SCUF have earned themselves quite a good reputation for building custom controllers over the years. Venture onto their website and you can choose from a variety of pre-made designs that can then be further tweaked in a bunch of different ways. But the most appealing part of SCUF controllers are the extra features that come with them, from digital buttons to special hair triggers. So today I’m taking a look at one of their offerings, the SCUF Syndicate for PS4.
The Syndicate branding comes from the Youtuber of the same name, A.K.A., Tom Cassell, who at the time of writing is nearing a terrifying 10-million subscribers. His actual input in the Syndicate line-up of controllers appears to be mostly cosmetic, with the rightmost grip sporting Syndicate’s lion logo inside a playing card style Spade. A black, gold and silver paint job finish the whole thing off. It’s pretty sexy
On top of that distinctive look that the Impact has it also feels like a well-built, premium product. Of course, given the hefty price-tag it should. The plastic shell is solid with no ounce of give to be found, and the buttons have a smoother feel than you find on the regular Dualshock.
Once you get the SCUF Impact Syndicate into your hands there are some major differences to how it feels versus the typical Dualshock controller made by Sony. The first thing I noticed is that the sides are chunkier and more shallowly angled. While the Dualshock’s sides come down at nearly 90-degrees the Scuf likes to spread itself out, making the controller feel more like an Xbox One pad. It’s perfect for bigger hands.
However, if you like the shape of the traditional PS4 controller you can opt for the SCUF Infinity, although it only has two paddles versus the Impact’s four.
Paddles? Yup. The second major thing that alters how the SCUF Impact sits in your hand are the four paddles located on the back. Ignoring their function for now the paddles sit exactly where your pinky and ring fingers naturally rest. This takes some getting used to and at first I found it a little uncomfortable. On the Dualshock my pinky and ring fingers curl around the grips, but on the SCUF the paddles stop me from doing because my ring fingers wound up sitting on the outmost paddle. This had a knock on effect, causing me to stretch my pointer fingers a little more to use the triggers. Other times my ring fingers would wind up sitting awkwardly on the very edges of the outer paddles, which unsurprisingly isn’t very comfy.
The grips themselves are wrapped in a slightly soft rubber that has a random patter of raised blobs so that you can get a firmer grasp on the controller. It feels good in the hands, and might be a good choice if you find yourself getting a little sweaty during those more heated sessions. Of gaming, I mean. Jesus, get your mind out of the gutter.
To sum up I still find the standard Dualshock 4 to be a comfier option. It fits more naturally in my hands, but that isn’t to say the Scuf feels particularly bad: it’s fine. And you can actually remove the paddles individually if you like by simply sliding them upwards. In my case removing the two outer paddles made the whole controller nicer to hold whilst still giving me two extra buttons to play around with.
Ah yes, lets chat about what the paddles actually do. By default SCUF have mapped them so that they replicate the four face buttons. The idea is that by using the paddles you can keep your right thumb on the stick at all times, a very handy thing indeed in a shooter. This means saving a split-second by not having to move your thumb to do something like reload, while also retaining total of the camera.
It takes a bit of time to retrain your brain to use the paddles but once you it feels quite normal. Objectively speaking the paddles do offer a competitive advantage over players who are using the regular Dualshock, but I have to say that in practice I never particularly noticed a huge difference. However, that’s probably because I don’t play at a competitive level, and while I’m pretty good in online shooters I don’t dedicate a lot of time to any specific one.
If you want to be able to remap the paddles then you need to choose the EMR option when building the controller on SCUF’s site. This gives you an intriguing little magnetic disc, which SCUF calls an EMG Mag Key, which you place on the back of the controller. With that done you press and hold the paddle you want to remap, press whichever button you want it to copy and then release the paddle and remove the key. It’s a cool way around the fact that you can’t typically remap controllers on console, but the obvious downside is that you have to be careful to keep the key safe. Lose that and you lose the ability to remap paddles. Replacements are available at SCUF’s site, though.
As for the triggers they’re a little different too because SCUF have added small plastic bumpers on the underside to stop you from pulling them all the way in. By using the included special key you can rotate these little ridges, either turning them “on” or “off.” Again, in a competitive situation where every second can count the time saved by stopping the triggers going past their activation point could be important.
There are a couple of other nifty features located in the triggers as well. Firstly, there are two different covers that you can put on the triggers that serve to make them longer, or you can just take the covers off entirely if you want something that matches the original Dualshock. The default covers that my Syndicate shipped with are just a tad longer than the typical triggers, while the second set of covers add yet another couple of millimetres. It honestly reminds me of those horrifying nail extension things women use…*shudders* but I actually quite liked the longer covers. They should also be useful for bigger with bigger hands and longer fingers.
Underneath the covers you’ll also find yet another little hole where the SCUF key can be inserted, in a completely non-sexual way, I assure you. Unless you want it to be, I guess. Anyway, by turning the key clockwise twice you can activate the hair-trigger system which will essentially tighten the trigger, moving it closer to the activation point. SCUF recommends doing this while in-game by turning the key until your gun fires, then loosening the trigger just a little. Again, this system is all about cutting down the time it takes you to react in-game, and when combined with the bumpers means you can have very short travel distance.
Unfortunately I had a bit of an issue with the controller I was sent over. Being the inquisitive twat that I am I believe I overtightened the screw and then pulled the trigger, and before I knew it a small piece of plastic inside shattered, which also meant I couldn’t get to the screw properly. But on the bright side it did give me the chance to try out SCUF’s customer support service. Their turnaround was prompt: I had the controller back in under a week. The only hiccup is that while they fixed the issue, they left one small piece of the broken plastic rattling around inside the controller. Luckily I was able to coax it out of the small gap that opens when you pull the trigger down.
If you exclusively play games that don’t make use of the trigger’s range of motion then SCUF do what they call digital triggers that turn them into something that feels more like a mouse click. The upside is that it’s vastly quicker than the normal trigger, but it also renders the controller useless when it comes to things like racing games where the full range of motion is needed to control gas and braking force.
Both of the bumpers can also be swapped over to digital, too. I wouldn’t imagine this would offer a massive advantage since the bumpers don’t have a lot of excess movement anyway, but unlike the triggers you don’t lose anything by opting for the digital versions.
Both of the thumb sticks can be removed using the special SCUF tool in case you fancy swapping them out for something else. During customization you can opt for concave or domed sticks, whatever matches your preferences. Plus you can choose between low or high sticks, a potentially handy option too, again especially for people with bigger hands.
As for how the thumbsticks feel, they both seem just a touch smoother than the regular Dualshock, and require little bit less force to move around. The result feels very nice indeed. It did take some getting used to as less resistant sticks of the Impact meant I often found myself struggling to get quite as much precise control. After a few solid hours of play however, I had adjusted to the differences.
A potential audio problem exists in the form of the 3.5mm port. Like a normal controller you can plug in any pair of headphones or buds that sport a 3.5mm connection, but the Scuf’s port is nestled a centimetre or so inside the controller’s shell with a notch cut out of the plastic body. That means if your headphones of choice have a chunky plastic piece around the connection it might not fit. Just something to keep in mind. Personally, though, all my headsets and headphones fit without an issue.
Likewise, the charging port on the rear lives in a little square cave which could be problematic for some cables to fit into correctly. Given the already high asking price for SCUF controllers it’s frustrating that the Impact doesn’t ship with a charging cable by default. If you want that you need to buy it separately or as part of the Pro Player Pack. Don’t worry, it’s just a standard micro-USB port. Y’know, like one of the dozens we all have lying around our home. Still, including a cable wouldn’t have killed you, SCUF.
All in all my variation of the Scuf Impact Syndicate came in at around £170, which is hardly cheap for a controller. It’s certainly a lovely controller to look at and it does feel good in the hands, but I’m not sure the extra features are worth such a massive asking price. With that said the Xbox’s Elite 2 controller retails for £160, so by comparison the prices are similar if you’re looking for something a bit more…special.
Putting the price aside in a dark cupboard for a minute, the controller itself packs some sweet tricks and looks terrific. I’m a tad concerned by how easily I wound up annihilating the trigger system, but that seems to be a demonstration of my own stupidity more than anything else. Personally, it’s the paddles that make the Impact special, adding a lot more flexibility to the regular Dualshock’s layout.
Ultimately, though, would I buy a SCUF Impact personally? No. But then, I’m not really the kind of person who can take advantage of its benefits to their fullest. If fast-paced shooters are your break and butter then the Impact could give you the edge you’re looking for.