One of the things I was most looking forward to at this E3 was seeing and touching the new Wii U GamePad. I had played with it last year, but knew that some major aesthetic changes were made, and wanted to see if I liked what I saw ... er, felt.
What did I think? Was it tablet-riffic ... or tablet-errible?
First, and most importantly, the GamePad is very comfortable. Granted, it is very strange to play with it for the first time -- having your hands so far apart just feels odd. But once you get used to it (it takes no time at all!), the controller almost melts in your hands. It is very ergonomic and never once felt uncomfortable. Despite its size, it is not heavy at all (it is actually lighter than an iPad) and I can easily see myself using it to play a long game.
In an incredibly smart decision, the older slide pads were replaced with real analog sticks, and they feel great! They can best be described as a combination of the smoothness of the PlayStation DualShock analog sticks with the movement of the ones on the Wii Nunchuck. In short, they are nice.
The button placement is also just fine. The four shoulder buttons and triggers on the top and back are great. They are perfectly placed and are no problem to access. I was worried about the A, B, X, and Y buttons, as they are actually below the right analog stick, but they feel good. Again, it takes some getting used to -- especially since we have been playing games with similar controllers for more than a decade -- but once you are comfortable, everything is great.
I am still unsure how the GamePad actually streams images that crisp and clear on the touch screen. I assume the final models will be wireless, but they were all connected by cables in the demos I played. This could easily be for charging, but I am a little suspect. I asked about the final model and was met with a no comment. I can't imagine they won't be wireless, but the streaming is so smooth (with no lag!) that is hard to believe how it works! And yes, there is no delay or inaccuracy with the touch screen. It felt just as good as anything Apple has ever released ... if not as sexy.
Rest assured, everything on the GamePad looks and handles great. It was one of my biggest concerns going into E3, but I can now leave knowing the Wii U has a tablet controller that is both functional and comfortable. Whew!