Turtle Beach Recon Xbox Controller review: clever features that don’t always pay off

Bring the noise

Once, buying a controller was relatively straightforward. Had money? You bought the official controller. On a budget? That’s where a cheap but inferior third-party brand would be the solution. Now, there are seemingly endless options, and that’s before Turtle Beach adds to the noise (literally) with the Turtle Beach Recon Xbox Controller. Doing things rather differently from the competition, it’s a wired controller that offers plenty of audio-focused features to make it stand out from the crowd. After all, Turtle Beach is better known for its headsets so it just makes sense, right? The result kind of works and kind of doesn’t. There’s nothing obviously wrong with the Turtle Beach Recon Xbox Controller. It just feels a little cheap at times meaning you’ll still gravitate towards your standard controller.

That’s definitely not helped by the fact it’s wired. Sure, it’s a good cable. Turtle Beach has included a 10 foot long braided USB cable so at least you won’t have to stay too close to your console to use it, but it’s still a cable. In an era where nearly everything is wireless, it feels restrictive and like a step backward. In conjunction, to use the audio features, you’ll need to plug in a wired headset. See? Lots of cables. This isn’t a solution for the neat amongst us or those who already own a wireless headset. It could be tech snobbery but it all feels like dealing with the past rather than what we expect from the modern era of gaming.

Turtle Beach Recon Controller on a carpeted background.
Turtle Beach Recon Controller. Credit: NME.

The controller feels a little cheap too. I suspect this is because it’s so light. As it doesn’t need to make room for batteries, it feels almost flimsy to hold. That has advantages, especially if you have issues with your hands, but it feels cheap. Like the slightest blow or damage would be a big problem for it. The face buttons feel reasonably appropriate but then there’s the D-Pad which feels a bit clunkier than others I’ve come across. On the plus side, the D-Pad is an eight-way one which you don’t always get with third-party options. Other perks include textured grips on the bumpers and back triggers, which feel a bit more competent under your fingertips. Then again, the triggers are pretty noisy when you use them so it’s all a bit conflicting really.

That conflicting trend continues when you look at the killer features of the Turtle Beach Recon Xbox Controller – the audio side of things. Up the top of the controller are a bunch of buttons that provide you with all the audio tools that this almost fancy controller provides. You’ll need to dig out the manual at first to understand them all but it’s worth it. It’s possible to switch between four equaliser presets ranging from a bass-heavy option to something more treble-focused. Much of this is down to personal taste but it’s satisfying to pick out what works best for you and your ears. It does make a surprising difference too once you hit the button.

The Turtle Beach Recon Xbox Controller doesn’t stop there though. It also has a Superhuman Hearing mode which aims to reduce the volume of certain parts of the game’s audio so you can listen out more accurately for quiet sounds such as footsteps. In theory, this should give you the edge in multiplayer games. In reality, it doesn’t work quite as magically as one would like it to. It mostly just boosts the sound a bit. It helps at times but it’s all highly situational. There’s a lot of experimentation needed here to find what works best for you and honestly? I’m not convinced most players will bother trying too hard. It’s fairly likely you’ll pick one setting and stick with it.

That one setting could be useful though. I used the Turtle Beach Recon Xbox Controller alongside a Turtle Beach Recon 70X wired headset – a competent if fairly unremarkable budget headset – and it definitely boosted the soundstage quite nicely. It doesn’t turn your budget headset into the greatest headphones you’ve ever used but it does make a noticeable difference, even if you don’t tweak too much.

There are other useful bonuses here too. For instance, you can use your controller to alter the volume of your headphones as well as control the mix between your game chat and party chat by adjusting the volumes individually. There’s a little more control here than you’d get elsewhere and if you’re a keen multiplayer gamer, again, this could tempt you towards this route.

Turtle Beach Recon Controller on a textured background.
Turtle Beach Recon Controller. Credit: NME.

Continuing the ‘oh, this is nearly a clever controller but not quite’ angle that the Turtle Beach Recon Xbox Controller is really carving a niche in, there are other features too. Yup, more. There are two quick-action triggers on the back of the controller (again, nicely textured) that can be mapped to certain buttons, along with a Pro Aim feature that means you can reduce analog stick sensitivity during key moments. A useful one for the snipers amongst us. With a choice of four different sensitivity levels, it works very well but it can only be programmed for that one button, limiting your options a little.

That’s the issue with the Turtle Beach Recon Xbox Controller. It’s very good at giving with one hand and taking with the other. Nothing is quite as intuitive as it should be although you will get the hang of it, and there’s a lack of finesse as to how the Turtle Beach Recon Xbox Controller review looks, feels, and works.

On the other hand, it’s offering something different from anything else already out there. Does it succeed? Kind of. Superhuman hearing doesn’t work quite as well as one would like but the potential is there. And that’s how I suspect the Turtle Beach Recon Xbox Controller is going to go. It’s the start of something. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the technology be refined and eventually put into a wireless controller that feels a bit more high-end than this one. Still, for about the same price as a regular Xbox controller, it could be worth branching out and trying something a little different from your usual options. It does pack a lot in, even if it doesn’t all succeed.

The Turtle Beach Recon Xbox Controller is priced at £49.99 and works with the Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S and PC. We tested it on the Xbox Series X.

The Verdict

The Turtle Beach Recon Xbox Controller is a device that offers something different to the competition. It doesn’t always succeed but its audio features have some potential depending on how you game. It’s a reasonably well-made controller. You just might find yourself still using others when audio is less vital to your experience.

Pros

  • Equaliser settings are useful
  • Textured bumper grips feel good
  • Improves the quality of cheap headsets

Cons

  • Feels cheap in your hands
  • Wired only
  • Can be fiddly to get right
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