There are quite a few brands in the gaming peripheral business, and most of them have been around for a very long time. This is why it is so intriguing when a new player enters the game, and it’s because of this that I was so excited to check out a controller from one of the newest faces on the gaming peripheral scene: Victrix.
Victrix is based in San Diego, California, and in 2015, they started designing video game accessories, targeting gaming professionals, streamers, and core gamers alike. They claim the inspiration for their products comes from countless hours of talking to gamers about the equipment they use, going over the pros and cons of what is currently on the market. A lot of this really shows in their products as many of the features they chose to focus on with this controller really point to what is most important to the gaming experience. Meanwhile, less functional things, like RGB lighting, for example, are absent from the spec sheet, along with the price point as this controller has an MSRP of only $99 USD.
After unboxing the controller, you will immediately notice the brand’s attention to quality, despite its mid-level price point, as the packaging is quite nice, and the controller itself is housed in a very nice, hard shell carrying case. This was really nice to see as it is something that is often absent in this price bracket, let alone many controllers that cost significantly more. Opening up the case reveals the controller’s very on-brand purple and white colourway and a plethora of accessories. These accessories add a ton of functionality to this controller and are, perhaps, its most defining feature, so let’s dive into them.
First up, as this is a wired controller, you have the included 10ft braided USB-A to USB-C cable, which is pretty standard. It is worth noting, though, that it’s colored to match the controller’s design, and the Type C port on the controller is quite recessed, which makes it very easy to attach, provides a nice flush finish when inserted, and helps you avoid damaging the port. The controller also comes with two different face plates that are easily swap-able as they attach via magnets. At first glace it may seem that this is a purely cosmetic addition as both plates are different colours, but they also each provide a functional advantage.
The purple plate is made of a rubberized material, which adds a ton of grip to the front of the controller. This controller has buttons on the back, which puts more of your grip on the thumb side of your hand as your middle and ring finger will naturally hover over the back buttons. This makes having more grip on the front ideal. Even more noticeable, though, is, thanks to the whole face-plate being rubberized, the thumbtack gates are also rubberized. This means the gates are naturally silent when the sticks smack against them, and they also provide some resistance, which can help improve accuracy. Typically with other controllers, this would require an additional add-on, like the control rings from Kontrol freaks, for example.
The second face plate is white and is made out of the same plastic materials that the rest of the controller is made from, with raised grips on the handles to also provide some additional grip to the front of the controller. What is unique about this one is also in the thumb-stick gates. While they don’t have the built-in precision rings, they do allow you to pop out the standard circular gates for the included set of octagonal gates. This is really good for fighting game players or GameCube enthusiasts. Both of these face plates offer intriguing advantages beyond simple aesthetic differences, which was really nice to see. However, one small gripe I have is due to a specific interaction with some of the other included accessories: the optional D-Pads.
Included with the Gambit is a standard cross design D-Pad with etchings that describe how it interacts with the audio controller. The button beside the D-Pad acts as a microphone mute switch, and holding it down allows you to adjust your headset volume and chat balance via the D-Pad. This functionality is great, and as someone who primarily games with headphones, it is borderline essential. The other included D-Pad is a diamond design, which is much bigger and is honestly one of the best D-Pads I have used on an Xbox controller. It feels very nice to use, and its size helps avoid the stiffness you often see on other Xbox controller D-Pad’s. Either of these D-Pads can be easily swapped in and out, just like the face plates, however with this comes a minor annoyance. The bigger diamond shaped D-Pad extends over the face-plate cut out, so any time you want to change the face-plate, you will also have to remove the D-Pad. This is a very minor complaint when you consider how much functionality you are getting, but worth mentioning none-the-less.
The controller also comes with two optional replaceable thumbtacks. One is a small stem with a convex tip, which is great on the left thumb-stick where you are usually pressing it in the same direction for a long time. The other is a longer stem with a concave tip, which is great on the right side to give you increased accuracy. The pre-installed sticks are both the traditional short stem with a concave tip. All of the thumb-stick tips are slightly larger than the standard Xbox controller thumb-sticks, which I generally prefer. The size is more comparable to an Xbox 360 controller.
The final accessories included with the controller are two different back plates, which act as the controller’s additional rear buttons. These are very easy to swap between thanks to a well-designed clip mechanism. The first plate gives you one additional button on either side, and the other gives you two additional buttons on either side. The two button plate works very well, in my opinion, but the four button plate is perhaps the my biggest issue with this controller. The four button plate has no additional surface area and simply just splits the two big buttons into four smaller ones. This makes it a lot harder to differentiate between them as there is little to no separation. They also become much harder to press as the actuation mechanism is simply bending the plastic toggles, and the smaller the surface area of the toggle, the more force is required to press. It is unfortunate because four back buttons is a feature that is generally reserved for higher priced controllers and could have been a massive win here, but I just could not reliably use it without miss-clicks. It is worth noting, though, that this could be a non-issue for some with different (ie: smaller) hands.
Looking at the top of the controller, you have some changes to the triggers and bumpers over what you would typically see on a stock controller. All of the buttons are textured, and the triggers have a very wide surface area, which I really enjoyed. On top of that you have some of the best trigger stops I have used on any controller, full stop. Where typically most aftermarket pro controllers remove anywhere from 40-60% of the trigger pull, these are closer to a 90% pull reduction. When the entire point of a trigger stop is to shorten the pull, 90% is a real game changer. Rounding things out with the front of the controller, we have some pretty standard face buttons, albeit a little bit bigger than stock, as well as some very oversized start, menu, and share buttons. These are also very spaced out, which makes it easy to identify and press them.
Looking inside of the controller, there are also some really nice features. The controller has a built in license for Dolby Atmos, which will give you some enhanced spatial audio and surround sound at no additional cost. This is quite noticeable if you are used to just using basic stereo sound. The included software is also very easy to use, making button remapping and profile creation a breeze.
Also inside the controller is the heavily advertised “Dual Core” processor, which they claim makes this the fastest controller in the world. This claim is actually true…kind of. The standard poll rate of a stock Xbox controller is going to run at 125hz with an 8ms response time. When using the Gambit on the Xbox, it will run at 250hz with a 4ms response time. This is quite a bit faster, but other competitors, like Razer’s Wolverine lineup, will match these speeds. It’s not until you plug the controller into a PC where you can actually overclock the dual core processor to run at whopping 500hz with a 2ms response time. So while it is one of the fastest controllers on the market, possibly the fastest, those speeds wont actually be possible while using it on an Xbox.
Overall, the Gambit controller for Xbox is a phenomenal first effort from Victrix. It provides a ton of modularity and customization, which, in turn, give you a lot of additional functionality beyond what a standard controller offers. They focused on what’s important, like a carrying case, and stayed away from the frivolous things that can often hike up the price without adding any functional benefit, like RGB lighting. At just $99 USD, the value proposition is very hard to ignore. If you can live with the difficult to press four button back-plate, or perhaps just use the two button configuration like I did, then I highly recommend this very versatile controller from Victrix.