The Xbox 360 Controller has been universally adopted by PC Gamers because it doesn’t require cumbersome mapping software such as Xpadder and is automatically configured without any user input. Nevertheless, PC gaming has always been about choice and there are a wide range of 3rd party alternatives to choose from. There has also been an increasing trend by PC gaming consumers to purchase the PS4 controller which has undergone a major revamp.
However, this particular control method can be laborious to set up as Sony peripherals don’t officially support the Directinput API. This makes even the basic driver installation unnecessarily difficult and time consuming. You would assume that the Xbone joypad would be the next logical successor, but this has not been the case due to a number of reservations. The new model has textured thumbsticks that are approximately 25% smaller. During long and intense gaming sessions, these texture edges rub against your thumbs and create unwanted friction. Microsoft’s failings grants the opportunity for another manufacturer to produce a controller of impeccable quality which belongs in every PC gaming setup.
Thrustmaster have been meticulous with their packaging design and decided to display the controller in an attractive manner whilst outlining its key features. The plastic is fairly robust but sharp when cut with a pair of scissors so you must be careful when opening the package. Opening the item is quite tricky and could be improved with a few small adjustments to allow for easier access.
The installation process is relatively straightforward as Windows automatically detects the controller and doesn’t require any additional software to be manually installed. Furthermore, the GPX gamepad is preconfigured in most games without the need to use custom profiles. For example, Assetto Corsa recognised the controller immediately and adjusted the steering sensitivity. This is a monumental selling point as it eliminates the frustration of having to rummage through specialist forums and registering your details to download a specific controller preset. The Thrustmaster GPX is a plug and play device which works seamlessly out of the box. It’s important to reiterate that this is quite rare with similar devices that rely on Xpadder and other awkward pieces of software.
The controller itself is beautifully constructed and extremely ergonomic which naturally fits into the palm of your hand. Thrustmaster have opted for a matte and rubberized finish on the bottom which reduces sweat levels during prolonged gaming sessions and also allows for a more solid grip. The thumbsticks are fairly small and do take a while to get acquainted with. However, they are responsive and feel more comfortable than the 360’s larger thumbsticks during long races that revolve around a constant change of direction.
One major disappointment was the 8 way D-PAD because it is too stiff and requires a lot of pressure to actuate. Obviously, it is still a vast improvement on the horrendous 360 D-PAD, but it could be improved. The GPX Lightback has pressure sensitive triggers which grants the player a greater degree of control in racing games. This means you can feed the throttle and gradually decelerate during mid-speed sections. A lot of joypads will struggle with acute input and this often results in a delayed response or spin outs due to overly sensitive triggers.
The triggers are accompanied by a unique gear ratio LED scale which shows when you are in low and high revs. This is a beautiful addition and makes the controller feel like a premium piece of hardware. However, your eyes are usually focused on the monitor, so you will rarely take notice of the changing LED lights. The thumbsticks also illuminate when you tackle tight hairpins or under significant stress. Some users might see these features as a distraction and want to turn off anything that detracts from the gameplay. Thankfully, Thrustmaster have implemented two switches to turn either of these attributes off.
Thrustmaster also include a thick, durable cable designed to withstand the stresses and strains of an intense gaming session. As a result, this controller should last for a long time without running into reliability issues. I would have preferred to have seen a red and black braided cable as it would look stunning with the Ferrari colour scheme but this may have been omitted due to the additional cost. Finally, the Y, X, B and A buttons are positioned in an identical manner to the 360 controller and made of a glossy, high quality finish. The buttons feel easy to press and have a satisfying tactile response.
Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?
The Thrustmaster GPX Lightback Ferrari F1 Edition controller is a wonderful joypad which oozes quality and looks aesthetically pleasing. Thrustmaster have manufactured a product that performs impeccably in racing games and even other genres such as platformers. The lighting system is neat, but a little bit pointless considering your eyeline is focused on the monitor. Overall, the Thrustmaster GPX Lightback is easily worth the asking price and deserves to be in every PC gaming build. I will be replacing my wired 360 pad for this alternative and using it for driving reviews in the future.