On November 10, Microsoft's next-gen Xbox consoles are scheduled to launch.
A new version of the Xbox gamepad is also arriving on November 10, and I've been using it with an Xbox Series X for two weeks.
Though the gamepad isn't dramatically different from previous versions, it's clearly the best gamepad Microsoft has ever made.
The new Xbox gamepad, built for the next-gen Xbox consoles that launch this November, is a familiar, evolutionary step in the history of gamepads.
It looks almost exactly like the Xbox One controller — so much that, without taking a moment, it's easy to get them confused. The controllers feel very similar as well, at least initially. All the buttons are in the same places, and the only visual difference is with the d-pad.
But actually using the gamepad is where the differences become apparent: A subtly-textured grip has been added around back, as well as to each trigger. The triggers land to a satisfying (and thankfully quiet) rubber thud. The menu buttons in the center are clickier than ever, and a new dedicated screenshot button has been added.
It's a lot of little details that add up to an evolutionary step forward for the Xbox gamepad: It feels familiar, and comfortable, and surprisingly new.
For the past two weeks, I've been using this gamepad with an Xbox Series X console — the same console that people will get on November 10
In that time, I've played mostly backwards compatible games from the prior two Xbox console generations (Xbox 360 and Xbox One), as well as a handful of next-gen games.
I'd be lying if I said anything felt materially different about the experience with the new gamepad. Rumble doesn't feel noticeably different in "Dirt 5," the next-gen racing game that I've been playing. I don't feel more in control while navigating the crime-riddled streets of Kamurocho in "Yakuza Like a Dragon," the next-gen "Yakuza" game.
But that was never the promise.
With its Xbox Series S and Series X consoles, Microsoft is offering a continuation and improvement of your already existing Xbox digital life, but with more power and a smoother experience.
To that end, the new Xbox controller is a streamlined, enhanced version of the existing Xbox One gamepad. It's slightly more comfortable. The buttons are slightly more responsive. The triggers are slightly quieter, and everything feels more cohesive.
It's not a wild leap in a new direction, nor is it intended to be. What it is, thankfully, is the best Xbox gamepad Microsoft has ever made.
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