Two years ago, Microsoft proved that there’s market for a $149 (£129/AU$195) premium Xbox controller. Given the price, the online competitive multiplayer gamer-centric Xbox Elite Wireless Controller certainly wasn’t made for player two, but according to many of those who owned it, it was worth every penny.
Because of its inclusion of rubberized grips, swappable buttons and customizable paddles, that controller gained a following with Xbox One and Windows 10 PC owners looking to step up their skill levels, whether in Overwatch, Titanfall 2 or the long-sanctified Call of Duty. It also gained traction with a sprinkling of single-player gamers as well, largely for the same reasons.
So it should come as no surprise that third-party peripheral makers would want to hop aboard the primo controller train, drawing influence from Microsoft’s top-end gamepad and Scuf Gaming’s top-end customizable controllers before it. The most obviously inspired Xbox Elite carbon copy with a twist is none other than the Razer Wolverine Ultimate – a supremely well-crafted controller that nearly outclasses Microsoft’s own first-party controller.
It doesn’t take a genius to see why the $159 (£159, about AU$200) Razer Wolverine Ultimate stands out from the pack: With its gorgeous strip of Razer’s signature Chroma RGB lighting stamped beneath and multitude of utilitarian buttons, it ticks the boxes for both stylish and functional.
Sadly, it’s only compatible with Windows 8 and 10 on PC, contrary to Microsoft’s surprisingly continued support for Windows 7 with the Xbox Elite. Without doing a bit of digging ahead of schedule, you might also assume this is a controller you can use wired and wirelessly because, well, you can with Microsoft’s.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case here. Instead, the Razer Wolverine Ultimate requires that you use its own included 10-foot, braided micro USB cable or one like it that happens to fit inside its hollowed-out charging port cubby. That’s such a major disappointment and sticking point for us because the rest of the controller feels tight and painstakingly well thought-out.
From its magnetic, interchangeable buttons to its media control keys and 3.5mm audio jack located along the bottom interface, everything about the Razer Wolverine Ultimate controller feels intentional and meticulously tested by people who play games rather than being solely devised by a corporate R&D team.
The result is stunning. We get that a vocal minority of players using a gamepad this exuberantly priced are opposed to using wireless controllers to experience their various heated gaming moments. Although, due to the lower latency wired gamepads bring, most people don’t only play competitive multiplayer games.
If you’re partaking in a primarily single-player experience like Cuphead or ReCore, for example, from the comfort of your own bed, we could see how being tethered to a microUSB cable would be downright frustrating … but ruling the controller out because it’s not wireless would be a massive mistake.
Performance and Razer Synapse App
So why buy the Razer Wolverine Ultimate over the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller if the latter has wireless and the former doesn’t? For one, the ABXY buttons exhibit performance unparalleled by the Wolverine Ultimate’s closest rival.
Whereas the first-party Xbox One gamepad comes with the exact same face buttons as a standard $59 (£59, AU$89) controller, the Razer Wolverine’s buttons – at least the ones labeled A, B, X and Y – click more like a mouse which, if you think about it, makes complete sense for a company that specializes in PC gaming peripherals.
Where Razer’s controller falters is that, of the six buttons you can remove and replace on the Razer Wolverine Ultimate, three of them are the same.
That’s right, three concave thumbsticks and only one convex one come bundled in the Wolverine Ultimate’s carrying case. Why there aren’t an even number of both is curious considering only two can be used at a time.
Of course, the d-pads that come with the controller are much more practical. One has four separated, spaced out buttons, a la the DualShock 4, while the other d-pad is similar to existing Xbox One controllers, save for it being seated atop a circular plane.
Otherwise, there are a pair of extra rear buttons, two tigger-stoppers and four macro paddles resting on the back of the Razer Wolverine Ultimate.
These can come in handy, particularly in first-person shooters like Halo 5: Guardians where you may need to access commands more swiftly or execute a rapid-fire without the need to suppress your right trigger.
Then there’s the Razer Synapse software for Xbox One. PC users sporting any Razer product will be familiar with this, if only because it’s how you configure that flashy Chroma lighting across all of the company’s accessories.
Now you can remap buttons, cycle profiles and do just about everything else that could more easily be accomplished on the controller’s media keys, but on a TV connected to your Xbox.
Ignoring for a moment its wireless incompatibility, the Razer Wolverine Ultimate is, in nearly every way, shape and form, a better controller than the Xbox Elite.
In place of the mushy face buttons you’re likely to find on any non-Razer branded Xbox One controller, you’re getting clicky, mouse-like ones. And you’re getting built-in media shortcut keys you don’t need a headset for, while still delivering on the promise of interconvertible inputs and custom macro keys.
Plus, don’t forget that the gorgeous strip of Chroma RGB lighting is exclusive to Razer’s svelte gamepad.
Its wireless incompatibility. This controller isn’t built for casual gamers, nor is it really designed for the hardcore crowd should they ever find themselves playing anything other than competitive multiplayer games.
The Razer Wolverine Ultimate has only one audience in mind: the really hardcore, couch-based gamers. It’s not ideal if you’re sitting further than 10 feet away from your monitor or TV or necessary for those who enjoy single-player campaigns more than they enjoy the thrills of online competition.
If you don’t care to have the option of wireless and can stomach the $159 (£159, about AU$200) asking price, the Razer Wolverine might otherwise be one of the best constructed – and best looking – controllers ever made.