Afterglow AX.1 Controller Review
I’ve done a few reviews of different third party Wii Remotes and found most of them to be a pretty good replacement, though still not quite as good as the standard Wii Remote. Most third party offering try to mix things up with a different design, odd shaped buttons and extra stuff that you might not really need. This is the first time I’ve picked up a third party Xbox controller and I was expecting similar results.
What You Need to Know
Performance Design Products has released a range of controllers they’re calling Afterglow. Each of the controllers in the line, for all three major platforms are of similar design. They’re made with a clear plastic so you can see the insides of the controllers, they have bright LED’s that have multiple settings and they’re very solidly made.
The Afterglow AX.1 immediately feels a little bit different from a standard Xbox 360 controller. It seems like it’s ever so slightly smaller than the controller you get when you purchase an Xbox. That’s not a bad thing, by any means, and I actually prefer the slightly smaller feel to the controller. My hands are a little bit smaller than most people and this controller really fit well in my hands. There’s a small place on the wings of the controller that stick out slightly to give you a perfect resting place for your fingers on the back of the controller. The plastic that the controller is made of is a smooth clear plastic. You might have a problem with the controller becoming a little tacky after extended play sessions, but it’s definitely not anything that’s going to make or break the controller for most people. Just one of the drawbacks of the material that’s used for the shell. It’s nice, though, to see the inside of the controller and get an idea for what exactly it looks like underneath all the plastic.
The buttons are all laid out perfectly in relation to the stock controller so there won’t be any need to reposition your hands or reach to weird places to access a button; the only exception to this being the Start and Back buttons on the sides of the Xbox Guide button. They are raised slightly from their original position and at an angle giving the guide button the appearance of having wings. For some games this might be an issue because of the muscle memory most players have in relation to these buttons. It shouldn’t take too long to readjust if you use this controller on a regular basis.
One of the things that does make or break a controller is its performance during gameplay. I’m happy to say that the Afterglow AX.1 shines in this department. I tested the game out in a number of different games, including Gears of War 2, Street Fighter II: HD Remix, Pac-Man Championship Edition DX, Geometry Wars 2, Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2, Final Fantasy XIII, and Plants vs. Zombies. In every game it performed as well as, if not better than the standard controller. The d-pad didn’t cause any missed moves during Street Fighter. The analog sticks on the controller do seem to offer slightly less resistance to the standard controller so you might find the need to adjust to that feel. High level shooter fans might want to stick with a standard controller in competitive atmospheres, but for the casual player it definitely won’t pose much of a problem. The buttons all have a solid feel and the bumpers click to let you know that they’ve been fully pressed. Some people might find it distracting because it is a fairly loud sound.
Obviously the main draw of the controller is the ability to have it light up during gameplay. The problem is this is where things can get a bit dicey. The controller does, thankfully, have three settings to adjust the way the lights perform. You can set it, thanks to a switch on the back, to glow constantly, not glow at all, or glow only when the controller vibrates. The lights can be a bit intense and it caused a couple of issues during gameplay. During co-op play in a darkened room I actually had to turn the lights off because my playing partner said they were distracting him. I didn’t have any problem with the controller as it was in my peripheral vision. So if you’ve got someone else in the room, make sure they don’t have a problem with the lights during gameplay.
The vibration flashes were where I drew the line. It really became a problem for me to have the controller flashing intermittently. I had to have it set to the constant setting and then I loved it. One alternative for any future designs might be to have the controller always on, but pulse slightly when the controller vibrates. That would give you the best of both worlds. Having the lights off just makes it feel like a normal controller with a wire.
It’s almost a crime to have a wire connected to a controller these days. I realize this has to do with Microsoft’s policies regarding third party controllers, but I really hope PDP has the chance to make a wireless version of the controller in the future. It’s a long cord, at about 9 ft and I never ran into any issues with the length of the cord, with the exception of a baby pulling it out of the system once. There’s plenty of real estate to work with for most gaming spaces and the cord really shouldn’t be a problem.
I’m a fan of controller options that cost less money than a standard controller. PDP’s Afterglow AX.1 will run you about $10 less than a standard controller. If you can look past the wire, which I can, and find the ideal setting between the three light choices this is a great controller to have. It feels very solid, and should last for a good long time. It works for almost all potential gaming situations, costs less and looks great. I even plugged it into my PC running Windows 7 and had no trouble getting it set up. Windows immediately recognized it as a 360 controller and I didn’t have to make any modifications to my previous controller set ups with games that use a game pad. Even if you don’t want to use it for your Xbox 360, it’s a great controller to have for PC gamers. I can’t recommend this controller enough. There are a few slight problems with it, but they don’t really hamper the experience in any way.
Final Score: 5/5 Excellent
Obtained an Afterglow AX.1 courtesy of Gamestop’s Power Up Rewards Program. I forgot I had points, and when I checked my account decided to use them to pick this controller up.
It can be purchased in a range of colors from blue, green, orange, or red.
Played approximately 20 hours of gameplay with it.