PS4's $200 "Elite-Style" Controller: Scuf Vantage Review
By Michael Higham | @michaelphigham on
The Scuf Vantage For PlayStation 4
PlayStation 4 owners have had a few options outside of the DualShock 4 courtesy of Scuf Gaming's series of controllers. Both the Infinity 4PS and Impact offer programmable paddles, modular parts, among other features, but cost well over $100. PS4's new Scuf Vantage doubles down on this design philosophy by incorporating even more features while making customization more user-friendly, but for an even higher asking price. Admittedly, this makes the Vantage a gamepad for a specific crowd; those who are dedicated to competitive play and want a distinct advantage at their fingertips, particularly in first- or third- person shooters.
We spent time using the wireless version of the Scuf Vantage playing Fortnite and Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, two big games that can benefit greatly from the controller's features. Controls to build structures and cycle through build options can be mapped to the paddles and side buttons (called sax buttons) so you can keep moving and aiming all the while. When it comes to Black Ops 4, looting items and managing inventory in Blackout becomes second-nature and a bit less cumbersome when mapping the proper actions to the extra inputs as well.
Additional buttons aren't the only things that Scuf changes up from the original DualShock design, and we breakdown those features throughout this gallery. The Bluetooth wireless Scuf Vantage is available now for $200 USD and comes with some optional accessories--a wired-only version is also available for $170 USD. Both controllers are highly moddable as you can get different magnetic faceplates, analog sticks, rings around the sticks, though it's at an extra cost.
We did a breakdown of Scuf's previous controllers, the Infinity 4PS and Impact, so be sure to check that out in addition to this review. If you're a PS4 user in European territories, take a look at our reviews of the the Razer Raiju and Nacon Revolution controllers, which are exclusive overseas.
What's In The Box
You get a little more than just the controller if you pick up a Scuf Vantage. The wireless model comes with a 10-foot micro USB cable, two convex extended analog sticks, extended L2 and R2 trigger caps, black anti-friction rings (that can replace the neon yellow ones), and a semi-hard case to fit the controller and accessories.
DualShock 4 And Xbox One Controller Comparisons
The Scuf Vantage doesn't differ much in terms of overall size compared to the Xbox One controller and DualShock 4. It appears to have a lot more in common with the Xbox One pad even though this is a PS4 controller licensed by Sony.
An important thing to note is that although this is a PS4 controller, it's missing some of the functionality of the DualShock 4. For example, pairing the Vantage to your PS4 must be done manually in the Devices section of the system settings. The process is simple but in our experience, shutting off the system completely means having to pair the Vantage again. That being said, you cannot boot your PS4 with the Vantage, but you can at least wake the system from Rest Mode.
The first thing that'll jump out when looking at the Scuf Vantage is the offset analog stick placement, which takes after the Microsoft's approach with Xbox controllers. It may feel foreign to those who've used DualShocks exclusively, but it's a comfortable design that takes little to no time adjusting to.
Although it looks bulky at first glance, the Vantage doesn't feel cumbersome to hold. However, the backside of the controller's handles have a strange rubber-like texture that feels more slick than grippy when moisture gets in the mix.
Removing The Faceplate
The Vantage's faceplate is magnetic, meaning it can pop out if you get underneath it. There are two points toward the bottom of the handles where this can be done easily. Thankfully, it stays perfectly in place when using the controller.
Revealing the insides of the Vantage, you'll see two rumble modules are on each handle and can be painlessly removed, which of course gets rid of the rumble feature but also reduces overall weight substantially. You can also pull out the analog sticks at this point and swap in different ones if you wish--it's all tool-less. The faceplate has anti-friction rings around the opening for the sticks that are also interchangeable--if you don't like the neon yellow accent, black rings come in the package.
The Vantage features four programmable paddles on the back (we explain how to map these later on). These can provide a distinct advantage in games that require using both analog sticks all the time, namely shooters. Instead of using face buttons and the d-pad for critical actions, these can be relegated to the paddles to help you stay on the move.
A downside is that these paddles are quite tough to actuate since they're fairly stiff. The force required to use the paddles can get in the way of being a convenient option for repeatable actions. And it also hampers the usefulness of the innermost pair of paddles, which require a bit more reach.
S1 and S2 are what Scuf calls the sax buttons, which are located on the side just below L1 and R1. These are new to Scuf's lineup and are a welcome addition since they're conveniently located and make a total of six programmable buttons. Even though they're light to the touch, they're hardly ever mistakenly pressed.
Mapping Buttons To Paddles
On the left is the switch for using the Vantage in either Bluetooth wireless mode or wired USB mode. At the bottom of the controller, you'll find a 3.5mm audio input for headphones/microphones, and the slim touch bar above works as a sensible volume control option. However, the audio jack and touch bar only work in wired mode.
The slider on the right side initiates the button mapping mode. When active, you simultaneously press the button you want to program and the paddle or sax button you want that input mapped to. This mapping process is a huge improvement over previous Scuf controllers that required a magnetic tool to map any of the buttons.
One downside of the Vantage is that L1 and R1 are stiffer than a standard DualShock, making them more difficult to press. The L2 and R2 triggers, however, have a slick and consistent pressure. You can also shorten the throw of L2 and R2 with the adjustable nubs on the back of the triggers; it can help quicken trigger pulls since they'll bottom out sooner. Extended trigger caps come packaged, but they don't offer any tangible benefit.
You'll have two options for the directional pad. By default a tactile four-way d-pad comes attached to the controller. It has a crunchy feel that requires a little too much force to actuate comfortably, and it also protrudes from the controller face significantly making it unusable for fighting games.
Alternatively, there's circular disc d-pad that you can easily swap in. Unfortunately, it's made with a grippy rubberized texture. While that design choice works extremely well for the analog sticks, the grip negates its usefulness in fighting games and makes quarter-circle motions woefully uncomfortable. Despite being easy to pluck out, both options never got dislodged during use.
Like Scuf's other controllers, the Vantage's analog sticks are a highlight. Both the concave and extended convex style sticks are made with a soft, grippy rubber-like texture that adheres to your thumbs comfortably. Moving the sticks also feels great since there's little resistance or friction, resulting in a slightly smoother feel over the DualShock 4.
The face buttons feel more like the Xbox One controller than they do the DualShock 4. There's a somewhat cushioned feel to pressing them down and they stick out slightly more so than the DualShock.
There's no denying the Scuf Vantage offers distinct upsides if you're serious about competitive shooters. The paddles could benefit from loosening up in terms of actuation, but their presence along with the convenient sax buttons on the side make pulling off actions in certain games easier, freeing up your thumbs to stay on the analog sticks at all times. Some of the basic features such as analog stick motion and triggers have improved as well.
However, there are notable concessions like a lack of key system functions, stiff paddles, and a rigid d-pad. Considering the wireless Scuf Vantage carries a price tag close to a base PS4 console, it has a few too many flaws for a strong recommendation.