We're going to be totally honest with you, the first time we saw Turtle Beach's Recon Xbox controller back at E3 2021, we thought it looked pretty ugly. In fact, it does look ugly, even in person. But looks can be deceiving, and despite some early reservations, we've come away highly impressed, to the point where this reviewer is actually using it more than Microsoft's standard Xbox Series X controller. That's unusual for me, folks.
Let's address the elephant in the room first though — it's wired. It is what it is, and we'd certainly have much preferred a wireless design, but you do at least get a very sturdy and lengthy USB cable to go with it.
In the hand, the controller does feel quite lightweight and 'plasticky' at first, but it also feels really good to hold thanks a comfortable shape, cooling grips on the sides and well-designed analog sticks. Both the triggers and the bumpers utilise textured grips as well, which is a nice touch, while the A, X, Y and B buttons are pretty standard fare. The d-pad is basically the same as the one on the official controller, although it does have more of a clunky feel.
In practice, we've found that unlike many other third-party controllers, it's really easy to forget you're not using the official controller with the Turtle Beach Recon, just because of how similar and comfortable it feels to hold. Of course, glance down at it, and you'll notice the differences right away. There are loads of buttons crammed towards the top of the controller, and while these do contribute to the ugly look, they can be very handy in practice.
For example, the Turtle Beach Recon comes with a bunch of audio features to enhance your experience with headphones. You can select between multiple EQ settings on the fly — such as giving you a bass and treble boost or taking advantage of 'Signature Audio' — and these really can make a difference, helping to maximise the potential of any set of headphones you might be using, regardless of whether they're Turtle Beach branded or not.
Additionally, there's an option to turn on 'Superhuman Hearing', which reduces the volume of certain parts of the audio to help you locate quiet sounds like footsteps. And again, you can just turn this on and off at the click of a button on the controller, which is really useful. You can also use the controller for Mic Monitoring purposes, altering the volume of your headphones, controlling the audio mix between game chat and party chat, and more.
In terms of gameplay, you've got a few extra options at your disposal as well. Two quick-action buttons are available on the back of the controller for button mapping purposes, and there's also a 'Pro Aim' feature which uses the right rear button to assist with precise aiming. If you've got the feature turned on, all you need to do is hold the button while aiming to reduce analog stick sensitivity. As before, it's great that you can do this without having to jump into any menus or anything, and it's a nice addition to have, particularly if you're a competitive FPS fanatic.
If you're not interested in gimmicks though, you're still going to get a superb gameplay experience with this controller. We've never felt like it's putting us at any disadvantage compared to the official design, and the "next-gen vibration feedback" in the triggers feels really good in games such as Forza Horizon where it's utilised to a significant degree.
Ultimately, with a retail price of £49.99 / $59.95, which is around the same as the official Xbox Series X|S controller from Microsoft, it's all about weighing up the benefits. If you can deal with the fact that it's wired, and you like the sound of the audio and/or gameplay features, the Turtle Beach Recon Xbox controller is a genuinely excellent alternative to Microsoft's version. We've had a lot of satisfaction using it over the past couple of weeks, and the best compliment we can give is that it's going to remain in our rotation of controllers for a long while.
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