I’ve consistently expressed my hatred for the Xbox 360 controller’s D-pad since I first put my hands on one some four years ago. As I’ve said numerous times before, it is the worst controller D-pad in the history of gaming – and the one flaw in an otherwise stellar gaming controller. Those are strong words, I know, but in my opinion it is the blunt truth.
Microsoft attempted to fix the problem this year with an updated controller currently only available as part of the Play & Charge Kit. While I haven’t personally tested this new controller with its transforming D-pad which goes from the original disc style to the more traditional plus style with a simple twist, from what I understand the inner workings remain the same (the D-pad still acts as one giant button connected to four directions). So instead of fixing the flaw completely, it is really just covering it up with a fancy gimmick. That type of solution is like putting a Band-Aid on a broken bone. But don’t worry, there is a real solution to consider.
Last month, I was contacted by controller mod developer Evil Controllers with an offer to test out the company’s new Xbox 360 D-pad mod called the Evil D-Pad. Given my distasteful history with my X360 controller’s D-pad, I jumped at the offer, and Evil Controllers kindly sent me an Evil D-Pad faceplate I was able to use to DIY mod my own controller (all’s I had to do was unscrew the casing and swap out the old faceplate and D-pad).
I’ve been using my Evil D-Pad modded controller for roughly a month now, and I’ve been thrilled with its performance. The Evil D-Pad truly is the cure to the Xbox 360’s D-pad ails, and once you try it, you won’t be able to play without it.
So what is the Evil D-Pad? The design is simple really. It removes the axis D-pad button found in the stock Xbox 360 controller and replaces it with a straightforward 4-button design. So instead of tilting one large button on its axis to hit the eight directional inputs (left, right, up, down and the four angles in between), there are four directional buttons that function independently from one another. You press one button, and only that one button registers. If you want to hit the angles, you press the two appropriate directions at the same time.
This D-pad mod is great for Xbox Live Arcade games, particularly 2D fighters like Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and 2D platformers like Super Meat Boy and Mega Man 9 and 10. But for me it has proven invaluable in more complex RPGs which use the directional buttons as hotkeys. I’ve been playing a lot of Fallout: New Vegas lately, and the Evil D-Pad has improved my experience with the game more than I ever thought it could. In New Vegas, you can map weapon hotkeys to each direction on the D-pad to make it quick and easy to swap weapons without pausing or opening the inventory. But with the original D-pad, I grew so frustrated with it inaccurately selecting the weapon I was trying to equip, that I gave up on the hotkeys entirely. Once I slapped on the Evil D-Pad, though, I could finally use hotkeys the way they were meant to work.
Accidental directional misfires are a thing of the past with the Evil D-Pad – the direction you press is the direction that registers in the game, what a novel concept! – and the simplicity of the design makes me wonder why someone at Microsoft couldn’t come up with something similar during the controller’s prototyping phase. Am I the only one who thinks the stock D-pad is a clusterfuck of clunkiness and is dumbfounded that it made it into the final design?
Playability upgrade aside, the quality of the case modding is excellent and the visual design just makes the black Xbox 360 pad look that much cooler – each button is painted with a devil’s tail pointing in the corresponding direction and Evil Controllers’ devilish logo rests at the center. Though certainly not an extravagant mod, the Evil D-Pad is the type of thing you show off to your gaming buddies and get them saying “what the hell is that on your controller?” when they first see it.
All in all, the Evil D-Pad is a high performance mod, and if you’re as disenchanted with the Xbox 360 controller’s D-pad as much as I am and play a lot of games that use the D-pad, this upgrade is a must.
Evil Controllers currently sells wireless and wired Xbox 360 controllers fully modded with the Evil D-Pad (I don’t believe the standalone faceplate I received for testing is a consumer option). Going the mod route does come at the cost of a premium rate compared to that of Microsoft’s stock offering, as an Evil D-Pad wireless controller regularly sells for $84.99 (Carbon Fiber and Woodgrain models are also available at a pricier $109.99, but both are out of stock at the moment). But Evil Controllers is currently running a special for the holidays, so if you act now you can get one for yourself or the Xbox 360 gamer on your gift list at the more affordable price of $59.99 (the wired version is regularly $64.99 on sale for $54.99).
Any other Evil D-Pad users out there? I’d love to hear some of your thoughts in the comments!