Forget the chips and drivers and optical media players, what really makes a console is the controller. Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo can preach to the choir about who has the more powerful, fun or multimedia capable console, but when it comes down to it, it’s about how we, the consumer, interact with that console. Creating a controller that is great to use and comfortable is a challenging task and we’ve seen consoles fizzle in popularity just because their controller wasn’t good to use or very comfortable. More still, with Major League Gaming growing in popularity, the joysticks on consoles simply have to be perfect. Even though Sony and Microsoft nailed the joysticks with the Dualshock 4 and Xbox One controller, KontrolFreek is attempting to again improve on the basic formula.
I got to test out KontrolFreek’s latest line of joystick attachments for PS4 and Xbox One including Phantom and Snipr. These add-ons slip right onto the joysticks of a DualShock 4 or Xbox One controller. Both are different and meant for different play styles, but do they work?
The Phantom sticks are, as you’d expect from the name, white like a phantom. Similar to the DualShock 4 and Xbox One joysticks, these add-ons are on concave and have a nice texture on them to keep the thumb from slipping off. Phantom is mostly used for assault and run-and-gun style of gameplay, which makes it perfect for faster-paced games like Call of Duty. In fact, the entire design of the Phantom add-ons is based on 2013’s Call of Duty: Ghosts.
Snipr is the opposite in every single way. It is completely black and features a convex top. The texturing is quite smooth with slight indents to form a target symbol on top. Surprisingly, I found there to be a good amount of grip, though not as much as Phantom.
I tested them on all three first-person shooters available for the PS4; Killzone: Shadow Fall, Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4. Both sets of add-ons promise to improve the FPS experience with more precise aiming, and they do deliver that, though how much improvement depends on each title. With Snipr I found that I was able to make more precise and careful changes to my aim without accidentally sending my reticle flying. Snipr I found to be perfect for Battlefield, a game that requires more careful aiming thanks to its large environments. Phantom worked well in general across all three games, though I noted more improvement in Call of Duty: Ghosts then I did in Killzone or Battlefield. Speaking of Killzone, I did see some improvement with both add-ons, but not enough to make a difference. As a Sony First-Party title, Killzone: Shadow Fall is fully optimized to use the Dualshock 4 and it really showed considering how little either add-on helped me.
There are still quite a bit of problems with both of these add-ons. Despite promising to decrease hand and thumb fatigue, I consistently found my hands in quite a bit of pain after extended play sessions. You see, both Phantom and Snipr add quite a bit of height to the joysticks and it was extremely uncomfortable stretching my thumb up so high away from the rest of my fingers. A couple of times I found this to affect my aiming, especially on the concave Snipr sticks where my thumb just wouldn’t stretch any further and my aim would be thrown off. Long Conquest battles are not recommended.
The KontrolFreek Phantom and Snipr sticks are a great idea for those who want to compete in gaming tournaments. They work well enough to add a slight edge to your gaming experience. For everyone else, however, the sticks on the Dualshock 4 and Xbox One controller will work just fine. After removing the add-ons I was able to perform just fine without them. My aim wasn’t as precise, but it wasn’t enough to where I felt like I was at any disadvantage.
When it comes down to it, this is a great product for those looking to better compete in FPS games. If this was last-generation, then I would whole-heartedly recommend this as a must-buy due to the poor quality of the DualShock 3 sticks. However, Sony and Microsoft did such a great job with their next-gen joysticks that these accessories aren’t really needed for the casual gamer like they were last-gen.