The Raion is a curious PlayStation 4 controller from Razer. Built primarily for fighting games, the pad doesn't have any analog sticks, and it has six main face buttons in similar positions to what you'd find on a typical arcade stick. The Raion is essentially a hybrid input device, bridging the gap between pad and stick -- but is it worth your time? We've spent over 50 hours with the Raion in order to bring you a verdict.
Build quality and comfort
The Razer Raion's lighter than it looks -- and this lack of weight does make it feel a little cheap, at least initially. The plastic casing is fine, and the grips have a slight texture to them, but it's not that kind of premium feel that you'd expect from an expensive controller.
That said, the Raion is clearly crafted with practicality in mind -- it's not meant to be another "pro" PS4 controller, and the price tag does reflect this when compared to the console's most expensive peripherals.
When it comes to comfort, the Raion feels good to hold. The controller's 'arms' aren't the longest, but deep curves on the underside of the pad allow it to sit quite nicely.
However, this level of comfort only applies when you're holding the Raion like a traditional controller. If you want to raise your right hand above the face buttons -- like you would with an arcade stick -- then it can be a touch awkward. Holding the Raion up with only your left hand doesn't do your wrist any favours, although this could be why Razer opted for a lightweight design. Fortunately, resting the Raion on your leg, or supporting the right side of the controller with your hand in a 'claw' position is much more manageable over long play sessions, even if it takes a little getting used to.
As mentioned, the Raion has six main face buttons: square, triangle, X, circle, R1, and R2. R1 and R2 are there so that if you're playing with an arcade stick style, you don't have to worry about hitting the traditional R1 and R2 shoulder inputs. Of course, you also remap R1 and R2 in your preferred fighting game.
The buttons themselves are deliberately oversized so that they're easier to hit. They're also very, very responsive. Much like the buttons on an arcade stick, you can slap these things with multiple fingers in quick succession, and it feels great to do so.
Positioning is the only thing that might hold you back. If you're used to playing on a regular DualShock 4, then the addition of R1 and R2 to the face of the controller can really throw you off since square, triangle, X, and circle have been pushed towards the bottom of the pad. You obviously get used to the positioning with practice, but it's undeniably weird at first.
Shoulder buttons and triggers
There's not much to say about the Raion's L1, R1, L2, and R2 inputs. They're all easily reachable -- assuming that you wrap both your index fingers and middle fingers around the back of the controller -- and they all have a nice click to them.
Yes, even the triggers click, so actually calling them "triggers" doesn't seem accurate. Again, though, the Raion's a controller for fighting games -- you don't need traditional L2 and R2 triggers.
The Raion's directional pad is where the controller really stands out. This circular d-pad is elevated above the controller's surface, and it's incredibly clicky in the best possible way. Instead of having just four directional inputs -- up, down, left, right -- like a regular DualShock 4, the Raion's d-pad has eight, the additional four directions being diagonal. This means that instead of pressing up and right together in order to get a diagonal up-right input, you just push the dedicated up-right input on the pad.
Having access to dedicated diagonal inputs can make a surprising amount of difference. For example, if you've ever struggled with quarter circle or half circle motions on a traditional d-pad, then you may find that the Raion's offering is way more precise.
And precision is the key word here. We booted up Tekken 7 to try advanced movement techniques like wave dashing and back dash cancelling with the Raion, and the results left us very impressed. Where we'd sometimes flub multiple dashes in a row with the d-pad on a regular DualShock 4, we were hitting the correct timing a lot easier on the Raion. Again, it just feels much more precise.
The same is true of tying multiple special moves and supers together in 2D fighting games like Guilty Gear Xrd: Rev 2 and Street Fighter V. Feeling and hearing each click of each direction on the pad makes a big difference when you're trying to nail more complex inputs on a consistent basis.
The Razer Raion comes with all the basic functionality that you'd expect. It has a PlayStation button, touchpad, a headphone jack, and a share button.
It also has a couple of switches either side of the aforementioned headphone jack. The one on the left lets you change the function of the d-pad, assigning it as either the left or right analog stick. Not especially useful in most fighting games, but it's nice to have the option.
Meanwhile, the switch on the left reassigns the traditional R1 and R2 shoulder inputs as L1 and L2. In turn, L1 and L2 become L3 and R3 -- two inputs that the Raion doesn't have otherwise.
But that's not all. On the front of the Raion you'll find two additional audio-related buttons near the bottom. One mutes your mic, while the other controls volume. Nothing too crazy, but if you press them both at the same time, you enable the Raion's 'lock' function. This disables the PlayStation button, the share button, and the options button, which stops you from pressing them by mistake. To be fair, they're all pretty small buttons to begin with, but we suppose that disabling them could come in handy if you're fighting in a competitive environment.
It's worth noting that the Raion is a strictly wired controller, but this makes sense seeing as it's built to be as responsive as possible.
The Razer Raion currently retails for £99.99 on Razer's own store. It's obviously more expensive than a regular DualShock 4, but it's cheaper than a top quality arcade stick. Much like the controller itself, the price attempts to find a middle ground.
Conclusion: Should you buy the Razer Raion?
Well, first thing's first: do you play a lot of fighting games? If the answer's no, then the Razer Raion clearly isn't for you. But if you're the type who really gets stuck into fighters -- especially at a competitive level -- then we think the Raion is worth considering depending on your preferred input device.
If you're addicted to arcade sticks, then we're not sure the Raion will pull you away since it's essentially a modified PS4 controller. But if you're already a pad player, the Raion could elevate your experience.
At £99.99 it's not cheap, and we do recommend taking it for a test run before buying if at all possible, but combined with the Raion's excellent directional pad, the arcade stick-style button layout allows for impressive precision once you're comfortable with the design.
What do you make of the Razer Raion? Do you think it could improve your fighting game skills on PS4? Slap those buttons in the comments section below.