Although we managed to get our mitts on the Wii U and updated GamePad here at E3 following Nintendo's keynote, the recently unveiled Pro Controller turned out to be harder to find. We were thankfully able to visit the company's
amusement park massive booth on the show floor where we discovered the wireless peripheral, along with a GamePad, tethered to a demo of the upcoming title, Rayman Legends. Join us past the break for our initial impressions in text and on camera.
Nintendo Wii U Pro Controller hands-onSee all photos
There's no getting around how similar the Pro Controller looks to Microsoft's Xbox 360 gamepad, aside from lacking a bulging battery on the rear and having its joysticks on an even horizontal plane. From what we can tell so far, however, the controller seems to be slightly wider and a bit shorter than the 360's. The unit's ergonomic shape and button layout proved very comfortable during our session, not least of which included its fairly sturdy feeling build quality and light weight. From left to right under the joysticks, you'll find a D-pad and four action buttons, while the center plays host to a battery indicator, Wii U function buttons and controller assignment indicator lights. The top-rear of the controller there are bumper and trigger pairs on the left and right sides, along with a Mini-USB port in the middle for charging.
We really have little to complain about regarding the buttons, as each has a nice amount of play without being too stiff or loose. If we had to nitpick, we'd say that the action buttons could stand to have just a bit more bounce-back after each press. While we're complaining, we should also note that the glossy front plate is a fingerprint and grease magnet -- our controller was completely smudged after a few seconds of use -- so it's too bad the controller isn't finished in matte all the way around. The Joysticks roll about smoothly with a pleasing amount of tension, and they can be clicked down to act as L3/R3 buttons. The back of the controller lays claim to sync and reset buttons, and there's a screw down door for its battery. However, we weren't able to pry the bay open to find out what type of batts you'll specifically need to power it.
During our Rayman session with a Nintendo rep, the tactile controls (which would normally have been accessed from the GamePad) were delegated to our Pro, while the GamePad's touchscreen display became their primary input method. Essentially, while we moved Rayman around the world with traditional controls, touch gestures on the Pad (which displays exactly what's on the TV screen with added touch prompts) allowed our sidekick to manipulate various items within the level to help us get from point A to B. Surprisingly, both controllers felt equally natural for playing even though the gaming experience provided is different from both. We'd be remiss not to mention that the Pro Controller didn't seem to be packing any vibration functionality, but overall we'd say it performs pretty well -- just plan to keep the microfiber cloth handy.