How useful is sensitivity on a d-pad?
June 24, 2010

I was having an AIM conversation with someone today and I finally figured out a way to put into words just what it is that I hate so much about the d-pad on the Xbox 360 controller: it's too sensitive.

Now, I know that such a comment leaves some people scratching their heads. Isn't sensitivity on a controller supposed to be a good thing? The theory is that you can press the button slightly and your plane will bank only slightly left or right. You can nudge the controller at 93 degrees and it'll go at 93 degrees, not 91 and not 92 or 94 or 95. That's good, right?

In my opinion, no. Using the Xbox 360 d-pad, play any game other than a fighter--or even a fighter--and tell me that the sensitivity is good. I don't know that you could convince me. I've played Pac-Man and I've seen Pac-Man dance in circles instead of going left or right down an alley. The game gets confused if you don't push just left or just up or just down... and the sensitive d-pad on the Xbox 360 controller likes to register all sorts of things. Or play Mega Man. Until you adapt to the sensitivity, good luck climbing a tall ladder. It goes on like this, for every old school game that you'd care to play.

What about newer games, though? Surely they benefit. Well... Okay, how about Street Fighter IV. Sensitivity must be good in a fighting game, mustn't it? Take your typical move: down, down+right, right+punch. Sensitivity means that-- oh, wait. It doesn't mean a dang thing. You don't throw a more powerful fireball if your finger roll is 99% perfect. You don't throw a weaker one if it just barely registers. There's no difference either way, and movements don't register on-screen that are precise enough for all of the differences in the d-pad to matter.

In fact, just to save time... how about you name for me one game that makes heavy use of the d-pad that is better on Xbox 360 for the inclusion of an ultra-sensitive d-pad.

Lest you think this is me just complaining about the Xbox 360, by the way, it's not. I don't like any gamepad with an extra-sensitive d-pad. Xbox 360 is the most prolific offender, but there are a host of PC gaming pads that I avoid for the same reason. There are other d-pad controllers that have left me frustrated with the d-pad for other reasons, too, like the tiny d-pad on the GameCube controller. But for my money, nothing mainstream tops the disappointment of the Xbox 360 controller's d-pad.

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espiga espiga - June 24, 2010 (03:04 AM)
The 360 controller is the closest to perfect that I've encountered as my time as a gamer. The contours of the plastic fit the size of my hands perfectly, and the buttons feel responsive. It's got considerable heft so it doesn't feel like picking it up will make me throw it through a window.

But like you said, that D-pad is horrible.
- - - June 24, 2010 (04:04 AM)
I primarily use the 360's control stick for Street Fighter. The D-pad is terrible, and I can't win with it to save my life. I also have a Street Fighter FightPad, which has a much better D-pad that resembles a Sega Saturn controller's D-pad. It's great for some of the Xbox Live Arcade games.

The only thing the 360's D-pad is decent for is treating the four directions as four extra buttons (e.g. quickswapping weapons in shooters).
honestgamer honestgamer - June 24, 2010 (11:27 AM)
I should mention with emphasis that I do like the Xbox 360 overall, but the d-pad is the obvious exception. I don't feel that it's particularly well-suited even for weapon switches, because those only require input for the usual four directions--up, down, left and right--meaning that the Xbox 360 controller can quite easily botch even that simple requirement. I'm pretty sure that a sensitive d-pad is bad all the way around.
Suskie Suskie - June 24, 2010 (11:35 AM)
Yeah, that d-pad is atrocious. I mostly use it for navigating menus and I don't playing fighting games so it's not a huge deal, but trying to play Castlevania: SotN with that thing sucked because Alucard kept ducking when I was trying to run.
jiggs jiggs - June 24, 2010 (01:01 PM)
not to mention the sensitivity...i don't like the way dpad looks and feels.

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