We’ve had the pleasure of being able to get hands-on with, and use, a number of different Xbox controllers over the years. From the cheap, the cheerful and the tiny, right through to the fully loaded pro editions and some of the most expensive pads on the market, we’ve slapped our grubby little mitts around the lot.
It must be said though that the Thrustmaster eSwap X Pro Controller for Xbox which powered our gaming sessions at the back end of 2022 was one of the more unique options on the table. Fully customisable with a modular design that allowed the user to whip in and out various thumbsticks, d-pads, grips and more, it was something that really managed to float our boat.
But now Thrustmaster are back with a new edition of the eSwap and the Thrustmaster eSwap XR Pro Controller Forza Horizon 5 Edition is a stunner. If you’re at one with Forza Horizon 5 and have been eagerly anticipating the new Rally Adventure expansion for the game, then you’re going to want to have this in your locker. Why? Well, ever wanted to switch out your thumbstick for a racing wheel?
Yep, you heard us right – the Thrustmaster eSwap XR Pro Controller for Xbox in Forza Horizon 5 trim comes complete with a teeny tiny steering wheel, one that can be dropped onto the controller in mere seconds, letting you become more immersed with your racing scene than ever before. Don’t get us wrong, it is no match for a full race wheel set-up and if you’re really serious about shaving the milliseconds or hitting the apexes, then we’d most definitely point you to the way of the Thrustmaster T248 Wheel or T128 Wheel. But if you don’t want to get that involved, this could still be a fun little way of playing.
We’ll start with the basics and the Thrustmaster eSwap XR Pro Controller for Xbox in Forza Horizon 5 Edition livery is pretty much your bog-standard eSwap X, just with some rather glorious Forza Horizon styled visual cues. This means you’ll be seeing plenty of white, pink and black here, Thrustmaster and Forza Horizon 5 logos adorning the two sides. Front and centre is a huge FH apron, filling out the usual Menu, View and Share buttons, with a smaller than usual Xbox Nexus button fitting in nicely with the theme.
Top-down, the eSwap XR looks great with its Limited Edition Forza trim, with grey on black face buttons in house. These feel slightly smaller than those found on a standard Xbox controller or the Elite Series 2, but work as intended once you begin to understand a shallower press is required. From there, black and pink thumbsticks and a classy silver-grey d-pad sit pretty on top – all working as you would expect. Thrustmaster class these thumbsticks as their S5 NXG mini-sticks, and we’ve not a single issue with how these feel, concaved nicely to ensure thumb fittage. But we’re struggling with the ‘mini’ moniker – they are in fact ever-so-slightly longer than the standard sticks on our Elite Series 2.
Highly tactile bumpers and triggers fill things out, with the latter coming in a glorious metallic pink to complement the rest of the controller. It looks pretty decent around on the sides too, and whilst there’s no real texture or grip on the handles – something we feel is missed – the slightly camo’d design cues fit well. These side grips attach via magnets so can be ripped in and out should you wish to change things up even more with a different colour scheme.
So far, so Xbox controller, but it’s when we get round the back do we find four programmable buttons, sitting exactly where your middle fingers rest. These feel – in a word – great, contoured to allow for immediate precision when in the heat of a race. Programming the lower of the four buttons – those of 3 and 4 – to work as gear shifts as we race in Forza allows the immersion that this controller brings to be even more heightened. Throw in a three-notched switch for trigger stops and should you be one of those gamers who doesn’t get on with the usual travel of a trigger, you’ll be well sorted.
But there’s more and Thrustmaster have seen fit to include some on-board audio controls on the front side of the eSwap XR; volume up, volume down and a mic button placed just to the left of the 3.5mm audio port. They prove to be extremely easy to hit whilst playtime goes on and is something that we’ve waxed lyrical about with other controllers – why can’t all have some form of onboarded audio controls to ensure we never have to take our hands of the controller whilst playing.
To the right of that port comes a triple treat of buttons that allow for mapping those rear-placed buttons (a simple process of mapping button to button), along with two profile switches (signified by apron-mounted lighting) for when you need to go fully ‘pro’.
You may also be wondering how the Thrustmaster eSwap XR Pro Controller Forza Horizon 5 Edition connects up with your Xbox controller, and the truth of the matter is that this is a fully wired controller. In the box comes the usual USB-A ended cable that fits into the controller via a Micro-USB port (seriously Thrustmaster, get this shifted out pronto for a USB-C offering please), attaching well into the deep port on the back of the device. For some, the mere mention of a cable will see them upping and leaving, but we’ve used plenty of controllers that need tethering and have found this one to be fine. The cable is more than adequate at some three metres in length, and aside from the sheer freedom that a wireless pad allows, rarely have we found it to be an issue. Of course, personal preference may dictate otherwise.
Aside from the obvious livery change, we’ve so far got the best part of 1000 words into our review of the Thrustmaster eSwap XR Pro Controller Forza Horizon 5 Edition covering pretty much everything that surrounded our thoughts of the previous Thrustmaster pad we had in our hands. But it’s here where things change.
See, the real selling point of the Thrustmaster eSwap XR Pro Controller for Xbox Forza Horizon 5 Edition is the addition of a new module – the Forza Horizon tagged Racing Wheel.
You should know by now that the Thrustmaster eSwap controllers do as the name allows, taking various ‘modules’ and allowing the player to take them out of their magnetic housing, swapping in a more personal option. For instance, should you not like the left-to-right standard Xbox set-up of left thumbstick, d-pad, right thumbstick and want to go more PlayStation-y, you can tug a little on the left thumbstick, take it from its home and replace it with the d-pad. Hell, you could even stick the d-pad on the right side of the controller, under the face buttons if you wish. But we’d guess only gaming magicians find that a more comfortable set-up.
It’s the thumbsticks and d-pads that switch out with ease, but the Thrustmaster eSwap XR Pro Controller Forza Horizon 5 Edition comes with this new Racing Wheel module included in the box. And By Jove, it’s a really fun little addition.
Now don’t get us wrong. We’ve pumped hundreds of hours into Forza Horizon 5, we’ve done nearly the same with the DiRT and GRID series of games, and we are partial to a bit of F1 racing at the weekends. If it’s a racer, we’ve played it – and that means for the most part we’ve become at one with the control systems of each individual game. Sticking a racing wheel onto our controller mixes things up a bit, and it certainly takes a little while to get used to what is going on. But bear with it and understand that this Racing Wheel module can be seen as a really good alternative to the usual steering controls, and well, you’re already halfway to smashing any previous PBs. In fact, it took us just a matter of a few time trialled laps on F1 22 to get up to speed with the feel of the Racing Wheel module, before sticking it on a par with our best times.
The Racing Wheel module itself feels great in hand, with some sprung feedback always trying to centre it against the push of your thumb. It really does feel brilliant, and whilst only long term play sessions will determine whether it can be a viable alternative to the usual racing set-up, after a good few days with the Thrustmaster eSwap XR Pro Controller Forza Horizon 5 Edition and many hours of racing under our belts, we’d be more than happy to use this going forward in the long term. Don’t expect to be twirling this thing like a London cabbie navigating through traffic though, a 95° rotation angle will keep you in line through those all-important corners, as well as allowing for total control as you throw the rear end out in a drift.
For as good as it feels, we have found that the spring and auto-centring system that sits under the Wheel module does have a tendency to ‘click’ as it moves back into place. Sit with your finest headphones slapped around your head, and the tunes of Forza Horizon 5 blaring out, and you’ll not notice this clicking. But should you even so much as dare consider racing whilst in a room full of others, you should expect the odd frown or two coming your way. You know how a ticking clock can annoy some? Yeah, that.
Personalisation is the real key in what the Thrustmaster eSwap XR Pro Controller for Xbox Forza Horizon 5 Edition delivers, and it excels on that front. But you can then also consider that Thrustmaster have their free ThrustmapperX software and App ready on PC and Xbox, with this allowing for even further customisation and adjustment of sensitivity settings, controller vibration and the like. Very little has been left off the table with this one.
Build. Program. Adjust. Rearrange. And now Race. Five key selling points of the Thrustmaster eSwap XR Pro Controller Forza Horizon 5 Edition for Xbox – five selling points that it very much nails. Perhaps it could do with some textured grip around the sides and back, and the clickety-clack of the wheel re-centring may be off-putting, but in the grand scheme of things, that’s being more than a little picky. Basically put, if you’re in the market for a controller that does more – much more – than your everyday standard offering, and have a love for Forza Horizon 5 and the open-world racing that brings, we’d not hesitate to recommend you check out the Thrustmaster eSwap XR Pro Controller Forza Horizon 5 Edition for Xbox as you push pedal to the metal.
A huge thank you goes out to Thrustmaster for providing us with a sample unit of the Thrustmaster eSwap XR Pro Controller Forza Horizon 5 Edition for review. You can pick one up for yourself by visiting Thrustmaster direct. Expect to pay some $199 dollars or local equivalent.
And if you already game with a Thrustmaster eSwap controller in hand and want to gain access to the new Racing Wheel module, you’ll find that available for some $29.99.