KontrolFreek Striker Performance Thumbstick Review

Can adding some $15 thumbstick covers make me a better skater in NHL 18?

Let me start this review by admitting that I am horribly inefficient when it comes to using thumbsticks and other controls on my PlayStation 4 Dualshock controller. I grew up on PC games and can strafe diagonally while dolphin diving with the best of them on a mouse and keyboard. Stick a controller in my hands though, and I suddenly forget what’s up, down, left, or even right. In step the KontrolFreek Striker Performance Thumbsticks. Can they make me a better player, for only 15 bucks?

KontrolFreek Striker – Overview

KontrolFreek Striker Review Package

KontrolFreek has been producing thumbstick covers like the Striker model for years now. Their lineup of products is extensive and ranges in price from $15 – $18 US dollars. There seems to be a specific model for just about any gaming situation, be it competitive FPS games or, as is the case with the Striker, sports games.

I chose the Striker model because it’s Football themed design was as close as I could get to a Hockey focused style. The covers themselves come in pretty minimal packaging and simply snap onto the controller thumbsticks. There’s nothing permanent about these things, which is convenient if you like switching out different styles or going back to none at all.

Increased accuracy is supposed to come from the added height of the thumbsticks, which provides a greater length of travel of the sticks. It can also make it more comfortable to use the controller for long periods of time. Your mileage will vary with this, as a lot of it depends on personal preference, hand size, etc.

KontrolFreek Striker – Performance

KontrolFreek Striker Review Close UpThe KontrolFreek Strikers boast “improved accuracy of shots, passes and overall movement.” There’s no doubt that the increase in height of the sticks provides a feeling of greater movement. It’s difficult to judge some of these feelings as anything more than a placebo effect at times. However, the extra height does make it a bit easier to make very precise movements. While there are many different designs offered, the Striker‘s pattern emulates that of a soccer ball. It definitely provides extra grip, especially when compared to the regular PS4 Dualshock thumbsticks. They can be a great solution for those controllers where the sticks have worn down over the years.

It is that added grip and increase in movement control that really make the most perceived difference. Playing mostly NHL 18, the addition of these covers gave me a greater feel of control over my skater. I felt more in control of my movements. In a game where direction of both thumbsticks is key to success, this extra confidence allowed me to pull off shots that I otherwise would not have.

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These things won’t turn you from a fledgling rookie into a full blown superstar, however. Personally, one of my biggest shortcomings with controls of any kind on a console, is confidence in my ability to perform moves well. The KontrolFreek Strikers provide me with just enough of a boost in this area.

Not everything is perfect, however. During one particularly intense match, one of the covers came right off and nearly flew across the room. Am I to blame here for gripping the controller way too tight? Most likely. They are also susceptible to rotating around the control sticks. For some reason, the design on them is not perfectly centered. I can sometimes feel the difference between how the left and right cover are aligned. It hasn’t impacted my gaming performance negatively, but it does lead me to fidget more with them than I should. I suppose there is always the option of permanently gluing them to the controller.

KontrolFreek Striker – Verdict

If you feel like you’re struggling with control sticks, a simple $15 expense might give you a boost. They won’t make you a superstar, unless you’re already close, but they certainly can help. The large variety of styles seems more cosmetic than functional; not that there’s anything wrong with that. Whether you’re on Xbox One or PS4, if you’re in a bit of a funk or looking for a little bit of an edge, give them a try.

I suck at playing games with a controller. I get my face kicked in in Destiny 2's PvP mode and I feel like I'm skating with the help of one of those training walkers in NHL 18. The KontrolFreek Striker thumbstick covers make me feel slightly less inadequate and provide a nice bit of added height and grip.
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