Steam Machines Available for Pre-Order



Valve has begun pre-orders for the upcoming Steam Machine gaming platform as well as their Steam Controller and Steam Link middleware device. Pre-orders will begin shipping October 16th with regular retail availability starting soon after in November. Surprisingly, there is no word on the SteamVR headset which is currently available to developers.



The Steam Controller will sell for $49.99 USD and features dual haptic touchpads, wired/wireless connectivity and dual mode analog/digital triggers as well as native support for PC and SteamOS. The Steam Link also for $49.99 is a middleare device that allows streaming of steam games on a PC to your TV and supports not only the Steam Controller but Xbox 360 and Xbox One controllers as well as bluetooth and usb PC controllers.


For more information check out Valve’s Steam page.

Hardware Analysis: PlayStation 4




The Launch of a new generation of consoles is always an exciting time. Executives will give presentations at E3 showing off the feature set, hardware power and launch titles in an attempt to talk up their console as the undisputed victor of the new generation. The gaming industry has been around long enough with its eight generations for us to have seen everything. There was a point in time, years ago now, where consoles were individually unique and each had their own advantages and quirks which would not only make the purchasing decision a difficult one for consumers but would also seemingly endow the systems with their own personalities.

Today that’s not so true. Of the three one could only argue that the WiiU has it’s own personality and niche. While it’s sales haven’t been stellar there is something to be said for going your own way popular trends be damned. As for the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One the lines become more blurred. I’m not sure when exactly the homogenization of consoles became a thing but I think it had its roots in the Dreamcast, the first really modern console and especially the first Xbox with its use of modified off the shelf consumer hardware.


PlayStation 4

Sony’s 4th console release builds on a the same set of core design themes that have carried all PlayStations to commercial success. The biggest of which is a focus on multimedia functionality and making the PlayStation more than just a console.


Sony’s 4th console is less of a revolution like it’s ancestor and more of what we saw with the PS2 and PS3, a deliberate evolution and refinement over previous models with the goal of keeping what made the PlayStation great and just improving on that. To continue accomplish this goal we see the return of a lot of core features such as the familiar Dual Shock type controller and an emphasis on not just being a gaming console but being an all around entertainment device for the living room.

Sony began development of the PS4 only two years after the release of the PS3 in 2008 in order to prevent the delays that plagued the PS3 from afflicting the PS4. By 2012 early  dev units were being sent out to developers and the console was officially announced at E3 2013 with the first markets releasing units that November.

During the development phase Sony worked closely with AMD to develop an x86 based APU to power the PS4 in order to improve the ease of game development. Something the PS3 suffered from early on due to its complicated cell architecture. Sony also worked with Bungie to work on updates to the dual shock controller family to make it better suited to FPS titles, another area that the PS3 had been weak in compared to the Xbox 360.

The end result gave Sony a much cheaper platform to manufacture with a straightforward architecture, much like the original PlayStation, that avoids many of the mistakes of the PS3.


Sony’s console design approach has always been a consistent effort to make the PlayStation resemble its intended use as a multimedia device. From the very beginning, the PlayStation has resembled contemporary home theater appliances while also having a distinct and modern look. The PlayStation 4 continues this theme with a hybrid gloss/matte black finish and sharp angled lines. I think it Looks nice.

It's hard to deny the PS4 looks good

It’s hard to deny the PS4 looks good



While the PS4’s industrial design is consistent with it’s lineage, under the hood is a different matter entirely. Gone is the expensive and complicated PowerPC Cell processor of the PS3. Now we have a much more conservative and conventional approach using an AMD sourced APU (Accelerated Processing Unit).


At the heart of the APU is an AMD Jaguar architecture CPU, or rather two of them. Jaguar is AMD’s current low-end/low-power architecture and has been on sale since mid-2013. Jaguar processors are at the most quad core devices and here Sony has taken the design a step further, instead of one quad core processor we have two arranged in a similar fashion to Intel’s early Core 2 Quad desktop CPUs with two separate cores on the same processor die.

APUs provide a distinct advantage to earlier solutions that involve discrete physical processors and chips. By taking these seperate components and placing them on the same die you can greatly reduce heat and power consumption but also connect the elements on their own internal bus that frees up the main system bus for other duties and reduces overall system latency.

A diagram of a single Jaguar compute unit (CU)

A diagram of a single Jaguar compute unit (CU)

Each Quad core processor is broken into a “compute unit” (CU) which consists of the individual cores as well as the L2 cache and interface. The 4 cores share a 2MiB level 2 cache and each have 32KiB of instruction cache and 32KiB of data cache. Jaguar cores, like all modern processors are full superscalar, feature out-of-order and speculative execution in order to increase parallelization and improve overall performance.

Jaguar features many improvements over AMD's previous Bulldozer architecture

Jaguar features many improvements over AMD’s previous Bulldozer architecture

Both CU’s run at a base 1.6Ghz and can throttle to an undisclosed higher clockspeed although there has been speculation it goes up as high as 2.5Ghz and as low as 1.9Ghz.



The GPU is as expected based on the Radeon GCN architecture that is found in consumer Jaguar APUs. Codenammed Liverpool, the GPU features 1152 Unified Shaders at a clock speed of 800Mhz. Being based on the GCN family Liverpool shares many features with AMD’s current 2xx line of consumer GPUs such as the HSA “zero-copy” Unified memory plan and support for AMD’s Mantle API.

Specs Shortlist:

  • 1152 Unified Shaders
  • 72 Texture Mapping Units
  • 32 Render Output Units
  • 800Mhz Core Clock Speed
  • 1.84 TeraFLOPS peak theoretical power
  • 25.6 GP/s maximum pixel fillrate
  • 57.6 GT/s maximum texture fillrate
  • 256bit wide GDDR5 bus with 176 GB/s bandwidth*
*note the PS4 uses a unified 8GiB of GDDR5 for both the CPU and GPU

In terms of overall performance Liverpool compares closest to the AMD 265 which is an updated Radeon 7850. The 265 also has a peak processing power of 1.84 TeraFLOPS and has similar texture and pixel fillrate as well as 179.s GB/s memory bandwidth.


The PS4 is form Sony’s perspective a great improvement over the PS3. It’s cheaper to manufacture, didn’t have hardware delays, is easy to develop for and naturally continues the theme of newer consoles being more powerful and having more features but that doesn’t tell the whole story. it actually took me awhile to finish this article. Not because information was hard to find or anything like that, but because it was hard to motivate myself to write about such a boring topic. The Ps4’s spec sheet reads more like a cheap pc build on then a dedicated  gaming machine. Both the PS4 and Xbox One suffer from this, they just aren’t interesting to talk about. Not to mention that relative to when they came out they aren’t nearly as impressive as the previous consoles were. The Ps3 and 360 were actually fairly powerful even by PC standards when they came out, I can not say the same for this generation. But the biggest problem by far, and this is outside the scope of this article and not just limited to the PS4, is there aren’t enough good games available for these consoles. 2014 was a parade of over hyped games that either didn’t deliver (Destiny) or games that didn’t work at all (Watchdogs, Assassin’s Creed Unity).


Valve Announces Source 2

This week at GDC Valve has made multiple big announcements including updates to their VR technoloy and the new Steam Link feature. But arguably the biggest announcement was the unveiling of Source 2, the follow up to Valve’s celebrated Source 3D graphics engine. Source was noted for its mod friendly atmosphere and it’s high level of sophistication. But that was 11 years ago, the Source engine is now showing its age and looks very dated. Valve has continually updated the engine over the years adding HDR and a slew of other post processing effects but even Counter Strike: Global Offensive looks old.

The new Source 2 engine plans to fix this problem with a modern engine suited to the next generation of Valve titles. While Valve’s Jay Stelly was quiet on specific features we did get these tidbits from him,


The value of a platform like the PC is how much it increases the productivity of those who use the platform. With Source 2, our focus is increasing creator productivity. Given how important user generated content is becoming, Source 2 is designed not for just the professional developer, but enabling gamers themselves to participate in the creation and development of their favorite games……..We will be making Source 2 available for free to content developers. This combined with recent announcements by Epic and Unity will help continue the PCs dominance as the premiere content authoring platform.

With strong hints towards improved mod support and the upfront cost of nothing the Source 2 engine joins UE4 and Unity in a new free to develop business model that is sure to make waves in the industry and allow students and indie devs alike access to modern game technology.



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First Preview: Besiege [Early Access] (PC)


Early access games have become a controversial business model in the PC community as of late. For every Minecraft and Kerbal Space Program there seems to be 10 games like Earth: Year 2066. Criticisms have been made for early access since the model first became popular, and its not hard to see why. Without delving into this complicated discussion I will say this, in my experience the games that are most successful as early access are those whose core gameplay can easily be realized without fleshing out all of the planned content. Minecraft was such a game and so is Kerbal Space Program.

Besiege, like KSP allows for complex creations

Besiege, like KSP allows for complex creations

Recently I came across another early access PC game and from what I have seen so far it also falls into this camp. Besiege is as the developer describes it, “a physics based building puzzler”. In other words you have to build wacky creations to solve objectives of increasing difficulty while working against or if you are good enough, abusing the game’s physics engine. The game’s setting revolves around a cartoony  medieval world complete with requisite peasants, soldiers, fortifications and sheep. You as a nameless evildoer are to assault stage after stage and smash, burn, blow up and otherwise kill your way to completion.

The graphics are pleasing to look at and the art style involves smooth edges and a soft pallet that gives the game an overall storybook look that compliments the over the top creations you are sure to make. To this end many players have already posted compilation videos on YouTube showing off the true potential of the game given that you have enough time and creativity. If you chose to join them you will find yourself spending a lot of time in the games editor (pictured above). The editor is where all building takes place. You can place parts, move them, tweak them, and delete them until your creation is ready and then simply hit play to begin the level. Even at this early stage of development the editor has a high degree of polish and functionality. It’s minimalist interface gives the user access to all of the powerful tools without getting in the way of the creation. I like that.


The trumpets are a nice touch

The fact that Besiege is considered early access is actually a little baffling. It feels less like an alpha or beta release and more like a limited content demo. The interface is well laid out, the core gameplay is well realized and complete and bugs are thankfully few and far in between. In the claimed by Steam 25 hours I have put into the game so far I have had 0 game breaking crashes. At this point my only cons are that the content isn’t complete and thus short and that I am not as creative as many of the other players.

To learn more about Besiege you can check it out on its official site or its Steam page.

First Preview: Drift Stage [Early Alpha Demo] (PC, MAC)



Modern racing games are all about the simulation of racing. They focus on the technical aspects of car setup, driving dynamics and what it is like to be involved in a professional race series. This trend can be directly tied to Polyphony Digital’s classic, Gran Turismo for the PlayStation and has since spawned an entire sub genre with similar titles on most platforms. But before Gran Turismo and Forza, racing games were very different. Instead of focusing on the technical aspects of racing they focused on the feeling of racing. The graphics were loony, the music was over the top and the physics were simple.


Earlier this week the gaming community got a glimpse of what that old school racing feeling was like. Super Systems Softworks, a new indie dev consisting of just three members announced their kickstarter for Drift Stage. Having already reached their modest goal of 30 grand in just a few days it’s clear that support for the game is strong and this project will see the light of day.


One great thing regarding their kickstarter attempt is the inclusion of an alpha build demo on the page. Compared to the scope of the finished game it is very limited but it does give us an idea of what to expect. The demo itself consists of a modestly sized .zip inside of which you will find the game executable and the game dependencies. The game runs direct with no installation required.

driftstage title screen

The title screen is fun to watch on its own


After a short loading screen and very old school banner for Super Systems Softworks you are hit in the face with a title screen that draws its inspiration directly form the games it wishes to emulate. Bright colors, fast cars and the upbeat soundtrack make even the menu screen fun. Moving on to the menu screen and you can start to get a feel for the ultimate scope of the game. While only one time trial track under Arcade mode is currently available, the game also lists career, multiplayer, and workshop modes.


currently you can only race against yourself and time target cars

currently you can only race against yourself and time target cars

Even with one track and single player only, the game’s charm comes through immediately. From the first lap on I was half expecting to hear Takenobu Mitsuyoshi come in belting out the hook to the Daytona USA theme. This game feels like Ridge Racer and Sonny Crockett had a kid. The visuals are the perfect embodiment of 80’s gaudy style and the music and gameplay hail from the 90’s arcade racers of old.


The cars are all stock and the physics are best described as Initial D-esque but when making a game such as this that is the entire point. You wont find yourself setting up spring rates or upgrading your turbo in this game. Instead, if you are anything like me you will come to a realization somewhere mid turn in a drift while an epic guitar solo is going on and thinking “yeah, I’m a badass”. That’s what these games are supposed to do, make you feel like a hero without being weighed down with the physics and rules of real racing. In their interview with Kotaku, Chase and Charles said their inspiration was Yu Suzuki. From what I have seen so far I think they have done about as faithful an attempt at recreating the feeling of those classic games without being overtly derivative to anyone in particular. Both Jon and myself are very excited for this game.


To learn more about Drift Stage, you can check out their website and kickstarter.




The Media's depiction of a hacker

The Media’s depiction of a hacker

Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network were taken down by a coordinated DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack Christmas morning. Responsibility has been claimed by a group known as Lizard Squad. Lizard Squad is a self  styled “hacker” group with a Twitter presence. They demanded Twitter followers in exchange for ending the attack however N4GM is reporting that Kim Dotcom of Mega fame may have ended the DDoS by paying off Lizard Squad with Mega accounts.

In the Twitter conversation Dotcom promised the premium accounts as long as Lizard Squad ended the attack and wouldn’t take down PSN and XBL in the future. After they reached their agreement service was not fully returned to all users however it is unclear if this is due to Lizard Squad refusing to hold up their end of the deal or technical issues on Sony and Microsoft’s ends.

It is important to point out that what Lizard Squad did was not a hack at all. Denial of Service attacks are some of the most basic and yet most effective attacks one can make. They take advantage of the nature of network routers and servers in that when a computer sends a request over a network or the internet the server must respond to it accordingly. Servers have no way to know if a request is legitimate or malicious because the request are identical.

For example, say you own a bakery and have a website to go with it where users can place orders. If it is a small bakery with little traffic you don’t need much in the way of hardware to handle the traffic. But what if you make a really cool cake and a video of it goes viral? Now a lot of new traffic will hit the site from people who are curious about your bakery. This is a good thing, except your server cannot handle the requests and soon it is overwhelmed with incoming requests. Before you know it you have the internet equivalent of a traffic jam.

This is an example of an accidental DDoS where the intent was never to take a site down but the organic rise in popularity and traffic was enough to overwhelm a little server. What Lizard Squad did was the same thing but intentional and on a much larger scale. The internet is home to millions of computers, servers, routers, smartphones, consoles and now even refrigerators. There are a surprising number of these devices that have been infected with malware that turn them into “zombies”. A zombie computer seemingly acts normal to its user but at the same time is part of a group of zombies known as a botnet. Botnets are effective ways to quickly and easily carry out a DDoS attack. If the Botnet is quite large then it can be used to take down some very large targets.

Lizard Squad hired one such botnet to attack XBL and PSN servers to ensure the services would not be available Christmas morning. While damaging to end users during the attack DDoS’s can do little more than deny access to the server itself. It cannot steal account info or actually penetrate the security of Microsoft’s and Sony’s networks. The software used to create botnets however can usually do more than just botting. The trojan Gameover ZeuS for example was primarily used for stealing banking info.



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Rumor Mill: Pitbull and Jon Blow are the same person

Editor’s Note: To inaugurate our new Rumor Mill category we have breaking news
Illuminati conspiracy?

Illuminati conspiracy?

Breaking news from our investigators, the Solid State Gamer has determined that prominent developer Jon Blow and Pop artist Pitbull are one and the same. Their resemblance is uncanny and we have found no evidence of them ever being at the same place at the same time. Has Pitbull ever been to E3? Has Jonathan Blow ever been present at a Pitbull concert? We say no.

We have reached out to both parties and have received no comment as of publishing. Clearly this further validates out point that they are one and the same.

We stand by our position that Pitbull is moonlighting as an indie game developer. We speculate that he wanted to follow in the steps of fellow bald celebrity Vin Diesel and wanted to branch out into games but was concerned about being taken seriously in the industry. After the success of Braid we hope that Pitbull realizes his talent and vision is respected in the community and he should feel comfortable revealing his true identity.


AnandTech sold to Purch


In an unexpected move yesterday Anandtech Editor-in Chief Ryan Smith announced that they were being bought by online publishing company Purch. Purch is already known for being the owner of competing review site Tom’s Hardware having acquired it in July of 2013.

In the announcement Smith explains that site creator and former CEO Anand Lal Shimpi had begun negotiating with different publishing companies before his departure for Apple in August of this year. This comes as a major surprise to AnandTech readers and for good reason. When Anand  left, He along with Smith made assurances that AnandTech would stay independent. Yesterday’s announcement not only shows that not to be true, but that there were plans to sell the site months ago.

Reader reactions are varied and run the spectrum from hopeful about the site’s future to claiming the site is on a downward spiral into obscurity. Smith claims this move is only positive for the site:

The AnandTech team is staying in place and will continue to focus on existing coverage areas. We’re not changing our editorial policies or analytical approach and have no intentions of doing so. The one thing that will change is our ability to continue to grow the site. This if anything starts from the top; with a publisher to more directly handle the business of AnandTech, this frees me up to spend more time on content creation and helping the rest of our editors put together better articles. And in a hands-on business like journalism that benefit cannot be understated.

Link to announcement:



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First Preview: World of Warships


Belorussian developer Wargaming of World of Tanks fame recently gave fans a look at their new game World of Warships (WoWS) so we thought it would be a great opportunity to look into it.  

Most will know of Wargaming from their award winning World of Tanks. Released several years ago, WoT still has a thriving community and is constantly being updated. The game features tanks from WW1 to the mid Cold War in an easy to learn but difficult to master online arena. Tanks are separated into 10 Tiers in ever increasing stats and abilities that run in a pseudo-chronological order for each nation based faction. Tank control is simple but masks the game’s deep mechanical complexity making for interesting matches that rely more on skill than your tank.

gameplay can get very over the top with WoT's lax physics.

gameplay can get very over the top with WoT’s lax physics.

After the success of WoT Wargming tried to expand their portfolio to include an aircombat game, World of Warplanes. This time around they were met with competition from other developers such as Gaijin Entertainment with War Thunder. With the upcoming release of World of Warships Wargaming hopes to take back the throne of military sim-lite MMO games.

Due to Wargaming’s strict pre-release NDA neither we nor anyone else who have played the alpha can discuss it publicly. So unfortunately we have to stick to what Wargaming has publicly released on their own. WoWS brings us into a genre rarely seen in gaming since the DOS era, real time ship combat. Aside from the Battlestations franchise on Xbox and PC and the online 2D NavyField there isn’t much out there for the modern gamer who wants to duke it out with dreadnoughts.

wows poster

Wargaming is said to be using an updated version of their Big World engine which also powers Wot and WoWP. Big World is a competent if old 3D MMO engine that fully integrates into the service which links your accounts in their various games, WoWS included, together into one meta account. The game is broken into 10 tiers with 4 classes of ships; battleships, cruisers, destroyers and aircraft carriers. Just like in WoT and WoWP all ships will either be based on real ships that were actually commissioned or ships that were designed and never completed. Their arms, armor and other stats will be tied to their real life specifications as closely as possible and the game will follow the theme of simple to learn controls but difficult to master gameplay that has made previous titles so popular.

Wargaming titles follow a “freemium” business model where the game is free and a player need not spend money to play or even do well at the game. In game micro-transactions will cover premium vehicles which are not nominally better than the free ones, in game consumable items such as repair kits and cosmetic customization options. In all official information regarding WoWS we see no indication that any of this will change.


There is no public schedule for the game’s further development but the recent weekend event makes it clear that Wargaming is closely approaching a closed beta release. If previous titles are an indication then we should hopefully be seeing closed beta in the next few months, possibly as early as new years and open beta as early as July. This is Wargaming’s third title following the historic MMO genre so there is hope in the community that they will manage to pull off a faster development cycle this time in the past. All we can say for sure is this game is heavily anticipated by the community and holds a great deal of potential.

Controller Review: Nintendo Pro Controller (Wii U)




Controllers are a fickle thing. in the world of gaming input devices controllers are by far the most ubiquitous but also the most polarizing. Most gamers can agree the Logitech G27 is a good wheel. Jumping into an online forum and stating as much wont start a flame war, but get on the topic of console controllers and things change pretty quickly.


As long as I can remember there have been bitter arguments over which controller offers the superior gaming experience. Some say Sony’s Dual Shock is the benchmark for controllers. Others prefer the ergonomics of Microsoft’s controller for the 360. And then you have the weirdos who think the golden age of controllers was the Sega Saturn 3D controller…..I normally ignore those types. One thing I am sure of is that when it comes to good modern controllers, one name you never hear is Nintendo.


The bad, and the good.




Why is that? Well put bluntly Nintendo hasn’t had a good controller in a long time. I would go as far as to say since the SNES actually. For some reason 3D gaming controls seem to confound Nintendo. The N64 controller required 3 hands, the GameCube controller was design by someone with a hangover and the Wiimote was made by someone on lsd.


The Wii U’s pro controller is an honest attempt by Nintendo to rectify this massive flaw and it looks like they may have redeemed themselves. Unlike their past attempts this one is a very conservative and contemporary take on gamepads. It’s so contemporary it almost looks like they used Microsoft’s old molds for the 360 controller. The resemblance goes pretty deep, as far as my hands can tell the weigh the same, are the same size, almost exactly the same shape, and aside from the location of the right analog stick and face buttons have exactly the same layout.


The WiiU pro controller side by side with a wired 360 controller.

The WiiU Pro controller side by side with a wired 360 controller.

Not to say that’s a bad thing. The 360 controller is a good one and not a bad place to draw inspiration from. In fact the Pro is better in a few areas. For starters the D-Pad is a proper D-pad. The 360 had a monolithic D-pad that had a very vague and squishy feel to it.  Most controllers use a similar membrane switch system for their digital buttons and as someone who uses an 80’s vintage IBM Model M as his personal keyboard I think they all suck. The question then is to what degree they suck? The pro definitely comes on top here, Even though its still a membrane (as far as I can tell) switch with a single mold key it does feel firmer and more direct than the 360. The other place where the Pro shines is with it’s face buttons. Unlike the 360 which used glossy jelly beans that had a habit of sticking the Pro has rougher matte face buttons that provide a good griping surface. They are also better raised from the face of the controller making them easier to feel out with your fingers.


Now remember when I said they may have redeemed themselves? Well the Pro is not perfect, in fact its very flawed and these flaws prevent it from not just being good but great. The first complaint I had was almost immediate. The controller face has a gloss finish, not only does this expose my amateur photography skills but it also attracts finger prints like you wouldn’t believe. What started the night as a handsome controller ended up as a shiny smear. Many companies have tried this, even Apple the masters of making electronics look cool, and they all failed. Glossy plastic just doesn’t work for something you are meant to touch. They would have been better off with a normal finish.

The second irritating flaw was the obvious corner cutting. The shoulder and trigger buttons are digital, not analog. Anyone who has played a racing game with a gamepad knows having analog input for all of your controls is necessary to achieve proper control. To achieve this Sony gives you pressure sensitive face buttons and Microsoft gives you analog triggers. Both work well, but with the Pro its another story. While playing Mario Kart I found myself really wanting that fine grained control. Sure Mario Kart isn’t exactly Forza, but it doesn’t have to be to notice the loss.

Now both of these complaints are pretty minor in the grand scheme of things and if they were the only flaws I would declare the Pro a great controller in a heart beat. But they aren’t, and they are dwarfed by the third and final flaw. The controller’s system integration sucks. I don’t know how Nintendo pulled it off, but they did. On the PlayStation and Xbox if you want to disconnect a controller what do you do? Hold down the center button and wait for the system menu to pop up. The Pro has no such ability. If you want to disconnect a controller or reorder your controllers then you have to back out of the game completely back to the home screen and resync from there. The Power button does not turn off the controller, well it does but it also turns off the WiiU and the other controllers as well and you don’t even have to be P1 to do this! How Nintendo could manage to screw up such a simple and well established interface convention is beyond me. Over the period of the evening our group managed to accidentally power off the WiiU at least 4 times because of muscle memory from the PlayStation and Xbox. It’s a really frustrating and baffling flaw in the controller. I’m not sure what Nintendo’s goal was. Even the Wiimotes can be resynced from the controllers.


So after a drunken night of nearly friendship-ending shenanigans over Smash bros and Mario Kart I walked away with mixed feelings on the Pro controller. It is a step in the right direction and generally a massive improvement over other Nintendo controllers but it has a massive flaw with its power on/off function. That, mixed with a few other minor annoyances kept me from falling in love with it even though I would choose it over the alternatives on the Wii U in a heartbeat.


Rating IV-V