Let’s get real. What happens most of the time when you tell someone that you wish a PC game had controller support, or even if you want to play a shooter with a controller instead of a mouse and keyboard? Usually, you will get laughed at or ridiculed online by strangers. I’ve seen it first hand across online message boards, and even in Steam community hubs. Hell, If I went into a team-based game and announced I use using a controller I would be booted from the game instantly. I understand the benefits of using a mouse vs. an analog stick on a controller, but there are times I just feel more comfortable playing with a controller. In the competitive scene especially, it is almost unheard of playing with a controller (for a PC game), but NACON aims to change all that by teaming up with professional gamer "Gen1us" to develop the GC-400ES eSports controller.
It was only a few years ago that mentioning the phrase “eSports” to someone would result in a weird look or a brief chuckle. With the massive influx in popularity of Twitch.tv and major events selling out some of the most popular arenas in the world, such as Madison Square Garden, eSports is starting to become a household name. You can watch big eSports events on ESPN (usually ESPN 2), and even Yahoo has a dedicated eSports team that has round the clock coverage. With thousands of dollars on the line in these competitions, PC gamers rely on the best keyboard and mouse to provide them with pinpoint accuracy, especially in the widely popular Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
Although NACON has only been around since 2014, and mostly in the European market, the GC-400ES has been successfully funded on Indiegogo. From a distance, the controller resembles an Xbox One Elite controller. Considering the successful gamble Microsoft took by releasing a premium, pro-level controller, the design of the GC-400ES is understandable. At a cheaper price point than the Xbox One Elite controller, NACON aims for their controller to also be more precise and feature more customization. I’ve gone hands-on with the controller and was blown away with the sheer amount of both software and hardware options.
Starting with the right analog stick, you’ll notice that it appears different to the one on the left side of the controller. NACON promised that it has an amplitude of 46 degrees (I’ll take their word on it), compared to the 38 degrees of an Xbox One controller. The circular edge appears to be much smoother than any other controller. The additional angle helps provide improved precision and accuracy that gamers would look for in a controller to help make them competitive against those using a mouse. Going hands-on in a CS:GO match, I could feel the difference when aiming with the controller compared to a standard Xbox controller. For reference, I reviewed the game initially on the Xbox 360, so I am well aware of how the game feels when using a standard controller.
Compatible with all PC games, the GC-400ES features two different modes. With “classic” activated, it acts as a controller, similar to how you can connect a DualShock 4 or Xbox One controller directly to your PC. In “eSports” mode, however, the controller has new possibilities as it emulates anything that can be done with a keyboard and mouse. While my hands-on time with the controller was limited to playing CS:GO, my imagination began to run wild with the possibilities of using it for Starcraft 2, League of Legends, and other games that you would never expect to be playable with a controller. Only time will tell if it will be more comfortable and practical to use for these types of games than the Steam Controller, which also lets you play any game (on Steam) with a controller. I was left disappointed when testing the Steam Controller, however, so if NACON can pull it off, it would be huge for the PC games market.
While the Xbox One Elite controller includes four paddles on the backside, NACON has added only two, but each one can have two different buttons mapped to them. The D-pad on the left side of the controller, remember the positioning of the left side mimics an Xbox One controller and not the DualShock 4, has very wide and rounded directions. This should help when playing fighting games specifically, as pulling off combos and special moves that require the use of rolling your thumb across multiple directions with precision should be easy.
One of the most intriguing and important selling points, at least in my eyes, is the inclusion of importing and saving profiles directly into the controller. Four profiles can be saved into the controller at one time, and switching between them only requires pressing the home button. While you may not realize how much a big deal this is, just think of playing the Battlefield series, and creating a different profile for the different classes. You may want to alter the sensitivity and dead zone of the analog sticks when playing a sniper, and may want to use a different setting for a different class. Profiles can be downloaded, and with the goal of sharing them amongst the community.
Inside each of the two handgrips are compartments that allow you to adjust the weight of the controller. By adding or removing the optional weights, players can customize their experience. While my preference leans more towards having a heavy controller so I may include a couple of the weights, but it will all come down to the individual on what feels comfortable to them
NACON is aiming to release the GC-400ES later this year at around $90.