My Steam Controller arrived on Tuesday too. Some quick notes after a few hours of playing around with it:
- It can be customized to an almost absurd degree. You can assign different function and behaviour to every input on it. The biggest showpieces being of course the touchpads which you can set to emulate a mouse, a mouse emulating a joystick, a trackball, a D-pad with like 4 different sub-modes itself, a mouse scroll wheel, etc.
- This is both a blessing and a curse due to both a learning curve as well as the pure hassle and the time you need to spend fine-tuning it for each game (each control, especially the analogue ones, can also be fine-tuned to an absurd degree).
- BUT, a better solution is to load one of the presets provided for each game by other users (I think you need to be in Big Picture Mode to see that). You can see how many people use each preset, it's usually a safe bet to grab the most popular one and then only if necessary adjust it to your needs.
- The Big Picture Mode on-screen keyboard that you use with both touchpads and triggers is surprisingly efficient for what it is and took me almost no time to get used to.
- Build quality and ergonomics seem pretty good. I never used any other controller for a longer time though so I can't really compare.
- I only used it wireless and I didn't notice any input lag, but I probably wouldn't know since I don't play any time-critical games where fractions of a second matter (like online shooters or MOBAs I suppose).
How it worked in a couple of games I tried:
Fallout 3 - I'll need to revisit it because it was the first game I tried and as I said I have practically no previous experience with other controllers so I was very clunky with it (but still not as bad as a reviewer from a certain website while showcasing the new Doom game). I play it in FPS mode and it worked all right with the right touchpad emulating the mouse and the joystick being the WASD. It's not ideal however, there simply are not enough controls accessible at once, eg. under your right hand (the "mouse") you only have 3 buttons (two triggers and the "paddle" on the back). In my bog-standard 5-button mouse I have, obviously, 5 buttons AND the scroll-wheel, all of which I can use seamlessly. Anyway, because of that, even with a config that makes most sense you can't seamlessly do some things that I take for granted and consider essential when playing with KB+M, such as jump while looking around - in my config jump is under the A face button which you also press with your right thumb, meaning you need to stop using the right touchpad for mouse-look when you want to jump. I tried shuffling the controls around to have jump activated with one of the inputs under my left hand, but because all inputs are taken I only seem to have made it worse in the long run. I don't get how people could stand playing FO3 and New Vegas on consoles, but that's another story really.
Sleeping Dogs - if you don't know it then think GTA just set in Hong Kong. Standard third-person view gameplay. I completed it with KB+M before and I was happy enough with it. There was a bit of awkward keyboard mashing when trying to get some bigger combos in during fights, but I got used to it. It's probably just as awkward with any controller. The part where KB+M was lacking the most was driving due to no analogue inputs. I didn't get to the point where I can drive yet while playing with the controller (I finished the game long ago and my saves are gone), however just running around and doing some simple fights feels natural and comfortable. I wouldn't say the controller is superior to KB+M (except for the driving stages), but it's just as efficient and you can get more relaxed and comfortable with it on the couch.
Jet Set Radio - I tried playing it before with KB+M and it was unplayable garbage, even though in theory the PC port supports it. Now with the controller it's finally playable. It's definitely one of those games what you just can't play without a controller. But this is where I run into trouble assessing the Steam Controller - is it the controller that sucks, or is it me that sucks at playing the game. Or maybe it's a matter of getting used to both using a controller and to the game's mechanics as well. It took me a couple of hours to even complete the game's tutorial and I probably just gave myself a blister on my thumb while doing so. Though to be fair the tutorial is a pretty nasty casual filter and looking at the achievement stats very few players actually completed it. I'll need to try the regular game mode some more, but right now a voice in the back of my head tells me I would have spent those 5 hours better by practising on my guitar than skating around Shibuya...
I'll need to give it some more time before a final verdict and before deciding if I'll keep it. It's definitely a usable and solid piece of hardware. If I kept using it I'd probably get fully used to its quirks and shortcomings. It's just a shame I can't compare it to X360 or XBone controller which is what most PC players probably have if they do have a controller. Maybe I should order the XBone one and see how I feel about it in comparison, and then hope amazon won't get pissed off when I return one or the other or both of them.