Review : Turtle Beach Recon Xbox Controller : Going Pro on a Budget

A long time ago it used to be that the controllers that came with the console were the best of the best, and third party variants were meant for your younger sibling or friends you didn’t like. These days, that could not be further from the truth. Pro Controllers are a big market, with the likes of Scuff Gaming, Razer, and Power-A being huge players in that category. Even first-party console manufactures have jumped into the trend with the Xbox Elite controller and PlayStation’s back button attachment. These controllers all have their own distinct features, but one thing that they all have in common is that their price usually exceeds the cost of a more traditional controller.

That’s where the Recon controller, from veteran pro gaming headset manufacture Turtle Beach, comes in to shake things up. Presenting a price less than that of a traditional controller, at an MSRP of 59.99 USD, and with ample “Pro” features, it may end up doing just that.

In the box you can see where some of the costs were cut as you don’t get some of the usual trappings that a lot of the more expensive controllers come with, such as additional thumb-sticks, a carrying case, or faceplate options. Don’t worry, though, because everything that is included seems to be of very good quality. The controller itself doesn’t feel cheap and feels good in the hands. The included braided USB-C cable seems to be of high quality and is pretty long at 10ft. Yes, this is a wired controller, which may be okay for some but, understandably, could be a deal-breaker for others. Unfortunately the wireless tech in the Xbox controllers is not easily available to third parties, so most options on Xbox are of the wired variety. The included instruction manual is easy to follow and is something you will definitely need to reference at least once, but we will talk about that later. For those of you wondering, yes, the traditional Turtle Beach sticker is here in all of its glory as well.

Being an Xbox controller, it shares the same button layout and overall form factor, albeit a little bit bigger and lighter. Most of the additional size comes in the handles which fill my hands a bit more, helping with grip. The thumb-sticks are slightly smaller in circumference versus the standard controller, but they share the same texture and feel very precise. The triggers are a lot wider than the original controller and offer a very rough textured finish, similar to the feeling of an old metal dumbbell grip, although plastic in this case. The wider triggers are a nice touch as they cover more surface area on your fingers, making them feel nicer to pull. They also have a bit more resistance, which I enjoyed. In contrast to the triggers, the bumpers share the same rough texture but are actually smaller than stock. At first I thought they would be more difficult to press, but in practice I never had any issues hitting them. They are quite “mushy” feeling, though, in comparison to the relative clicky-ness of the base controller, which makes them less satisfying to hit, but also much less audible. The d-pad is also a fair bit mushy, but I honestly preferred it to the very stiff and overly clicky stock d-pad. Face buttons feel nearly identical, but are not as loose as the stock ones and, thus, are a lot quieter. The sound the buttons make may not matter to many people, but for people who play in close proximity to others, it is a nice touch.

The Recon is technically a Series X | S Controller, so along with the standard start and menu buttons, it also has the dedicated share button. Where it differs from the base controller, though, is on the back side, where it features two rear custom buttons. These buttons can be mapped to function as any other button on the controller. Instead of opting for a paddle system where elongated switches protrude out from the middle of the controller, Turtle Beach has opted for a more streamlined approach.

The buttons, instead, fit nicely right along the seam in which the handles meet the controller’s back plate, exactly where your fingers naturally rest while holding it. This is by far my favorite implementation of back buttons, so I am glad to see Turtle Beach opted for this approach. The buttons share that same texture seen on the triggers and bumpers. These buttons are crucial for any pro controller as common actions like jumping or reloading are typically mapped to the face buttons, which causes you to remove your thumbs from the right stick to press. The more you can avoid having to remove your thumb from the stick that you use to aim your weapons in a shooter, the better, which is why people seek these controllers out in the first place.

The back buttons are not the only big difference between the Recon controller and the base Xbox controller, though, as the controller’s most unique feature is the Recon module. Nestled right in the middle of the controller is a custom interface that is the heart of the controller. It is through this that you will map the back buttons, which you can save/swap up to four different profiles. This is a little bit of a tricky process which I did need to consult the manual for, but once you do it once, you should not need the manual again. The real power of the module, though, is that is also acts as an audio interface.

The interface features buttons to control the overall volume as well as the chat and game sound balance. As someone who games almost exclusively with headphones, I can not tell you how convenient this is. Playing a game while in a party, I like to favour game volume over chat volume in cutscenes or intense moments in multiplayer, but favour chat during normal play. Having to open up the guide and navigate to the party chat settings to do this on other controllers is incredibly annoying. Even something as simple as muting your microphone often requires entering the guide or taking your hands off the controller and pressing a button on your headset. On the Recon controller, the mute button is always at your fingertips for those impromptu sneezes or for that handful of Doritos.

On top of simple volume control and game versus chat audio balancing, you also have some neat additional sound settings. Included with the controller are several EQ modes that you can enable, including Turtle Beach’s signature sound, bass boost, bass and treble boost, and vocal boost for listening to a podcast or when you are just chatting. There is also a dedicated button for enabling super human hearing mode, which admittedly is a bit over-done on the marketing terminology, but in practice is quite useful. Pressing the button will swap the EQ from its current setting to one that overly exemplifies the sound frequencies that are commonly tied to footsteps in video games, giving you an edge over other players in close quarters situations.

As crazy as this sounds, it does actually work. Testing this out in Apex Legends, I would always flip this feature on in the endgame where the ring has shrunk and the remaining enemies are close by. In these situations, knowing what direction the enemies are coming from can be the difference between winning and losing, and I could see a noticeable improvement over the standard audio from my headset.

Finally, the module has a “Pro-Aim” system where, when selected, you can dynamically lower the sensitivity of your right thumb-stick. In theory, this should give you better accuracy when using something like a sniper rifle, which can benefit from a lower sensitivity while facing targets far away without hampering the faster sensitivity needed in close quarters. In practice, though, I found the steps to enable this, which involve holding a button for two seconds, a bit cumbersome to do on the fly and, thus, did not see much benefit here. Perhaps if you played a game like Sniper Elite, where almost all combat is at long range, you would get more use out of it.

Testing the controller out in several games, the benefits are immediately clear. Being able to jump and aim at the same time in Halo Infinite, wall bounce and melee while aiming in Gears 5, or sliding and jumping while continuing to aim in Apex are very big game changers, in my opinion, and can easily help you take your game to the next level. I will say, though, that with all of the functionality the module provides, it does leave the middle of the controller a bit cluttered. It’s very hard to hit the start button, for example, without also touching the thumb-stick, and it took a bit of getting used to. Thankfully, the start button is not something that is often pressed, so its impact was minimal.

I realize this controller is incredibly cheap in comparison to some other pro controllers, but the extra two buttons on something like the Xbox Elite or Razer Wolverine would have been icing on the cake, here. Jumping and sliding while aiming at the same time in Apex or Halo is a godsend, but still having to take your thumb off of the sticks to reload or ping a location hurts a little bit.

Overall, though, this is quite a fantastic controller for its price, and it is a great place to start for those who are a little uneasy about spending hundreds of dollars on something like the Xbox Elite controller. The audio interface present on the Recon controller is sensational and is something that a lot of the most expensive pro options don’t have. This feature alone is nearly worth the price of admission. I would love to see future implementations come with additional re-mappable buttons, but, at this price point, you are already getting a pretty incredible value. This is a great first step into the world of pro controllers from Turtle Beach and, hopefully, it will not be the last!

Find the video review below!

By Eric Bezanson

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