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Victrix Gambit Dual Core Tournament Controller Review: A Professional Step Up

Just under a year into the lifespan of the Xbox Series X, PDP has released an impressive alternative to Microsoft's Elite Controller. Known for their top-of-the-line Victrix fight sticks, the Victrix Gambit offers everything players expect when upgrading from a standard controller alongside technology that reportedly responds faster than any pad available for the system.

The core feature of the Gambit controller is right in the name. The Dual Core technology lets the controller process quick input and headset audio simultaneously. To highlight that fact, Victrix bundles a Dolby Atmos subscription with every Gambit, letting players take full advantage of their headset of choice as long as it's connected to their new gamepad. The Gambit will also be connected to each player's Xbox, as it's a wired controller by design, with a breakaway USB that recalls the original Xbox dongle setup. While it's not as convenient as wireless, the breakaway wire is a great safety feature that also allows for seamless switching between console and PC play.

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In addition to the under the hood processing, the Gambit features buttons and sticks that wouldn't look out of place on a fight stick. Playing with the Gambit side by side with one of Microsoft's controllers makes it clear that there is an improvement, but that level of precise split-second accuracy isn't going to be a priority for everyone. Players at the highest level of competition will definitely want to consider the Gambit for this speed boost, but it's not a reason to shell out for someone who plays games more casually. Thankfully, Victrix has provided several other compelling reasons for the Gambit that broadens its potential demographics.

The best change comes in the subtle tweaks Victrix makes to the default layout for all Xbox controllers. Most noticeable are the gigantic Menu, View, and Share buttons strategically placed around the Xbox jewel and near the bumpers. Reaching for the map in an open-world game feels much more convenient on the Gambit thanks to this change, while the rest of the buttons also feel more accessible with this design, partially due to the paddles placed comfortably within the Gambit's back grip. While Victrix gives the option for just two paddles, the default four perfectly mirrors the face buttons and provides another option for advanced maneuvering without leaving the thumbstick.

The Victrix Gambit comes with fewer stick options than the Elite controller. There's a tall stick and a domed option at normal height, both preferred options to replace the right stick in situations where precise aiming is key. These certainly get the job done, but the d-pad replacement for the NES cross is less convincing. Spending a few sessions with the Gambit's concave plastic diamond made it clear that it's no match for the industry standard.

The Victrix Gambit also comes with a pair of octagonal joystick gates. These are designed to replicate the movement of an arcade stick, and they work well for fighting games or retro favorites. That being said, the d-pad works just as well in most of these situations, so it's more of a nice addition rather than a vital piece of the puzzle. The same can be said of the two swappable faceplates, which lets Gambit owners choose between a hard controller shell and a rubber covering. While there could be some advantages for one over the other, it really seems like a player preference that wouldn't change over time. Finally, while not a separate piece, the Gambit's triggers can be shortened on the fly via a pair of slick switches on its back. For multiplayer-focused first-person shooters, removing the long pull for each shot can give quite the advantage, and these triggers are extremely sensitive when set to the minimum pull.

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In fact, it's possible that they're too sensitive, as it's hard to hold the controller in this configuration without activating the button. The Xbox One and Series X controllers already suffer from this sensitivity issue, and the Gambit's focus on tournament play makes this an even bigger problem, at least with the default settings. It's possible to adjust the trigger dead zone in the Gambit's bespoke app alongside many other settings, but that's if the app recognizes the controller when it launches. It was hit and miss in testing, making it hard to find a sweet spot for all the device's various settings. This seems like something that's fixable for the pad's full launch, but it's worth noting that the experience is a step down from the Elite's direct integration even when it's working.

The Gambit pairs very well with headsets of all stripes, and the subscription to Dolby Atmos that comes packed inside is a real selling point. Digital surround sound may not be equal to a fleet of physical speakers, but more and more big games will take advantage of it as time goes on. Testing Atmos with Gears 5 and Cyberpunk 2077 on Series X brought a new dimension to well-worn gameplay, and it was hard to go back to a standard soundbar after a very short session inside the headset. For more casual players, this may just be the thing that pushes the Gambit over other pro controller options, especially if they've never had a chance to try out the technology before now.

After days of playing around with it, the Victrix Gambit ends up as a jack of all trades for Xbox owners looking to step up their controller game. The highly touted speed difference is definitely a factor that hardcore gamers will appreciate, while those just looking for something a little better than the standard pad will appreciate the built-in paddles and the more convenient button placement. While the configuration app could use some work and some of the swappable components may get little use, the Gambit hits all the right notes to serve as good competition to the more established pro controller options.

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The Victrix Gambit Dual Core Tournament Controller is available on VictrixPro.com and at select gaming retailers for $99.99 USD. PDP provided a unit for review.

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