For my most recent impulse buy, I purchased one of the Hyperkin “Duke” Xbox controllers on Amazon. I had been looking for another controller that I could use for a few games here and there on pc that I’d prefer to use a controller over mouse and keyboard, as well as a backup for when the AA batteries are drained from the few hours of use in my Xbox One X controllers. It’s all too perfect of a coincidence that I should decide to write up a few of my thoughts about it. For those unfamiliar, the first iterations of the Xbox controllers were gargantuan beasts, typically mocked for their sheer size and lack of ergonomic design in comparison to the Playstation 2’s Dualshock and Nintendo Gamecube controllers. The “Duke” as it was nicknamed, was discontinued and replaced with the more reasonably-sized Xbox Controller S, which led to the evolution of the Xbox 360 and Xbox One controllers. I remember renting an Xbox and a few games, including Halo, shortly after its November 2001 release and being both amused and confused about what to make of such a cumbersome controller. I did, however, come to quite enjoy the feeling of the hefty gamepad for a number of games, primarily shooters like Halo which lent themselves well to the twin triggers underneath. A few years ago that Hyperkin was going to be releasing an official reproduction of the Duke, I absolutely wanted to get a chance to check one of these out for myself. I spent about seven or so hours over the weekend using the controller to play some Halo on my Xbox One as well as playing a few other games on pc. Here’s what I thought thus far…
- A very nice repro of the original Xbox controller, it feels near identical to the original. The button placement is the same as the original, with just a few minor adjustments. First, a left and right shoulder button have been added to the controller. This is a definite improvement over the original version which utilized both a Black and White button along with the A, B, X, and Y face buttons; the Hyperkin version still has the Black/White buttons, giving you the option to use them or the shoulder buttons. The shoulder buttons are a little on the small-ish side, but still function perfectly fine as I was using the right shoulder button to dash while streaming Gato Roboto over the weekend. The buttons and dual underside triggers feel nice and responsive with a little bit of a “click-y” feel similar to arcade fight pads. A 35mm headphone jack is one of my most appreciated details in a controller; I was very pleased the Hyperkin Duke has a built-in headphone jack as I likely spend the majority of my time playing with a headset on.
- One of my favorite details of the Hyperkin Duke is when plugged in, the plastic button in the center of the controller will light up with the startup logo one would see on the original Xbox. This isn’t a make-or-break feature for the controller but…it’s still a pretty cool reminder of all the good times playing games like Halo, Fable, and Knights of the Old Republic.
- Horses for courses. The shoulder buttons I mentioned work well, but I will admit they are a little on the small side due to the shape of the control and may not be the easiest to reach. Games that require a good deal of button dexterity, such as Jedi: Fallen Order or any Dark Souls game that has your primary attack/block buttons defaulted to shoulder buttons and not triggers, this may not be the ideal controller to wield. Also, in sticking to the original Duke controller as closely as possible, the Hyperkin version features the same d-pad, which I have never been the biggest fan of. It doesn’t feel quite as “mushy” as the d-pad on the Switch Pro Controller, but still not quite as precise as its later evolutions in Xbox controllers.
- Not a con for myself, per se, but the Hyperkin Duke is not likely the ideal controller for anyone with small-to-medium sized hands. I have large hands and don’t have any issues with things like cramping or strain after prolonged use, but there is a reason the humongous design was replaced with something a little more ergonomic. I do also remember the original Duke being just a little bit heavier, so you really felt the power of this behemoth in your hands.
Do I recommend this controller to everyone? No. The Hyperkin Duke is an excellent repro of the infamous controller design, but it’s hard to fully recommend it to anyone who never used one on the original Xbox, especially when it costs the same as a brand new Xbox One X wireless controller. If you’re looking for a cool piece of gaming nostalgia that’s perfectly functional for modern games, I can vouch for its quality and feel. I remember the days of 3rd-party controllers being a bit of a gamble, the true litmus test of one’s friendship as a kid was whether or not you were handed a Mad Katz N64 controller when playing. Gaming magazines jokingly referred to the original controller feeling as though you were “holding a canned ham”, but the Hyperkin Duke is exactly what I was expecting and delivers the feel of the original – a baseball bat with a joystick and trigger for each hand and I am completely on board with that.