Officially licensed by Sony, the Razer Raiju is one of the PlayStation 4's 'Elite' controllers – the other being the Nacon Revolution. At the time of writing, the Raiju retails for around £150, so it's safe to say that it's a premium piece of gadgetry. In order to pen this review, we spent around 60 hours with the Raiju, playing through a whole library of different PS4 titles.
To start with, let's talk about the general build quality of the Raiju. For its price, you'd expect high standards in this department, and fortunately, that's exactly what you get. One of the first things you'll notice is that the pad has a decent heft to it. The Raiju is slightly heavier than a standard DualShock 4, but that extra weight undoubtedly gives it a more expensive feel.
The matte plastic of the controller's casing also shares that premium feel. It's sturdy stuff that has a nice texture to it, while the buttons and triggers opt for a glossy, smooth finish. There's a nice contrast here, and going by touch alone, the differences in material help separate the casing from the buttons. The rubber grips that line the undersides of the pad are also of a high quality.
Comfort and grip
We've already mentioned the increased weight of the Raiju, and this helps the controller sit a little better in your hands. The 'handles' of the Raiju aren't quite as defined as those you'll find on a regular DualShock 4, but they feature more angled undersides, complete with the aforementioned rubber grips. Once we had grown accustomed to the difference in shape, we found the Raiju to be incredibly comfortable, with the handles being a snug fit within our palms and our index fingers naturally resting on the triggers.
After extended gaming sessions, we felt little to no discomfort, whereas with the normal DualShock 4, we often get slight aches in our index fingers, specifically when playing shooters for hours at a time.
As with the standard DualShock 4, the Raiju boasts four face buttons on the right of the controller: X, square, triangle, and circle. However, the big difference here is that the Raiju's buttons don't have as much depth. In other words, when you push them, there's almost no travel distance. Instead, they 'click', much like the right and left buttons on a mouse. At first it can seem a little strange – especially if you're used to using a DualShock 4 – but it isn't long before you start appreciating their responsiveness.
Indeed, responsiveness is the keyword here. The DualShock 4's face buttons certainly get the job done, but with the Raiju, you can simply glide your thumb across any of the four buttons and have it click almost immediately, which is handy for actions like reloading in a shooter, or when you need to quickly input commands in a fighting game.
The clicking noise itself isn't exactly loud, but it is noticeable at first. That said, it didn't take us long to tune it out, and we even came to appreciate the audible feedback.
Unlike the Nacon Revolution, the Razer Raiju chooses to stay loyal to PlayStation's traditional controller layout, keeping the analog sticks opposite one another on the bottom half of the pad. Obviously, this is an inherent plus if you're a fan of Sony's trademark design.
After just a few minutes of play, it's clear that the Raiju's sticks are easier to move than the DualShock 4's. Here, there's next to no stiffness, resulting in especially smooth stick movement, and when either stick is released, they spring back into their neutral position very quickly. Again, the difference in sensitivity may take some time to get used to, but the more fluid feel of the Raiju's sticks does, in our experience, translate well into games that require precise movement.
By default, the Raiju's sticks come with two optional rubber caps placed over them. These little blue additions offer extra grip for your thumbs, but we actually prefer to play without them, purely because we feel that they make the sticks just a tiny bit too tall. Of course, our preference largely comes down to the length of our thumbs – those of you with larger hands may find that the caps prove more comfortable. Either way, we had no problems with the regular sticks. In fact, we'd go as far to say that we found them far less slippery than the DualShock 4's – not once have our thumbs struggled to stay on top of them.
This is where the Raiju gets interesting. Built with competitive play in mind, Razer has slapped four extra triggers on its controller – two of which can be removed.
First off, though, let's go over the familiar R1, R2, L1, and L2 triggers. R1 and L1 are both lengthy buttons that click when pushed. They also curve with the outside of the controller, meaning that they can be a bit difficult to find in the heat of the moment – especially if you're used to the DualShock 4's smaller, more defined buttons. As far as we're concerned, R1 and L1 are probably the weakest aspects of the Raiju.
Fortunately, R2 and L2 fare much better. Both triggers push down incredibly smoothly, and spring back into place with less force than the DualShock 4's, resulting in triggers that simply feel easier to use. What's more, the Raiju boasts two sliding locks on its back that can alter the travel distance of the R2 and L2 triggers. When the locks are pushed in, the triggers lose the majority of their depth, meaning that you can tap them rather than push them all the way in. As you'd expect, this is a great feature when it comes to playing shooters that boast quick, twitchy gunplay. It's also nice to have around when playing titles that map specific actions to R2 and L2 as well.
On the right of L2 and the left of R2 are two extra triggers. Inscribed with M1 and M2, these clicky little angles act as a second pair of R1 and L1 buttons by default. Their close proximity to R2 and L2 make these extras a surprisingly effective alternative to the Raiju's disappointing R1 and L1 offerings, since they should be within reaching distance of your index fingers when they're resting over the triggers. M1 and M2 can even function as different buttons of your choosing thanks to the controller's built-in remapping system.
Last but not least, we have the two triggers that sit on the underside of the Raiju, dubbed M3 and M4. Like most of the buttons on this thing, these two click when pressed, and as is the case with the M1 and M2 buttons, they can be remapped to suit your needs. It can certainly seem weird to reach out and feel triggers with your middle or ring fingers, but if you do find them distracting, you're able to remove them with the help of a small screwdriver that's included with the controller. They're very easy to reattach, too.
The Raiju's directional pad is less of a pad and more of a... Well, it's four separate buttons. Instead of being one big button that rests underneath the controller's casing with four ridges poking out, here we have four entirely independent inputs that are spaced further apart.
Each of the four directional buttons have quite a lot of depth to them when pushed, and are reasonably stiff, unlike the Raiju's other face buttons. They almost feel like they belong to a different controller, but there are some advantages to this separated design. For starters, it means that directional inputs are generally more precise – you won't find yourself pressing two directions at the same time by accident when pushing your thumb over the pad. On top of that, they offer better physical feedback due to not being as spongy as the d-pad found on the DualShock 4.
However, they're definitely harder to press. Their stiffness means that you can't just tap them – you need to properly push them in, which can seem like an unnecessary exercise in effort when you quickly want to switch weapons or simply navigate a menu. If the Raiju's directional buttons were clicky like the rest of the controller, we'd likely have no issue, but as it stands, our opinion is somewhat divided.
Does the Razer Raiju make you better at shooters?
For the most part, we were left very impressed with the Raiju's performance in shooting games. Not only does it offer more responsive controls thanks to slicker analog sticks and faster triggers, but it also allows for thoughtful player customisation.
For example, in Destiny, rather than having to take our thumb off the right analog stick in order to reload our weapon by pressing square, we could simply map reload to one of the four extra triggers. This allowed us to keep our sights on our enemies even when out of the action. A relatively small detail, but one of many that competitive players may find very useful.
Does the Razer Raiju make you better at fighting games?
The Raiju is a little hit and miss when it comes to fighting games. The responsive face buttons and triggers let us string together attacks that much easier in titles such as Street Fighter V and BlazBlue: Central Fiction, but the directional pad certainly took some time to get used to. Because the directional buttons are farther apart, we sometimes found it difficult to input circular motions, which obviously play a large role in pulling off special moves in many fighters. Similarly, because of their stiffness, we also found movement to be a touch more strenuous on our thumb.
Other bits and pieces you should know
Before we wrap this review up, we just want to take a moment to note a few bits and pieces that potential buyers should be aware of.
First off, the Razer Raiju only functions as a wired controller; you need to have it plugged into your PS4 in order to use it. What's more, it isn't compatible with your regular DualShock 4 USB cables. Instead, you have to use the USB cable that comes packaged with the controller. Thankfully, said cable is high quality, featuring a strong, braided wire that's far lengthier than a standard DualShock 4 cable.
Is having a wired-only controller inconvenient? Of course, but we can't see it being an issue unless you tend to sit a mile away from your PS4. Indeed, a bigger annoyance for us is that the Raiju's PlayStation button is unable to turn the PS4 on. You'll need to get up and manually switch your console on before using the controller.
Below the analog sticks sit four extra buttons. The first two are used for remapping buttons – a feature which is very adequately explained in the controller's instruction manual – and the other two can be used to control chat audio. The quick mute button is an especially handy extra.
Lastly, it's worth mentioning that the Raiju retains all of the DualShock 4's current-gen features. The Share button, touchpad, and options button are all in place, with the touchpad in particular being an improvement over the original due to a more - you guessed it - responsive, less spongy feel. The Raiju also keeps the headphone jack at the bottom of the controller.
It may not be Sony's own design, but the Razer Raiju is an impressive PS4 controller all the same. We find ourselves preferring its responsive face buttons, smooth analog sticks, and slick triggers, even if its directional pad could and probably should have been better implemented. Its built-in remapping system is perfect for experimentation and will no doubt see use from competitive players, and its build quality is great across the board.
As far as a 'pro' PS4 controller goes, it's hard to really fault the Raiju. In many ways, we think that it's a definite improvement over the DualShock 4, but on the market for £150, you'll need to ask yourself just how eager you are to step up your game.
Are you tempted by the Razer Raiju? Do you already own one? Let us know what you think of this premium product in the comments section below.