The Xbox One console is nice, but what really matters is the controller: after all, it's the thing you hold in your hands the whole time you're using the console, and if Microsoft has its way that's going to happen a lot. We had a chance to spend a few minutes using the new controller, and while we can't say our minds are blown, Microsoft's definitely thinking in new ways about the new Xbox.
The controller's design is mostly the same as the Xbox 360. It's a little smaller, since the company was able to retract the removable battery into the device itself, so there's no bump on the back. It's also a little more refined, with black buttons instead of colored ones, and Microsoft says it's also improved the analog sticks and triggers. (Reps made a big deal out of saying they tested the buttons at least two million times.) Those are hard to test without really digging into a game over time, though the analog sticks are certainly grippier and more textured. But one thing was immediately apparent: the new "impulse triggers" on the back of the controller.
Instead of having two vibration motors, one in the base of each grip, there are four inside the Xbox One's controller: two in the grips and one in each trigger. The pads of your fingers are incredibly sensitive, Microsoft told us, and the vibration in the triggers adds to the immersion of the whole experience. To prove it the company showed us six demos, involving things like a car revving its engine and firing a laser gun. With each came unique, applicable vibrations, and the extra motors really do add to the effect: you feel the recoil on the gunshot more, and the whirring engine made my whole body start to shiver as if I were really in a rumbling car. At points it was almost too much, jarring the controller and my hands so much that it became hard to use the controller normally, but for now we'll chalk that up to proving the point in the demo.
Microsoft says there are forty improvements to the controller with the Xbox One — we're not sure all forty are exactly game-changing, but they might not need to be. Microsoft did it pretty well last time.
Dieter Bohn contributed to this report.