The Wolverine Ultimate is Razer’s flagship controller, a combination PC and Xbox One gamepad with six programmable rear buttons, a swappable direction pad and analog sticks, and even Razer Chroma colored lighting. It’s also sturdy, comfortable, and responsive. But it’s only available wired, which makes its $159.99 price hard to swallow when the Astro Gaming C40 TR and Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 are both wireless and have more programming options for just an extra $20.
The Wolverine Ultimate is certainly one of the most overbuilt controllers we’ve seen in some time. It shares the same general profile as the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller, but with even more extra components attached. The front holds the standard dual analog sticks in an offset Xbox arrangement, along with a direction pad, A/B/X/Y face buttons, menu and option buttons, and a light-up guide button. The top panel that holds the Guide button is bordered by a strip of programmable, multicolor LEDs.
The analog sticks and direction pad are removable, with alternate caps and pads included with the gamepad. You can replace either stick with a taller convex tip or a concave tip of the same height. There’s only one alternate stick of each, though, so you can’t replace both sticks with taller or concave ones; you have to mix and match. The traditional plus-shaped direction pad can also be replaced by a circular cluster of four separate directional buttons.
A trapezoidal outcropping sits on the bottom edge of the gamepad, between the grips. The plastic chunk is similar to the headset adapter the first Xbox One controllers used, before the headphone jack became universal. It holds headset volume and mic mute buttons, along with a reprogramming button for setting inputs to the additional triggers on the back, and a profile button that lets you switch between two controller profiles. A 3.5mm headset jack sits on the bottom of the trapezoid.
While the Astro C40 has two extra programmable buttons on the underside and the Xbox Elite Controller Series Two has four, the Wolverine Ultimate beats them both with six extra buttons you can program with any input you like. The top edge of the controller holds the standard right and left bumpers and analog triggers, along with trigger lock switches that shorten the trigger pulls for faster shooting. Small M1 and M2 triggers sit between the main triggers, and are joined by M3, M4, M5, and M6 triggers located in a two-by-two arrangement on the back of the gamepad between the grips.
Any of the extra buttons can be assigned with your choice of digital input. You can also set them to Agile or Focus functions, which decrease or increase analog stick sensitivity on the fly so you can aim more precisely or turn around faster.
Connectivity and Customization
The Wolverine Ultimate connects to your PC or Xbox One through the included 10-foot fabric-wrapped USB-to-micro-USB cable. The cable features a quick-breakaway connection similar to the Xbox 360’s wired controllers, which disconnects the cable easily in case it gets caught on anything (or if anyone trips over it). The gamepad only supports a wired connection, which is a pretty big disadvantage compared with the Astro C40 and Xbox Elite Wireless Controller, both of which work both wired and wirelessly (the C40 with its own USB adapter for PCs and PS4s, and the Elite over Bluetooth or Xbox Wireless). A wired connection provides the lowest input latency, but the convenience of wireless connectivity should be standard at this price.
You can customize the Wolverine Ultimate through the Razer Wolverine for Xbox app on the Xbox One or Windows 10. Yes, the Windows 10 version of the app is called Razer Wolverine for Xbox. Curiously, the gamepad can’t be directly programmed through the Razer Synapse software on PC, even though that software is used to customize nearly every other Razer peripheral you connect to your computer. This means that, while the Wolverine Ultimate’s lighting is technically Razer Chroma, you can’t directly sync it to your Razer headset, keyboard, or mouse through Razer Synapse, and have to manually control how its colors change.
The Razer Wolverine for Xbox app is very clearly an Xbox One app quickly ported to Windows 10, because you can’t control it with your mouse or keyboard. You need to use the Wolverine to navigate all menus and change all settings, which is slightly inconvenient. Customization on Windows is also much less robust than with the Astro C40 or Xbox Elite Series 2 gamepads. You can program the six buttons on the back with any input, or set any of them to Focus (reduce sensitivity on either analog stick) or Agile (increase sensitivity on either analog stick), but you can’t reprogram the standard face buttons or triggers.
You can fine-tune the Focus and Agile functions to increase or decrease analog stick sensitivity to your tastes, but you can’t set the analog sticks’ sensitivity curves on their own, or adjust the analog triggers’ sensitivity. You can also individually tweak the strength of each of the controller’s four vibration motors (two in the grips, two near the triggers). As customization options go, it feels a bit anemic when the Astro C40 and Xbox Elite Series 2 let you reprogram the face buttons and triggers, and set sensitivity curves for the analog sticks.
Playing Forza Horizon 4 on the Wolverine feels comfortable and exact, with the analog sticks offering plenty of responsiveness and smooth motion. The analog triggers work well with acceleration and braking, and the controller’s vibration function comes through with plenty of detail in the rumble. Because the controls center on the triggers and left analog stick, I didn’t use the rear buttons while playing.
The Wolverine Ultimate also performs well when playing Gears 5. The analog sticks again feel smooth and precise, and using the rear buttons to activate Focus and Agile modes provides some tactical benefit when aiming. The direction pad works well; I used the four-button circular pad for weapon switching, and it was responsive.
For 2D and retro-style games, the Wolverine Ultimate can take a bit of getting used to. The four-button circular pad’s individual buttons are a bit too stiff to precisely control directions in platformers, while the plus-shaped directional pad feels awkwardly shallow. The face buttons also feel shallow, which makes them quite responsive but loses some of the satisfying, near-mechanical feel you get from buttons with longer throws. I eventually got used to the direction pad and face buttons for platforming in Guacamelee 2 and dungeon exploring in Moonlighter, but neither aspect feels quite as solid as the Xbox Elite Series 2 or Astro C40’s direction pads and face buttons.
Too Pricey to Keep the Cable
The Razer Wolverine Ultimate is a high-end wired controller with a price to match. It has six additional programmable buttons, on-the-fly sensitivity adjustment for the analog sticks, and even customizable lighting. However, it’s also $160, when for $20 more you can get the Astro C40 TR or Xbox Elite Series 2, both of which offer your choice of wired or wireless gameplay and even more programming options. The on-controller headset adjustments are a nice touch, and the Wolverine features more additional buttons than the other gamepads, but neither aspect is worth the loss of wireless connectivity, especially when the direction pad doesn’t feel nearly as good.
If you’re OK with a wire and want at least a few rear buttons to play with, the $30 PowerA Enhanced Wired Controller is available for a fraction of the price of any of these high-end gamepads. The $50 8Bitdo SN30 Pro+ is also a very strong option that costs far less than the Wolverine Ultimate, and while it doesn’t work with the Xbox One, it has wireless connectivity with PCs and the Nintendo Switch, as well as plenty of customization options.