Console Controller, Modified: The Evil Shift

Competitive multiplayer games remain exceedingly popular. Playing against a computer-controlled opponent is one thing, but taking down another human player in a video game is a completely different experience. It’s no surprise that in the wake of some of these multiplayer games, such as the Call of Duty titles, Overwatch, and even Rocket League, there is a rise in the number of professional eSports players. As such, some companies continue to make multiple peripherals to give these players the edge on the competitive circuit where money is at stake. One of these companies is Evil Controllers, and we were able to meet its founder, Adam Coe, to talk about his company’s latest controller--the Evil Shift, which is coming later this summer.

New Paddles

Evil Controllers’ focus is on the console market. In the competitive circuit, the basic layout of both the Xbox One controller and the DualShock 4 isn’t enough for professional teams because of the location of specific buttons and the lengthy reach required by the finger to activate it. The popular method for solving this problem is the inclusion of paddles, which work as an alternative button for a similar command on the controller. The paddles are usually located at the rear of the controller, with long protruding arms so that they’re easier to reach. Companies such as Scuf Gaming and even Microsoft, with its Xbox Elite Wireless Controller, use paddles in their controllers. 

However, Coe believes that the traditional paddle solution isn’t perfect due to its hinge-like attachment on the controller. In addition, some controllers utilize four paddles on the controller, but a player might use only two, because the inner two paddles are harder to reach. The company's solution in the past was to incorporate small buttons, which it calls Pro Buttons, in lieu of paddles.

With the Shift, though, it's ditching the Pro Buttons in favor of its own take on the paddle design. Instead of a long stick, the Evil Shift will include paddles that look more like large buttons, and they'll be placed on top of a special switch (instead of the hinge design) so that it will activate whether you tap it from the side or directly on its top. We asked for more specifics on the switch and how it works, but Coe told us that it’s still in the prototype phase.

There will be a total of four paddles on the Shift, and they’re still located on the back of the controller and near the hand grips for easier reach. As we found out when we held the Shift, the placement is both a blessing and a curse, because even though it’s easily reachable by the fingers that wrapped around the grip, the paddles themselves were also too easily activated. A slight nudge or press could set off an ability or bring up a menu that you don't want.

More Hardware Changes

Other controllers employ a physical trigger lock, which stops the trigger buttons from moving all the way down, in order to simulate a hair trigger mechanism. This feature is prominent in shooter-based games where you want to quickly fire your weapon without the long travel time of the trigger. In the Shift, the trigger buttons will include a modified spring so that you can implement lighter presses to simulate the same hair-trigger action without the trigger lock--which means you get the same sensitive controls without losing the full range of motion.

The letter buttons, or the shape buttons on the DualShock 4, are also modified with an attached elongated stick underneath. The result is a shallower travel distance of 0.3mm. On the original Xbox and Dualshock 4 controllers, pressing a button pushes down on a rubber pad that makes contact with the circuit underneath to activate a command. According to Coe, the use of the stick method means a faster response while also providing a tactile feel with each press.

The finished product will also come with three pairs of thumbsticks of different sizes (small, medium, and large), which you can change at any time without any additional tools. We also noticed that these custom thumbsticks don’t employ a magnetic feature, which was included in the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller. The magnets on Microsoft's top-tier controller weren't too strong, which meant that they could easily fall off if you drop the controller (or hurl it across the room in a fit of rage).

For the Shift, the thumbsticks fit directly on top of the directional mechanism on the circuit board. At launch, these thumbsticks will have a convex surface, but Coe is open to the idea of adding concave thumbsticks if enough members of the community want it.

Profiles And Button Remapping

In addition to the hardware modifications, the Shift also has some extra software features. For instance, you have full button remapping support on the entire controller. All you have to do is press and hold the Back button (or the Share button on the DualShock 4) and press the button designated for assignment. After the company logo on the controller blinks, you can then press the command you wish to input on the specified button. The Shift can store up to 15 different profiles of these custom button maps, and you can switch between them by simultaneously pressing the right button on the directional pad and the A button (X on the DualShock 4).

However, we noticed that there isn’t any visual indication on the controller as to which profile you’re using or if you've successfully selected a different profile at all. In addition, pressing any of these buttons during gameplay could activate another unintentional command. Coe wanted the remapping feature to work without the use of tools or a software app, and for the most part it does. However, there needs to be a way to show which profile you’re using.

A Potentially Expensive Advantage

By no means is the Shift a perfect controller, but it manages to pile on a plethora of features and lets you tinker with them without the need for additional tools. Extra parts, specifically the thumbsticks, are secure when you place them on the controller, and the new paddle design is a welcome change.

With this many features, you can expect it to be an expensive piece of hardware, although Coe said that the cost was “in line with other products in our lineup,” which ranges from $70 to $350 for modified controllers. You might want an extra edge in the heat of digital combat or race, and the Shift can easily provide that much-needed advantage and then some.