Xbox 360 Wireless Controller for Windows

Xbox 360 Wireless Controller for WindowsSo maybe I’m a bit behind the times when it comes to computer gaming.  Okay, I am way behind the times – but I have an excuse that I’ve got two small kids.  Can’t say I’m too anxious to see them spend their days in front of a computer or the TV playing games all day – they need to be outside, running around and getting exercise!

Now for us adults, however, things are a bit different.  Luckily, there’s nothing wrong with us entering a comatose state in front of the computer playing games until the wee hours of the morning.  Well – when you have the time and can stay awake after running after kids all day, that is.

But being hunched over a laptop alone isn’t much fun, especially when your back hurts from being hunched over a laptop all day at work.  There’s got to be something better.  Ah, what about this nice Vista home theater PC I recently built?  Maybe that could do the trick…  but, how to play a game on that?!  I don’t want to try and use some keyboard and mouse from the couch.  Apparently, some smart people solved this issue many years ago by inventing things called video game consoles.  These things came with an ingenious method of playing games called a gamepad.  Over many, many years of grueling research and development, they managed to invent some of these gamepads that could work without wires.  Wow!  Now we’re on to something that just might solve the problem – but this isn’t a game console made just for using a gamepad, it’s a full fledged computer.  How good could one of those wireless gamepads really work on this?

Well, let’s find out.  I ran by my local gee-whiz electronic toy store and picked up the Xbox 360 Wireless Controller for Windows.  It looks so much like the wireless controller that comes with the Xbox 360, it actually IS the wireless controller that comes with the Xbox 360.  There’s absolutely no difference at all.  Same size, same buttons, same everything.  The exception is, it costs a bit more because it comes with a wireless USB adapter to plug into the PC.

All you have to do is install the software on the CD, plug in the wireless adapter (sticking the wireless part away somewhere away from prying hands), turn on the controller and you’re set.  So it’s up and running and that’s fine – but what can you play with it?  Well – just about anything, really.  You can use it to play the games that came included with Vista (and wow, what a great selection of games those are!  Haha.  Well, now that I say that, I did get a little bit addicted to Chess Titans).  Okay, so you’re not impressed with those games, what about something a little more serious?  The Games for Windows catalog of games all support the controller natively.  That means no funky configuration or messing about with mappings – it just works.

If you do run into games you want to play that aren’t “Games for Windows”, you can use some free re-mapping software such as Xpadder to assign keys to the buttons and directional pads.  I haven’t messed about with that yet – but supposedly it works okay.  I would suggest, though – some games on the PC probably are really meant to be played with a mouse and keyboard, so your mileage may vary greatly with how well those really work even if you map all the keys out.

Okay, so it’s setup and you got an appropriate game to play – does it work well?  Well, I have to say – Absolutely Yes.  All joking aside from what I said earlier, I’ve spent my fair share of time behind a PS2, Playstation, Nintendo, etc. – so I know what it should work like.  This thing works just like you’ve grown to expect those controllers to work.  The wireless has no lag or missed button pushes that I’ve noticed, and the setup in the games that support it by default feels very natural. 

Another good note on the wireless ones for Windows, if you’re looking to have two or four controllers going at once: you only need one of the ‘Xbox 360 Wireless Controller for Windows’ packages.  Once you get one wireless dongle, then you can just pick up the standard Xbox 360 wireless controllers on the cheap, and they’ll work like a champ.  Also, if you already happen to have an Xbox 360 and some wireless controllers, they sell just the wireless adapter for Windows as well, so you can save some more money and let your controllers do double duty.

So my recommendation is if you’re into the arcade-ish games that lend themselves well to using gamepads, etc. – then do yourself a favor and pick up one of these things, hook the PC up to your nice 60″ HDTV, kick back on the couch with the beverage of your choice and enjoy some serious HTPC gaming!

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