Review: Wii U Pro Controller

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By Paul Hunter

To coincide with the launch of their Wii U console, Nintendo has designed a new controller aimed specifically at the hardcore gamer - the Wii U Pro Controller. It does, at first glance, resemble an Xbox 360 controller, however there are many subtle differences between the two.  Considering how comfortable the Xbox 360 controller is, you might be wondering if the Wii U Pro Controller holds up after extended gameplay use.  I'm happy to let you know it does.

The ergonomic, light-weight Wii U Pro Controller has been designed specifically for extended gameplay comfort.  After clocking in roughly ten hours of testing, I can say the controller is one of the most comfortable on the market.  The controller is extremely light, feeling roughly half the weight of an Xbox 360 pad, so it does take some time to get used to, and may even turn off gamers who prefer a more solid feel.  However, if you can get past the light weight, you'll find the Wii U Pro Controller is highly responsive, comfortable, and well-constructed.

The conventional Wii U Pro Controller features dual analog sticks that are convex (rounded tops like those on the PlayStation 3 Dualshock 3 controller), and the sticks are clickable buttons.  The analog knobs are smaller than those found on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 controllers, and most closely resemble the analog stick on the Wii Nunchuk.  The top features L/R shoulder buttons and ZL/ZR trigger buttons, which are all digital buttons just like those on the touchscreen Wii U GamePad.

The face buttons include A/B/X/Y in a similar triangular formation as those on a Super Nintendo gamepad.  You'll notice the face buttons are below the right analog stick, which bucks the trend set by Sony and Microsoft who both have the stick and button layouts reversed.  While I can't really consider this a "negative", I can say it takes time to mentally get used to moving your thumb downward to jam on the buttons.

Also on the front are buttons for Power, Home, and -/+ (for Select and Start), all conveniently spaced apart.  To the left of these buttons is a standard D-pad which feels extremely tight and responsive, much more so than the D-pad on the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 controller.

You'll also notice the Wii U Pro Controller is quite glossy, but strangely enough when you flip it around, the back has a nice quality matte finish.  It made me wish the entire controller was made with this same matte finish.

While I didn't have enough game time in to wear out the battery, Nintendo claims the Wii U Pro Controller is useable for up to 80 hours with one charge.  It seems exceptionally high, especially when you consider that's 2-3 times the charge you typically get on a PlayStation 3 controller.  Perhaps battery technology has come a long way in the last seven years.

Inside the package is a lengthy USB charge cord which must be plugged into the Wii U console with the power on in order to charge the Wii U Pro Controller.  Just like the how the Wii U console come in either black or white models, so too does the Wii U Pro Controller come in black or white (with the same glossy finish I might add).

The Wii U Pro Controller has built-in rumble technology, though like the Wii U GamePad, it feels somewhere in between the quality of the original Wii and an Xbox 360 controller (so it's subtle).

Do keep in mind that not all games are compatible, and you'll need to check on the back of game boxes to look for compatibility.  Launch games that can be played using the Wii U Pro Controller include Call of Duty: Black Ops II, ZombiU, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge, and Assassin's Creed III.  The controller is not compatible with Nintendo Wii system or games.

If you're looking for an alternative to the rather bulky, touchscreen Wii U GamePad, the Wii U Pro Controller is the best option I've tried yet.  It's comfortable, light-weight and feels solid in your hands.  Exactly what I'm looking for in a hardcore gaming controller.

[This article originally appeared on the Future Shop Tech Blog]