Somewhere between clocking in hours at Xenogears on the original PlayStation and gaming now on the PlayStation 3, I stopped caring for the feel of the PlayStation controller. Granted it’s gone through several variations, from the Dual Analog Controller to iterations of the DualShock, but it’s otherwise retained its basic shape and layout. The controller that I once happily piloted just hasn’t felt right lately. I’m certainly no authority on ergonomics, but the current DualShock 3 naturally settles much too deeply for my liking, forcing me to crane my thumbs back and leaves the layout feeling cramped. I have gotten my hands on the PlayStation 4’s controller and found it much improved, but that’s still months away and doesn’t help for its non-backwards compatibility.
So I was eager to get my hands on the Gioteck SC-1 and see if it fared better. Any older gamer will certainly remember the more prolific days of the third-party controller market, Mad Catz for example, which was perhaps dominated by gimmicks rather than trying to put out solid alternatives. In more recent days, these manufacturers have moved to attempting to fill niche markets like professional or high-end gaming. Likewise, while the Gioteck SC-1 bills itself as a Sports controller, it will be right at home for anyone looking for a PS3 controller with a different layout or someone wanting to take advantage of some of the additional functionality.
The two features that are going to stand out most are the positions of the thumbsticks and the overall layout of the SC-1. If you’re a fan of the Xbox 360 controller, you’re in luck because the thumbsticks are similarly offset. The thumbsticks are also concave, which works better to keep your thumbs from slipping than the outer layer on the DualShock’s thumbsticks that tried to accomplish it with friction. Rather than the slightly loose feeling of the standard PS3 thumbsticks, the SC-1’s are more responsive and snap back in place faster.
The D-pad does however take a step back with the hat style – that plastic cap with the cross cut into it, losing some of the precision of the 4 independent buttons. The other buttons have a great feel for the most part. They have a weighty push and snappy spring back, with the only exception being the L1 and R1 bumpers which are a little mushy. They just sink into the controller and don’t provide the best feedback that you’ve depressed the button fully. The push back on the triggers is a marked improvement though, especially if you enjoy playing any shooters on your PS3.
The controller housing itself has fattened up and it is elongated compared to the regular DualShock. Where the controller rests in your hands is going to vary based on hand size. On the SC-1, I found my thumbs and index fingers naturally fell across the shoulder and face buttons. This lead to a much more comfortable feeling, and playing games with lots of repetitive button presses, like God of War, was a less tiresome and hand cramping endeavor. There’s also a rubberized coating added to the whole surface, rather than the smooth plastic feel. I found it slightly softer and easier to grip.
In addition to all the standards, there are a few expanded features to the SC-1. I ended up liking the controller more for its overall feel, but the right gamer might appreciate these extras. There’s a turbo button and a pair of programmable buttons to give you an edge in certain genres, for instance programming in a finishing move or special attack for your favorite fighter. You can even adjust the thumbstick sensitivity on the fly, which could be useful for making long distance sniping a bit easier. Also, while not necessarily a special feature, the battery stood up well to repeated long play sessions without the need for charging.
The only real problem with the controller was the lack of support for Sixaxis Motion Controls. Not every game requires it, but fellow editor Josh Vanderwall shared a funny story about not being able to shake his flashlight back to action during a tense situation in The Last of Us. The controller also does require the use of a USB dongle, so that will be an issue if you’re otherwise using all the USB ports on your PS3.
Bottomline: A solid improvement to the DualShock 3.
Recommendation: If you plan to continue to playing games on the PlayStation 3 into the next-gen and would like a more comfortable controller, then give Gioteck’s SC-1 a look.