The mechanical, customizable Xbox Elite Controller is a standalone peripheral, as the name implies, targets the more elite or dedicated players to spend more money for something that performs better with more tactile and audible responses. The appeal is there, and PC gamers have been dabbling in the midst of mechanical hardware since dinosaurs roamed the Earth, but the PlayStation 4 has no competition of a similar ilk apart from the DualShock 4 (DS4) controller.
As arguably excellent as it may be, there’s still room for the butter-smooth response and tactile feedback from a mechanical piece of hardware in hand that would propel PS4 gaming to the next tier. In light of this, Sony sought out two companies to create eSport-level controllers with the intention of tapping into that specific market. One of those two controllers comes from an acclaimed company known for stellar, performance-boosting keyboards and mice: Razer. The new Razer Raiju has a great aesthetic, toting some mechanical buttons, extra triggers, and audio control right within thumb’s reach. No matter how fancy a newcomer may look, the reigning king on PS4 is the DS4 by a wide margin; and depending on personal preference, it may take the next controller to pull the DS4 out of the #1 spot.
The initial aesthetic of the Razer Raiju is quite like that of the Xbox One (XO) controller, but the angular shape is wider and more obtuse on the Raiju, combining the XO controller with the DS4 for the same hand shape as PlayStation gamers are accustomed to while giving it a bit more width and height. Its weight is a peculiar thing on its own that almost contradicts what one has with the DS4. Raiju has a firm chassis, and it feels sturdy and solid, but at the same time it feels hollow and light. When compared to the DS4, the Raiju just doesn’t have a similar premium feel to it.
The buttons themselves are (mostly) something special on the Raiju. Controller players know the struggle of limited access to settings or commands due to the limited amount of buttons on controllers, so Razer sought to facilitate that need. Set on top between R1 and L1 are two buttons, M1 and M2, and on the back middle of the controller are two extra triggers, M3 and M4. All four of the additional M buttons are mechanical and add nice variety to how games can be played: The M3 and M4 triggers can take the place of what R2 and L2 do without changing any settings on the controller.
These four buttons can be pinned to single-button commands to help facilitate command access. While that helps, the inconvenience of this is that this controller benefits fighting games very little, since combos can’t be bound to any of the extra buttons. One competitive feature to these buttons is that they can be pinned to two different profiles, allowing one person to have these four buttons customized to two different games or even have the preferences of two different people programmed into the same controller.
This leads to another peculiarity: the D-Pad. Traditional D-Pads are single pieces of plastic divided by the chassis of the controller, and the entire piece will move relative to which button is pressed. This simplifies using the D-Pad in all eight directions without having to force two buttons down to take an angle. This is how the DS4 is engineered. The Raiju however treats the D-Pad as four separate buttons. The possible appeal or issue with a D-Pad like this is complicated or compounded, relatively, with the fact that all four of these buttons are stiff, requiring heavier pressure to issue a command with them. The only times I ever encountered D-Pads like this were in cheap, third-party controllers from way back on the PS2, and considering the successes of modern controls it makes sense that controls with buttons like this historically don’t become popular.
There are two standard DS4 functions missing from the Raiju as well, the big one being wireless gaming. The upside to this is that the heavy-duty cord included with the Rajiu is long enough to reach one side of the living room to the other without the body of the cord leaving the ground, so there’s plenty of room for flails of rage and/or excitement. Indeed, being wired in allows for lag-free input, an ever-so-slight advantage to competitive modes, can make plenty of difference, but the DS4 now thanks to a recent update can wire in via the same USB port to be powered directly by the PS4. This means that the same advantage that the Raiju is pushing for is already available on the standard PS4 controller. The other missing function on this controller is the sensor bar. Most may not miss it, since a controller like the Raiju is engineered specifically for esports and games of that ilk don’t include sensor bar elements, but I found myself plenty of times wanting to type with the sensor-aided keyboard when messaging friends.
On the topic of friends, I experienced some issues with the controller itself when using its headset jack to party chat, and there was a constant low feedback underneath any incoming sound. The Raiju has a volume setting that with four presses can cycle through four default audible options with the same button; and the louder I made it the louder that feedback became. This might be an issue that some buyers will never encounter by using wireless headsets, and a patch is now available to help solve audio issues that initial owners may have experienced.
Most of the conversation above has been rather negative to the Raiju. While there is plenty of room for personal speculation with this peripheral, using it is wonderful. The four shaped face buttons, unlike the D-Pad, are mechanical with a smooth, glossy finish and respond with almost no effort. The trigger buttons are also quite pleasant. R1 and L1 feel a bit like the bumpers from the XO controller but more responsive and don’t click as loudly. The triggers are also of similar structure from the same controller, but they have a bit more resistance–not a lot, but just enough to help give a tactile sense of pulling on the trigger. This benefits shooters because it helps indicate by feel how much pull it takes on the trigger to fire; efficiency is key in shooters.
The joysticks are something special. Featuring bigger heads with rubbery, concave tops, these joysticks do a great job at keeping hold of the thumb without slipping, like what can happen with the plastic, ridged tops of the DS4 controllers. The ridges are helpful, but there’s something special to the rubbery tops on the Raiju joysticks that, coupled with the increased range of sensitivity and size, make them superior to what the DS4 has to offer.
The Touchpad also does the job well, giving a nice but different feel to its button press. The DS4 has a contoured fit into its space, giving it a complete look and tight feel when using it. The Touchpad on the Raiju opts for more of a responsive feel. Clicks take less effort to press, which is a welcome approach, but there’s a narrow frame of empty space around it that gives it a cheaper look. Equally so, the Touchpad itself has no glossy finish, but this helps it blend in with the presentation of the controller itself. It’s a fair trade off though -look for feel.
Many of the intricacies of the Razer Raiju won’t be issues for everyone, but the implication in that statement is that this controller is not for everyone. Even further still is the lack of need to replace the DS4 with something that costs almost twice as much. Though a fair few normal DualShock 4 features are missing from Razer’s controller, the Raiju has elements of what makes an elite peripheral elite: mechanical shape buttons, extra mechanical buttons, and well-tuned joysticks, but there are things missing from this that can easily be taken for granted. The Raiju is a good start to something special, but at the price it’s retailed for, it’s far from a complete product justified by its cost.
The Razer Raiju is available to buy now in Europe, and can be bought from the Razer store, priced £149.99