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Mad Catz Pro Circuit Controller (Xbox 360)

Overall Feeling: 

The customizability of the controller is simply unprecedented. No controller has been able to offer as much customization as this one, providing the opportunity for gamers to have a truly personalized gaming experience. While the controller itself comes with multiple options out of the box, there's sure to be plenty of more options down the road for additional stick designs, d-pads and especially aesthetic changes with the magnetic faceplates, available to consumers online (and in store) as the controller evolves.

The Pros: 

+Unparalleled options for customization.

+Tournament ready wired controller design for zero latency.

+Multiple options for customizing the controller within the box. 

+Snazzy little travel-case that makes storing/carrying the controller simple.

The Cons: 

-Corded controllers might be an issue for the casual gamer (though the name itself implies this isn't really for them anyways).

-The locking mechanism for the cord at the top of the controller is long enough that it feels awkward and causes some issues with the overall balance of the controller. Rating : 

Ever since the release of the Fightstick Pro, three years ago, Mad Catz has built up their company from one that produced bargain controllers for consoles, to one that represents top-tier gear for modern consoles and professional level gaming. The Fightsticks has become all but standardized in the realm of professional-level fighting games/tournaments, and to expand on that success Mad Catz has now partnered up with the MLG (Major League Gaming) to produce a series of fully customizable controllers for both the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3.

During last year’s PAX Prime I first went ‘eyes on’ with these bad-boys, and ever since have been drooling at the thought of putting one through its paces. Now, shortly after returning from its ‘launch debut’ at this year’s CES, I’ve finally had some opportunity to play around with controller and I have to say that the controller plays as good as it looks.

The core concept for the design team was to have a controller that was fully customizable, and to that end they’ve created something entirely unique with the way that the controller functions. Beneath the magnetically locked, and customizable, faceplate is something completely modular. All three joystick/d-pad locations are removable pieces which allow gamers a simply unparalleled option for customization. As described in our brief video walkthrough, the idea is that you can have as many (or as few) joysticks and d-pads in any location that you like. This means that PS3 fans working on an Xbox can relocate the sticks to the bottom of the controller to get the placement that’s familiar to them, or of course vice versa for Xbox players. As a gamer this means that I never again have to compromise with the PS3’s controller layout, and when people (PS3 fans) come over to play some Xbox I can switch their layout in a matter of seconds (saving hours of complaints when they’re perpetually losing as a problem with the controller and how they’re not used to the layout).

The kit that comes with the controller when you pick it up includes four joysticks and two d-pads. Basically breaking down like this: There are two “Xbox style” joysticks (inverted pad with the four bumps around the edges), two “PlayStation style” joysticks (rounded with rubberized grip), an “Xbox style” d-pad (the classic “+” shape) and a PlayStation style d-pad (segmented, four individual buttons). Personally I’ve always kind of preferred the PlayStation pad, though I like everything else about the Xbox controller, so this is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to have the best of both worlds. My current configuration houses the PS d-pad and two Xbox joysticks in the traditional Xbox layout. If, for some reason, you wanted to get really crazy with it though, or perhaps just wore out your previous pad/joystick, Mad Catz did mention (during my time at CES) that they will be selling individual parts as well. That means that when you wear down the rubber on your sticks (which I’ve done, and paid for new controllers multiple times because it’s a pet peeve) you can simply replace the part, and of course there are sure to be new options for customizing down the road.

Beyond the ability to customize the look (through faceplates, which again will be offered online allowing players to customize their controller for their favourite game, or in the case of professional gamers: their team colors) and the ability to swap the layout of the controller the MLG Pro Circuit controller offers a couple of other features that players (both casual and professional) are likely to appreciate.

On the professional gamer end of things, the controller is a wired one. Professional level gamers generally prefer to make sure that there is no issue of latency with a wireless controller (though a laymen like myself would never notice it) and in several tournaments (EVO specifically) wireless controllers are even banned from play (because there can be all kinds of issues with the signals dropping mid-match or being interfered with). To that end Mad Catz decided that if you’re going to put a cord on a gaming controller, that it might as well be a solid one. The MLG Pro Circuit controller features a rather snazzy braided cord that prevents any issues of getting wound up or tangled really, and screws in (via a rather bulky little device) to the top of the controller, ensuring that there’s no issue of it accidentally popping out, while retaining the portability of the removable cord (especially when placed inside the included carry-case). While all of that is great for the professional level players, the cord did hamper my enjoyment in at least one obvious way, and one not as obvious way:

The obvious problem is that I’m a fan of wireless everything. I prefer not to feel the restrictive tug of a cord, worry about it knocking things from my coffee table (during particularly exciting bouts of gaming) or having something that someone can trip over whilst crossing the living room. I get why the decision was made (especially considering the earlier comments for some tournaments going so far as to ban wireless controllers) but I do still secretly hope they make a slightly-less pro controller with a wireless option.

The less obvious problem with the cord though is in the balance and feel. While the screw-in locking mechanism at the top of the controller is an awesome (and quite manly feeling) feature of the controller, getting to bolt in securely the cord at the top of the controller, the whole apparatus does feel somewhat extended. To put it simply: It makes things feel a little off. To put it a little more descriptive: The piece where the cord joins with the controller feels almost like one of those radio antenna that come off a RC controller. It extends far enough out of the front of the controller that you notice it. Some people online have already “solved” this problem by adjusting the weights in the back of the controller (lowering the 35g weight to the bottom slot to try and compensate for the cord’s lock at the top of the controller) but to be honest it’s a feeling that I’m still not completely over after a week of solid gaming on this thing.

The complaints that I do have about the controller are minimal, and when you consider the benefits that are offered within the fully customizable Pro Circuit controller, it’s really not even something that can do much to tip the scales at all. The MLG Pro Circuit controller, at the end of the day, is really the prime example of the phrase “best of both worlds,” or even more accurately “all worlds.” It allows for an unprecedented level of customization which will allow gamers (both pro and casual) to have a completely personalized controller. While it might cost a little more than a standard controller when jumping in out the gate ($99 as opposed to the $59 wireless from Microsoft) there are plenty of benefits there specifically with the modularity of the controller, which will make it a wise investment for all gamers.

Whether you’re someone like me, who tends to wear out sticks and would rather invest in buying a new stick then a whole new controller every couple of months, or you’re a professional level gamer looking to fine tune your experience for your next tournament run, the MLG Pro Circuit Controller from Mad Catz is a sleek sexy beast that is sure to do for Mad Catz in all other gaming fields what their FightStick Pro already did for them in the fighting game circuits.