Scuf – a luxury controller manufacturer based out of Suwanee, Georgia- is attempting to address a major need in the PlayStation 4 ecosystem. Ever since the release of the original Xbox 360 controller, the gaming community has had vocal proponents that have claimed it as the best layout for modern day videogames. What layout is best, is debatable, but Microsoft’s Xbox division has taken controller influence further with the release of the Xbox Elite controller- a £120 accessory designed squarely at modularity and extreme customization. While the Dualshock 4 is an incredible device, there are denizens of users who are still yearning for PlayStation’s attempt at an asymmetrical layout and a premium product. Enter Scuf Gaming, and say hello to the Scuf Vantage.
The Scuf Vantage is the definition of opulence. Starting at $169 for the wired model, and $199 for the wireless model, this is a controller priced directly to the enthusiast community. For the price though, there is a bit of “firsts”. The Vantage is the first officially licensed PlayStation 4 third party controller that is wireless, modular, and most importantly Asymmetrical. This is- without Sony outright saying it: the PlayStation Elite Controller.
When I received the controller, I immediately unboxed what I consider the most premium package I’ve ever had for a controller. A giant Christmas sized box greets you, opening it up reveals a heavily decorated nest that houses the controller, a luxury carrying case, and a nice full color manual with all the details on what to do. The only disappointment with the unboxing is the pill case that acts as a portable housing for accessories. Shoving accessories clumsily inside an oversized plastic pill that looks like an extravagant Gatcha Capsule from Japan should be a crime.
Upon inspection, there is a plastic front plate that is removable. Once removed the guts of the controller are laid bare. On the bottom you’ll find the rumble motors which can be manually removed. This is a very interesting feature because they can lighten the controller significantly.
Moving up, we have Scuf personalized thumbsticks. The sticks have a textured “S” that can be switched out for shorter or larger variants. The texture on the sticks give it a nice little grip that helps prevent slippage. On the back there are magnetized paddles arranged in a downward direction. These feel nice and clicky, but I’ve never really found myself to be using them.
On the sides, we find Scuf’s first major innovation: the Sax buttons. The Sax buttons are two buttons on the side of the controller that can be remapped to whatever button you want dubbed S1/S2. These clicky little buttons take what is already a very modular and customizable controller – even further. This sort of controller innovation generally isn’t seen in third party prodcuts, but Scuf is the first, and hat’s off to them for that.
Lastly there are two sliders on the bottom of the controller that allow users to control turning on Bluetooth and the remapping of buttons. The remap feature is incredible, but in order to do so- you have to press a very fragile little slider that has no right being on a controller this expensive. I would accidentally nudge these buttons quite frequently, and I question why even have an option to turn on or off Bluetooth since that should be something the controller should do automatically.
Fragile Build, Powerful Options, Scary Pricing:
If all this sounds great- there is something one should consider: the Vantage is an intimidating controller. Unlike the Xbox Elite, the Scuf requires you to open up your controller’s faceplate every time you want to make a change. Removing the faceplate is easy, but changing things out can become convoluted when all you want to do is change the thumbsticks. This sort of mechanical complexity felt unnecessary, especially with the magnetic setup of the Xbox Elite controller.
Mechanical complexity is a theme when talking about the triggers too. Trigger stops are modified by twisting a small end piece until you find that perfect little spot you are comfortable with. The triggers give users more customization than the Xbox Elite, by allowing users to fine tune exactly where they want them to stop and start- but you lose out on a huge amount of convenience and simplicity.
All this opening and closing- it begs the question how would the controller stand up long term? Seeing the insides exposed to the elements once the face plate was removed didn’t inspire confidence- but I suppose a degree of finesse is necessary when you allow players to change everything. Scuf, themselves, don’t offer any sort of reassurances since there is only a 90 day warranty on the controller.
With all that aside- I decided I’d play in the stock configuration out of the box before I did anything. I turned on my PS4, paired the controller, and fired up a game of Knack 2.
WOW – This controller feels incredible in the hand. The nice textured back was comfortable and gives off a very luxurious feel. The sticks on the other hand were a tad disappointing. The textured “S” on the Scuf sticks provide a nice grip, but can become quite slippery. I’d often over shoot / under shoot certain direction jumps because I unfortunately am plagued by the deadzone issue. (Editor’s note: Scuf has acknowledged a small batch of controllers are suffering from a Deadzone issue and are going to be offering a firmware update to address it) In much better news, the buttons are more tactile than the traditional Dualshock 4 and feel excellent. Knack jumps, whizzes, bounces, and hits with tenacity. I was confident in each button press and the tactility helped insure I was doing something deliberate.
Next, I checked out Destiny 2 and God of War. In God of War I was running int issues while using the triggers since they would constantly lock out of place. This required me during the game to open up the controller and tighten up the trigger locks. Cumbersome? Yes. But after, I had no problems.
Destiny 2 did a fine job of showing just how nice it is to play an official PlayStation 4 controller using an assyemtrical stick layout. Those of you who prefer assymetrical layouts, your prayer’s are answred.
As for fighters, I put on Street Fighter Anniversary collection and attempted to test out the D-Pad and the Sax buttons. This is where the biggest weakness of the controller was found. The D-Pad was frustrating and required me to press with extra force to insure my button presses were hitting. During a 15 minute session, I had to take a break once, and started using the analogue stick instead.
The D-Pad is almost exactly like the Xbox Elite controller (which is also quite poor). Scuf gives the option of putting on a disk that allows for easier diagonals or a stock traditional D-Pad. Irrespective of what option you choose, the Pad buttons are stiff and it’s very hard to imagine myself using something like this long term. For those of you looking for the next great D-Pad, stick to the original Dualshock 4 or invest into a Hori Commander if you want official PlayStation options.
The Sax buttons proved to be quite useful during the timing of Kara cancels in Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo. Timing is of the utmost importance, and while the controller only has four face buttons, the Sax buttons do a great job of easy to reach buttons that work great for six button fighters.
Scuf would be smart to look into the recently defunct Improved Madcatz Fight Pro or the Vita D-Pad for a Vantage Version 2.0 because it’s what separates the controller from true greatness. The fighting community has found a home on the PS4, and to be frank, D-Pad’s are one of the most overlooked features on ALL controllers.
The biggest downside of the controller and what I consider a deal breaker: You cannot voice chat in wireless mode through the headphone jack. The only way to use the headphone jack for voice chat is by plugging the Vantage into the PS4 with the provided USB cable.
The reason? Scuf has a proprietary touch bar at the bottom of the controller that acts as a secondary volume control. While that sounds cool and all, I’d much rather have the ability to use my headphone jack for audio chat than a glorified volume knob.
Second, the pricing is bordering on excessive. The wired controller is $169, wireless is $199. Faceplate kits are $19.95 whilst accessory kits cost $24.95. Essentially you’d be north of $250 after tax if you customized the controller any more than what is in the stock configuration. We are now talking prices that cost more than the actual console itself.
Also, the vibration motor, while removable, is weak and noisy. I don’t know if it was this unit specifically, but the motors emit a high pitched whir when engaged. I don’t play too often with vibration enabled, but once again, players are paying top dollar for something that should be world class in all aspects. Every time vibration was engaged I yearned for my Xbox Elite controller and it’s nuanced layered rumble.
Finally, I question reliability. Dropping this controller once had the removable face plate smack off and the one of the triggers get lost into the carpet ethers. Did I mention, replaceable parts for the stock Silver color configuration are unavailable at Gamestop or on Scuf’s Store? Expensive and breakable- yikes!
There is nothing like the Scuf Vantage on the market today. The customization options are unlike any other controller giving users unprecedented choice to style, fashion, and modify. The innovative Sax Buttons are a first, and the ability to play asymmetrically will finally fill that void for players who’ve been asking Sony for it. On top of all this is the incredibly luxurious feel in the hand.
However, there are huge caveats. Scuf only offers a 90 day warranty, and with all the opening / closing players will be doing, I’d be afraid to break this thing. Additionally: there is no option to use the controller on PC, the headphone jack will only work for chat when in wired mode, and there are current quality issues with deadzones on the sticks. Finally, the price, $199 for the wireless model without any accessories- is nearly the cost of a secondary console.
The question remains though: Should you buy the Scuf Vantage? That depends on how much money you are willing to spend to use an Xbox Elite controller for your PS4.
There is nothing like the Scuf Vantage on the market today. The customization options are unlike any other controller giving users unprecedented choice to style, fashion, and modification.