Tech Review: Razer Wolverine Tournament Edition PC/Xbox One Controller: Pushing your buttons

When I was a kid, third party controllers were to be scoffed at. There was always one janky unofficial controller in the set that no-one wanted to use on Multiplayer Night. Times have changed though and the third-party peripheral market has never been quite this robust. Razer’s latest tilt at a high quality controller¬† is an interesting one — the Wolverine Tournament Edition is a controller built for PC and Xbox One users alike but with high-tier esports play in mind.
The first thing you notice about the Wolverine Tournament Edition on taking it out of the box is how similar it feels to the official Xbox One controller. The body is made of similar, high quality material, the buttons and sticks have a solid feel to them and the additional buttons and paddles feel solid and reliable. There’s also a little strip of LED lighting across the top that flashes rainbow colours because, I mean, would it even be a Razer device without flashing neon lights?

The face buttons themselves may take a second of getting used to — they’re placed slightly higher up on the controller than they are on the official Xbox controller, so you may initially feel like you’re stretching a bit to reach them. The action of the face buttons is very precise however, with a small click to each press. The triggers and bumpers have a nice, mechanical feel to them, not too heavy but not too light each either.

Where the Wolverine Tournament Edition starts deviating from its well-known source material is in the added switches and paddles. There are switches on the top and at the rear of the device that are customisable to whatever you’re most comfortable with. Some prove a bit of a bugbear at first — when plugged into my Xbox, the paddles on the back defaulted to A and B buttons respectively. This meant I found myself accidentally pressing the right paddle a lot and going back a menu, exiting a conversation or skipping dialogue in different games without meaning to. Despite this touchiness, they are remappable, so it isn’t a dealbreaker, but if you aren’t sure how to change them you may find it a bit frustrating (those instructions are on the Razer website, if your curious).

The controller also features a segmented D-pad similar to what PlayStation users have had on their Dual Shock controllers forever. While this may please some Xbox fans a great deal, I found it didn’t make that much of an impact for me. It’s nice to have those directions feel clear under your thumb but I can use the more moulded version of the official Xbox controller just as easily.

One thing that may irk more casual users of the Wolverine Tournament Edition is that there’s no internal battery. It’s not a wireless controller. In line with its esports arena market positioning, the reason for this is to reduce input lag in competitive play. I imagine the importance of this to the user will be on a case-by-case basis. For me, I just want an extra controller for when the mates drop by and we play Gauntlet or torture ourselves by bringing Jamestown out of retirement.

The Wolverine TE is much more easily customisable once connected to your PC than it is on your Xbox. You can use the Chroma app to change the colours on the LED display, you can remap all your buttons to whatever you like and retain the same lag-free input rates. Its interesting that in terms of usability it can feel like a fairly mid-range level controller on a platform like the Xbox One but connect it to a PC and suddenly it feels like a premium tier offering.

And it’s certainly priced as a premium tier offering. At an RRP of $179.95 AUD, I think Razer may have priced a lot of potential buyers right out except that hardest of hardcore esports fanatics that want to emulate their heroes. Compare the Wolverine TE to the similarly priced (and even more customisable) Xbox One Elite Controller and you’ll wonder exactly where Razer get off asking this much.

The Razer Wolverine Tournament Edition is as close to no-frills as Razer gets. The bells and whistles are there but they aren’t overly ostentatious, the response time is great and the sacrifices it makes in terms of user experience are made up for in customisation. It’s great quality, and it has a lot to offer but it expects you to pay quite a bit to get it.

Score: 8.0 out of 10
Highlights: Good feel; Great options; Solid design
Lowlights: You want how much?; Chroma for Xbox may not be as clear to newbies as it is to old hats
Manufacturer: Razer
Price: $179.95 AUD
Available: Now

Reviewed using a retail review unit provided by the manufacturer.