Why go for a third-party controller when Xbox already has several excellent options on hand? Turtle Beach has set out to make a case for non-Xbox-branded controllers, veering slightly away from its usual gaming headset offerings to give us the Recon Controller. Well-constructed and great performing, this gamepad sets itself apart with useful extras like audio enhancement, button remapping, and cooling grips, all for the same price as the Xbox Wireless Controller. Like with everything else, it comes with a small list of drawbacks: there’s a bit of a learning curve to use some of its features, and it doesn’t offer a wireless connection. But considering the features and performance it brings to the table, it’s a compelling rival to what Xbox has on offer.
Turtle Beach Recon Controller – Photos
Turtle Beach Recon Controller – Design and Features
The Turtle Beach Recon Controller has a similar layout to the standard Xbox Wireless Controller. Still, it’s distinguishable enough thanks to a few distinct additions to its design. Above the Xbox button is a small section crammed with controls for fine tuning. Here, you’ll find the buttons for volume, Mode, Select, mic mute, chat volume, and Superhuman Hearing, as well as icons that light up to indicate the current “Mode” or feature that’s toggled on. On the backside, there are two ribbed Quick-Action buttons that are mappable – although they aren’t mapped to anything by default.
Finally, both its grips are lined with textured, rubberized pads to not only improve your grippage but also keep your hands cool. These may seem gimmicky, but in practice they actually seem to do as intended. Even in the most intense gaming moments, my hands have managed to stay cool and less clammy.
While we’re on the topic, the Recon Controller feels like it’s made of durable, high-quality plastic that is solid enough to take a beating. Its buttons feel just as sturdy. At 7.09 x 7.2 x 2.87 inches, it is, however, noticeably bigger than the original Xbox Series X and Xbox One controllers. It’s also a tad heavier at 300 grams. Unfortunately, those do add to its bulk, perhaps making it less comfortable in smaller hands.
It’s compatible with Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and Windows 10 PCs, thanks in part to its USB-A connectivity. Sadly though, despite the fact that its 10-foot braided cable is detachable, it doesn’t offer wireless connectivity – something that the Xbox Wireless Controller does offer. At least the fact that it’s detachable means that if something happens to the cord, you wouldn’t have to replace the whole unit.
Finally, a quick mention of the 3.5mm jack is necessary. Not only does it allow you to use any analog headset with the Recon – alongside their built-in mic – but it also allows you to utilize the controller’s marquee audio features.
Turtle Beach Recon Controller – Software
One thing the Recon Controller is missing is an app for customizations. It does have support for the Turtle Beach Control Center App for Xbox and PC, but it’s only for product firmware updates.
That said, the unit does have on-the-fly button mapping for the two Quick-Action buttons underneath. The Recon Controller comes with four preset profiles, all of which are configurable. To do so, you first need to select the profile you want, then hold down the Select button for two seconds followed by the button you want to remap. It’s a simple enough process, but worth noting that it took me a few tries to get right.
Turtle Beach Recon Controller – Gaming
The Turtle Beach Recon Controller delivers great performance without any discernible lag. The triggers, bumpers, and A/B/X/Y buttons have a bit of resistance to them, which might make you feel like you have to press harder for a response. There’s no need for that, as the buttons are so responsive that a light touch will get immediate in-game action. Meanwhile, the thumbsticks and D-pad feel very smooth.
In Far Cry 5, I found the controller to be incredibly fast at reacting to my presses. Even when I was under heavy fire and frantically shooting at people, it performed accurately and more than kept up with me.
Like most modern controllers, the Recon Controller boasts great vibration feedback. Turtle Beach advertises that its dual rumble motors deliver “ultra-realistic next-gen gameplay.” However, it doesn’t seem to be better or worse than the competition, and essentially just works as advertised.
What sets the Recon controller apart more than anything else is its customization settings. Not only can you control the audio and mic volume of any attached headset, but you also have four customizable “modes”, as well as Turtle Beach’s “Superhuman Hearing” feature on hand.
The Superhuman Hearing setting disables the EQ and boosts the frequency range where footsteps, bullets, and a lot of directional audio sit. This means that it’s designed for games like Call of Duty where you often find yourself being rushed at from all directions by enemies. Testing with Shadow of the Tomb Raider, I found this to be a nifty feature to have – useful for emphasizing where all the individual elements are coming from via audio.
The feature can be a double-edged sword, however, as in my experience it often results in worse-sounding audio. While exploring a tomb in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, it did make the area feel more immersive in the sense that I could tell where every sound was coming from – but at the expense of sound quality.
As far as the settings you can customize, there are four: Mic Volume, EQ, the aforementioned Button Mapping, and Pro Aim Focus Mode.
The Mic volume setting, which is essentially the Sidetone volume, lets you cycle through four volume settings and Off. The EQ setting, on the other hand, has four presets: Signature Sound (Default), Bass Boost, Bass & Treble Boost, and Vocal Boost, each one very noticeably different from the others. Out of all the different audio enhancements this controller comes with, I find these EQ presets to be the most useful.
Last is the Pro Aim Focus Mode, which is probably the most confusing feature on the Recon. It’s plenty useful, however, letting you adjust the right stick’s sensitivity, which in turn fine-tunes your gaming experience. There are five presets on hand – off, low, medium, high, and max. It works similarly to a DPI sniper button on a mouse where movement is slowed down for increased accuracy when shooting at faraway targets.
The only thing is that Turtle Beach isn’t exactly clear which button you press to toggle this setting. Apparently, you hold the right Quick-Action button while using the right stick to do so, which is easy enough. If only I didn’t have to research it myself.
Luckily, it works as intended. In Cyberpunk 2077, it allowed me to have much more control over my sniper shots, and it was a big enough difference for me to have a marked improvement in my shooting abilities.
The Turtle Beach Recon Controller is a feature-packed wired gamepad with top-notch performance and build quality. The lack of wireless connectivity might turn some people away, but its customizability options, especially in the audio department, more than makes up for it. Button remapping, right stick sensitivity adjustment, and cooling grips are more than worth a mention as well. Considering its robust build and gaming performance, it’s impressive it costs only as much as a regular Xbox controller.