BY BRENDAN O’DONNELL ‘16
2 years after announcement, Valve has finally released the Steam Controller for PC. It was announced as being a controller that could merge the power of the mouse and keyboard with the ease of use of a normal controller. But how revolutionary is it? I purchased one to find out.
To start off, the controller felt a little weird. The touchpads didn’t really make sense at first and I was irritated by haptic feedback (which can be turned off). However, as I used it more, I got used to them pretty quick- ly. Now, I feel that I am more accurate with this than a controller, though not as much as the standard mouse and keyboard that I typically use.
Valve has clearly put a lot of time into the de- sign of the controller, in both the hardware and software section. With 2 extra buttons, a usable keyboard, and full integration with the Steam software that runs PC games, the controller is surprisingly useful in many gam- ing situations. I found it easy to use in some games that typically require the mouse and keyboard, such as Civilization V and Fallout 4. However, other games, such as Terraria and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, did not work well with the controller.
Another feature of the controller that I liked is its general use style. While it is made to work in the Steam platform only, it has some default bindings that make it very usable in general web browsing activities. While I certainly wouldn’t type an Arko essay with it, I found it satisfactory to use for watch- ing videos and general internet browsing – something that would work well if the PC is connected to a TV.
The Steam Controller is part of Valve’s vision for a “Steam Universe” – where everything entertainment related runs on the Steam platform. The Steam Controller is certainly a good start to this model, but I think that there could be some improvements on the touchpads before I would consider switch- ing entirely to this. For its purpose, though, the Steam Controller does the job. Just re- member that it only works with PCs.
The Steam Controller fills a niche of users who want to have both the power of a PC and the finesse of a console. Is it possible to have both? I don’t think that it is, to be honest. The PC is great for finding the most power in gaming. Only with a PC can you run a game in 4k or at above 60 fps, for example. However, a PC capable of such feats costs so much more than a console to make (PS4s go for about $300 these days and have about the power of a $500 computer) and is more likely to encounter problems. You can use the PC with a TV, but many PC games are designed to be played at a desk. A console is the easiest way to game with the least initial investment, though game collectors will be interested in the PC’s lower prices.
Is the Steam Controller able to bring the console experience to the power of a PC? I don’t think so. But it is a basic step that is being made to join the best parts of both. Combined with other initiatives such as Steam Machines, Valve may finally be able to capture the console market as well. Only time will tell if they will succeed.
Rating: It might be the beginning of some- thing big, but it isn’t yet game changing.