I've wanted to review this item since its first announcement, not just because of the updates to the original design, but also to see what difference the physical size of the Duke might make to gameplay and usability. Let's see how this re-release of a semi-retro controller stacks up to its modern counterparts.
Keeping the entire box only a short distance from a flat surface (i.e. the floor) to avoid breaking anything as you complete the next step, hold the top of the box so that the bottom slides slowly and gently down to the surface below. Now the top of the packaging is no longer needed and can be put aside.
Now we come to the interior of the packaging, where you first find a thank you message to amongst others, Phil Spencer, Aaron Greenberg, the Xbox community, Seamus Blackly and the developers behind Halo and Jet Set Radio Future, as well as a separate piece of paper that features a quick start guide.
Underneath these, you'll find the controller itself, with a plastic film covering what is actually a screen in the middle of the shell (a little more on this later).
If you're wondering how to remove this, keeping the face buttons on your right-hand side, you should find a small semi-circular area towards the back of the controller which you should be able to put your finger into. Gently push the controller towards you within the box and lift the section your finger is on at the same time, tilting it so that the front of the controller goes from horizontal to a more vertical angle.
From here, it's a matter of putting your hand underneath and lifting the controller free.
In the cavity where the controller was housed you'll find a USB cable which is required to use the controller due to it being a third-party product.
Finally, if you want to remove the film from that screen on the controller, find a raised edge of the film and pull and it should come away with no trouble leaving your screen clear.
What I referred to as a screen above is actually the Xbox button, with the fact that it is a screen allowing it to show animated visuals. When you plug the controller in or press the button to activate the guide, the original Xbox startup sequence plays (without the sound effects, unfortunately). There is a headphone jack for 3.5mm headsets in the centre of the front of the controller, similar to what you see in units available with all standard Xbox consoles, with small shoulder buttons on the outer left and right edges of the shell to serve as LB and RB respectively. The final element that those unfamiliar with the Duke might be confused by is the presence of what were called the Black and White buttons, buttons that map to LB and RB (top and bottom respectively). These aren't necessarily that useful depending on what game you play but in certain titles they save you having to use the actual shoulder buttons I referred to earlier.
Of course, the first game I put in and played with this new controller was Halo, specifically the Master Chief Collection running Halo Combat Evolved. MCC isn't overtly accessible in and of itself, but I used this as a movement test to see how well the analogue sticks (the left like a standard Xbox analogue and the right looking smaller and rather different) worked. They're pretty responsive and work just as well if not better than standard Xbox models, though the right is rather problematic to operate with fine gestures due to the grip you have to employ to use it in the first place.
I then ran Gears Of War 4 with the new Fabricator ping accessibility feature enabled and was surprised to see how well the RB and LB buttons on the controller's face worked as a substitute for their outer shell counterparts, allowing me to active reload without having to move my hands from their original position.
The only issue again that I came across was the frustratingly small right stick, an irony considering the rest of the controller is so large by comparison. However, the solid vibration when in firefights makes it an immersive controller to use and it's a shame that the smaller standard Xbox controllers can't take advantage of the motors used in this one.
I switched back to Halo, testing with more MCC and Halo 5, this time with co-op campaign in the former and multiplayer in the latter. I started to adjust to the unfamiliar button configuration and it began to work in my favour. I played through the entirety of the Cortana level on Halo 3, with the larger layout actually seeming to make it easier for small movements forwards and backwards, with the triggers feeling very solid.
The only critique I have of the unit is that the shoulder buttons feel added on, which in a sense they are, as the original Duke needed shoulder buttons to keep up with current games. However, I do feel these could've been better incorporated into the existing design, closer to the surface of the controller rather than sticking out as they currently do. This small issue is partially rectified by the black and white buttons mapping to the same functions, meaning that if you don't want to, you don't have to even use the outer shell shoulder buttons anyway, though it might be a little difficult to adapt gameplay to this new control scheme.
After running many hours of Horde, Gears Ultimate Edition's campaign and Halo in various formats, I must say that I really enjoy using this controller despite the times where I accidentally hit the incorrect button mid-firefight. The feeling this controller provides when in use in shooters I'd say is almost unmatched by any other non-standard unit I've used and the vibration does deliver a solid wow factor even a couple of weeks after my first tests.
The individuals at Hyperkin and Xbox who've made this controller possible have really shown the hard work and dedication to the brand and even though I was not one of those who owned an original Xbox, I still feel like this controller is a useful and interesting part of my collection and general gaming setup.
If you want a controller that, though wired, is very sturdy and plays well with pretty much whatever you throw at it, minus the need to get used to it of course, the Duke might just be what you're looking for.
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