4 with the cable. Nope, you must start your PS4, navigate to Settings>Devices>Bluetooth and then select pair. Oh yeah, don’t forget to slide the Wired/Wireless selector to the right so that the controller knows that it is in wireless mode. Why on an officially licensed, premium controller is this required when the cheaper DS4 simply allows you to plug in to pair and to use the controller in a wired mode and unplug for wireless mode is a mystery.
The Scuf Vantage allows you to remap the paddles and SAX buttons to whatever function you want, but this is all done on the controller and not through an app on the PC or PS4. The remapping is easy enough, but the lack of a software option to remap the buttons is an odd decision. Scuf have said that they will be releasing an app, but there is no release date yet.
Like all controllers, the Scuf Vantage has a 3.5mm headphone jack for your headset. Something that Razer added to Raiju, and something that MS should have integrated into their controllers instead of requiring an extra dongle, are audio controls. A small touch pad above the jack allows you to control volume and mute the mic – if the controller is plugged in. Like I said earlier, for every good thing there is a bad thing. Headsets won’t work at all if the controller isn’t plugged in.
Another thing that doesn’t work is the PS button to power on the console. You must either use the console power button or a DS4 to power up the system, power on the Scuf Vantage and shut down the DS4. It’s another baffling decision, but I wonder if there was some sort of mandate from Sony when they gave Scuf the license that tied their hands in some way.
Given all these issues, you would think that I have thrown my Scuf Vantage to the side. However, I have been using it as my default controller. Now whether this is because it easier to use or because I would feel guilty for wasting $200 is a different issue. In-game, the controller feels better than a DS4, the asymmetrical analogue sticks are my preferred configuration, and the paddles and SAX buttons do seem to make me more responsive. The biggest advantage is the good battery life. Long play sessions no longer require me to keep an extra controller charged and ready in case my current one dies mid-boss battle.
Despite the fact that the Scuf Vantage is my default controller, it is not a patch on the Elite and for the price, it really ought to be. At $170 for the wired only version and $200 for the wireless version, it is far too expensive for what you get.
Grumpy Old Man who still collects toys (THEY. ARE. NOT. DOLLS), PC Gamer lured to the Dark Side of console gaming, comic book reader and fan of all things pop culture.
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1 September 2018
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