It’s easy nowadays to expect a video game controller to just feel great, but that wasn’t always the case. Living through the days of Nintendo 64 controllers, “The Duke”, and Wii Remotes wasn’t always ideal, but in the end we reached the point of all the major consoles having top tier controller options. They’re bloody expensive though, and when you’re faced with the option of spending your hard earned cash on a controller for player two or a brand new game it’s a struggle to make the sensible pick. Well thankfully budget options like the PDP Gaming Xbox Afterglow Wave are here to make that purchase hurt a lot less, so let’s talk about it shall we?
Well retailing at £34.99 here in the UK, one of the main reasons you’re likely to choose the Afterglow Wave over an official Xbox controller is that £20 price difference. As someone who has bought his fair share of budget controllers in his time, I know that can be a hell of a risk to take. Thankfully in this case you won’t have to sacrifice quality for price, because this controller is great.
I decided the best way to test this bit of kit was by playing the game I’ve easily put the most hours into on the Xbox, Dead by Daylight. Any slight difference in the controls was likely to be the difference between winning and losing, and I didn’t notice a single iffy button or any issues with the sticks whatsoever. Playing with the Afterglow Wave just feels good, and it’s simply a delight to use.
As well as all the standard Xbox buttons you’d expect from a controller, the PDP Gaming Xbox Afterglow Wave also has a couple of back paddles that can be assigned to any button. Certain genres will really benefit from these extra convenient input options, and like all the buttons they’ve got that satisfying click that just feels right.
Now one of the more obvious selling points of the Afterglow Wave is the RGB lighting, which surrounds both thumbsticks and shines through the wavy lines on the front of the controller. I am a sucker for slightly garish rainbow lights, so the aesthetic is absolutely ideal as far as I’m concerned. By default the lights gradually cycle through several colours, but if the that’s not to your taste or is distracting you then you can change lighting modes or turn them off entirely.
There’s actually a lot you can customise with the Afterglow Wave, thanks to the handy companion app that’s available. This is where you can change the colour setting, but it also has options to remap buttons, configure the triggers and adjust dead zones. This is the sort of thing I’d expect to see included with high end controllers, so to see it in a budget option is wonderful.
I have a lot of good things to say about the Afterglow Wave, but unfortunately with the good comes the bad. The biggest issue for most people will likely be the fact that this controller is wired. I’ll admit playing with a wired controller in 2023 feels a bit wrong, but with the included eight foot USB-C cable I was able to reach all the way from my Series S to the sofa with wire to spare. Some setups simply won’t work with wired controllers though, and if that’s the case for you then you’ll need to look elsewhere.
There are also a few slightly less premium elements that stand out when using the Afterglow Wave. First of these is a lack of textured surfaces, which when you go from playing with an official Xbox controller is really noticeable. I also am not the biggest fan of the D-pad, which is a big round circle that moves in one piece. It’s not the worst example of a D-pad I’ve come across though, and as a diehard platformer fan I’m rather sensitive about those little cross shaped buttons.
As long as you don’t mind playing with a wire trailing across the floor, the PDP Gaming Xbox Afterglow Wave is a great quality controller with an exceptional price tag. It’s maybe not quite as luxurious as an official controller (or their more expensive big brothers) but with snazzy RGB lighting in your hands and twenty quid extra in your bank account it’s hard to really care.
A great controller that feels nice to use
Having back paddles is handy
The RGB lighting looks great
The price is ideal
The D-pad is just okay
The lack of textured surfaces is a bit disappointing