First party Xbox 360 controllers from Microsoft are ridiculously expensive, costing almost the same price as a brand new game. Enter the Performance Design Products (PDP) Rock Candy Xbox 360 Controller, an affordable alternative that delivers quality results compared to other inexpensive third party controllers that we've seen in the past.
The first thing you'll notice about the Rock Candy Xbox 360 Controller is its snazzy bright neon see-through exterior. They're available in orange, purple, red, yellow, blue, pink, and green. I suspect they're so brightly colored to catch your eye while shopping, however don't let it's vibrant exterior fool you: The Rock Candy Xbox 350 Controller is a surprisingly durable controller that won't distract you during your gaming sessions.
The Rock Candy Xbox 360 Controller is shaped identically to the first party wired controller by Microsoft with one notable exception to its layout: The back and start buttons are positioned higher up on the controller. Featuring a white break-away cord to match its thumb sticks and buttons, this controller feels noticeably lighter and smoother hold. The controller has a good rumble to it, and it's fun to see the motors spinning through the translucent shell.
Because the Rock Candy Xbox 360 controller is wired you won't have to buy any more batteries or interrupt your game play to charge the controller. Another added benefit is that it's compatible with most games on Windows based computers. Just plug the USB cord in, and your computer should auto-detect and install the driver.
The triggers are responsive with nice spring tension, and the bumpers and other buttons produce a small click sound when using. Although the circular D-Pad doesn't rotate to pop-up and down the "plus" like newer Microsoft controllers, it still performed well in the demanding compilation of retro games from "Midway Arcade Origins."
Due their new locations it may take more than just adjusting your muscle memory to hit the back and start buttons depending on who's using it. I have large hands and long fingers so this wasn't an issue for me, however children or people with small hands might find themselves having to reach further than normal. For the vast majority of games this doesn't make much of an impact on play other than in titles where you'll find yourself using these buttons quite frequently.
My biggest quarm with the Rock Candy Xbox 360 controller are its hard plastic thumb sticks. While the Rock Candy controller has the same four raised dots as a first party Xbox 360 controller, it lacks the rubberized layer for your thumbs that adds comfort and keeps your finger from slipping. After spending over six hours with "Forza Horizon" I really felt the difference when I changed back to the first party controller.
When playing first person shooters I often use the tip of my right thumb to control where my character is looking. During an extended “Halo 4” session I noticed that my right thumb would slip in the center of the thumb stick. This isn't a problem if you use the bottoms of your thumbs instead of the ends of your finger like I do, but worth noting. Another thing to consider is that because of the thumb stick size you won't be able to use an FPS Freek Infinity on them.
Given its price, the Rock Candy Xbox 360 controller is a perfect gift and the package is small enough to make it a great stocking stuffer. For a gamer on a budget, the Rock Candy Xbox 360 controller really is unbeatable compared to its competition.
Rating: 4 out of 5
The Rock Candy gaming controllers are available for Wii/Wii U for an MSRP of $19.99 or Xbox 360 and PS3 for an MSRP of $24.99. Click for more info.
Please note that this review was based on a free review unit provided by Performance Designed Products.