The new-generation of gaming controllers is fully in swing now, led by the driving force of Sony's DualSense for PlayStation 5. Over the past month, as we've become more and more accustomed to the potential of new-gen, it has been easy to forget about all of the great last-gen controllers and their third party counterparts. Recently, I have been putting the latest Thrustmaster controller through the ringer, seeing how it stacks up against other third party devices in a new-gen world, and from my experiences, I can say there's a lot of good and bad.
The Thrustmaster eSwap PRO Controller is a third party device made for either PlayStation or Xbox systems (I tested the PlayStation version). Essentially, looking at it on the surface, it's shape resembles a bulkier Xbox controller, but with the PlayStation buttons and touch pad system. The part that really sets this device from the rest however, is the swappable modules (which I will get to soon) and the four extra buttons along the back that allow you to keep your thumbs firmly on the analogue sticks at all times.
In general, the buttons themselves feel smooth to press and come with a satisfying click sound each time, thanks to the Ultra-responsive tact switches of which is good for over five million activations or a "life long cycle." For the most part this applies to all the buttons across the controller however, I do think the small buttons on the back, designed to be a replacement for paddles, are a little too small and finicky, especially if you intend to play a game with a fast-paced nature. Likewise, considering the size of this device, which is quite bulky for a controller, the Share and Options buttons nestled right at the top can often be a pain to reach, but unless you plan on using these frequently, it shouldn't be a huge problem.
As for the sticks, nothing massive to report. They feature solid grip and glide with ease, and I haven't experienced any drift yet, although I also haven't had enough time with the device to really encounter that issue either.
Before I get to the interchangeable modules, I should mention that the controller comes with a headphone jack port and a USB 2.0 cable that can be used simply for charging, or as a method to lower the input lag for the really committed gamers out there who are looking for every edge they can garner. Also in the controller box, there is a small bag to store all of your accessories when on the go, as well as a custom screwdriver that enables swapping of the modules. And yes, this little piece of engineering is absolutely crucial when removing some parts, so don't lose it.
The modules you can swap (even hot-swap if you like) revolve around being able to switch the placement or design of the analogue sticks, D-pad, triggers and grips. For the grips, it's simple. They are magnetised so you can easily pull them off whenever, to attach different Thrustmaster eSwap grips. The triggers need to be unscrewed at their base before being removed and replaced - admittedly, this can be a little tricky, but still reasonable to accomplish. The stick modules are also magnetised, meaning you can pull them out whenever but, the D-pad will require the screwdriver's rear end, which has an odd T-shape design and can be used to twist and pull the D-pad module out of the controller.
You can be really simple with the inter-swappable modules by only switching out the place of sticks and D-pad (you could be an absolute anarchist and have two sticks on the same side of the controller if that's up your street), or alternatively, you can swap everything out for extra parts of different colour or design, to really personalise your device. The modules, be it original or swapped, never feel loose or of low quality, and in general, the system Thrustmaster has created to switch out these modules works fantastically and very easily.
Up to this point, you're probably pretty impressed with this controller however, the issues arise in its compatibility. For PS4s, this device works more than fine, but on PC and PS5, it's a little trickier to figure out. On PS5, you can only use this controller on PS4 backwards compatible games, due to next-gen titles requiring the extra DualSense features to be played. PCs will need to install a series of different pieces of software to be able to update the controller's firmware and be able to use it on computers. This also extends to button mapping, which requires the Thrustmapper software to be able to do so.
Essentially, looking at the Thrustmaster software component as a whole, it's hard not to see the full system as complicated, especially since a lot of newer third party controllers can be updated easily and wirelessly through a mobile app, some even with button mapping features on those apps.
Considering the Thrustmaster eSwap PRO Controller for PS4 usually retails for around £125 (pricing it right between regular controllers and the more elite ones), I can see the appeal of it. Would I recommend this device to someone looking for a more refined controller experience? Probably not. I'd instead suggest a SCUF controller for that. However, for people looking to personalise their PS4 setup (and to an extent their PS5 one) a little more, prioritising colourful and easy to use features, this controller wouldn't do you all that wrong. Just know, there are other options out there that offer a better handling and playing experience.
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