Valve is making a big push into the living room and the new Steam Controller is a large part of that. As reviews pour in what I've read hasn't left me with a good impression. Based on some reviews you might think Valve is insane and the new controller is an abysmal failure but i'd like to offer a different perspective.

Valves new Steam controller is amazing at some things and meh at others. Overall though, it provides a great middle ground that doesn't prefer one PC game type to another, which I think gives people a skewed impression.

So let's talk about what the Steam Controller doesn't do well to get that out of the way. In my opinion the Steam Controller isn't great at first person shooters. Don't get me wrong, it's fine but compared to the XBox 360 controller or keyboard and mouse the Steam controller isn't great. The dual trackpads don't make for a great aiming experience but that doesn't mean you can't have fun using it. It's not just not ideal. Since FPS games dominate the gaming landscape this control perspective will dominate the Steam controller discussion. That said, if you verge into nearly any other game type the Steam controller does very well.

So lets dive into the games I tried and I'll talk a bit about each.

Portal 2

This experience was fine but from the couch the 360 controller is superior. Since Portal 2 isn't a twitch game the Steam controller experience isn't bad at all I just prefer the traditional game-pad or keyboard and mouse.

Fallout 4

Bethesda provided a default binding for the Steam controller, which is great in every way except aiming. It just never felt responsive enough. I feel like you have to flick with the trackpad way more than you should but if you turn the sensitivity up it feels too jittery. If you stick to VATS for attack things are fine but in my opinion the 360 controller is better from the couch.

Rage

Honestly Rage felt a bit better but perhaps I was just getting used to the Steam controller at this point. Again not a bad experience but for these kinds of twitch shooters a 360 controller might serve you better. Then again, I really can't play this game with the 360 controller either as I can't really hit anything. But you know, iD games were born on the keyboard and mouse and I find that a better way to play the game.

Little Inferno

Non FPS games are where the Steam controller shines and Little Inferno is a great experience. Had no issues with the game and found the couch experience to be extremely fun.

FTL

Whereas the controller isn't as accurate as a mouse this game is very playable on the couch. Since you can pause the game you can take a bit more time to do what you need. FTL from the living room wasn't something I thought could work but the Steam controller makes this possible.

Age of Empires 2

If you don't mind hunting and pecking for building things, Age 2 works OK. I'd dumb down the AI considerably because of that but if you need to play Age 2 from the couch it's possible. I don't love it but it works well enough.

Hearthstone

This was the first game I tried and it worked perfectly. No special mappings or anything, just load up the game and go.

Diablo 3

Frankly this worked better than I thought. Whereas I didn't do this, if you could import Diablo 3 into Steam you could bind the Steam controller properly to make this a extremely seamless experience. That said I just played by clicking the mouse and it worked way better than I thought it would. Valve made a great controller that works well with Blizzard titles, so thanks Valve!

Binding of Isaac

Since the Steam controller ships with a standard analog stick and physical buttons games like The Binding Of Isaac work just as well as a traditional controller. The community even has a really interesting binding set that takes advantage of the trackpads in a really unique way in that you can move and shoot using them by touch or click. It's one of the more novel uses of the Steam controller and I tip my hat to the people that made it.

Knights of Pen and Paper

Like Hearthstone, this game works very well as it is primarily driven by the mouse. Games like this is where the Steam controller shines.

Terraria

The best Terraria control experience in my opinion is on the PC with a keyboard and mouse. I've never felt comfortable playing it with a PS3 controller or even on my iPhone. The controls just felt awkward. That said, Re-Logic has an official binding set for the Steam controller that makes it one of the best ways to play the game. It's not as good as the keyboard and mouse but it's damn good and I was surprised how well it worked. It takes a bit to learn but offers a really interesting way to play the game you should try.

Escape Goat 2

This is another title that works flawlessly due to the analog stick and physical buttons. Great experience.

Guacamelee!

Again, great experience due to analog stick and physical buttons.

Kingdom Rush

The community keybindings make Kindom Rush work really well. I'd say I enjoyed the couch experience more than using the traditional keyboard and mouse. I even enjoyed it more than playing it on my phone.

Shovel Knight

One more game that works just as well as using a traditional controller due to the analog stick and physical buttons.

In Conclusion

In a diverse Steam library that demands to be played from the living room the Steam controller is superb. If your gaming diet is primarily first person games i'd recommend you trying the Steam controller before buying it. Since it's new Valve is updating it's firmware, fixing bug and Steam games are getting more community and official bindings. Based on the early reviews I didn't expect it to be good but what I found was a lot more fun and should get better with time.

Wick wrote on 11/21/2015 at 09:39pm

Ooooo! I'd love to take a look at it sometime. Thanks for sharing!

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 11/21/2015 at 09:58pm

No problem! One hitch is that I am borrowing it and need to return it next Tuesday so my time with it is limited.

Travis   Admin wrote on 12/31/2015 at 07:13am

I'm going to chime in with a full review, but my experience with FPS games is the opposite of yours. It's not quite as good as M/KB but it's better than a 360 or PS3 controller. I was amazed after 5 minutes of Portal 2 just how much easier it was to control than a 360 controller.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 12/31/2015 at 05:14pm

The Portal games aren't really considered FPSs, due to a large absence of the S part of that acronym. Anyone use the Steam controller in a CS:GO or TF2-type environment? I've heard that the gyroscope is the secret feature that shines in FPSs, making the Steam controller even somewhat competitive(?).

Travis   Admin wrote on 12/31/2015 at 05:16pm

Yeah Portal isn't an FPS, but it's great to get used to first person gameplay. (just mentioned that in my own review actually)

And I've heard that too, that the gyro's fine-tuned aiming can give people an edge. I still haven't gotten used to that, but it is neat.

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