Wherein the author reviews the newly released Mad Catz MLG Pro Circuit Controller and compares it to the OEM Microsoft Xbox Controller and the Razer Onza. The Playstation DUALSHOCK3 is also featured briefly.
In August of last year, Mad Catz announced a series of Major League Gaming branded accessories. While the MLG logo emblazoned FightStick was simply a Tournament stick with new decals, the other product announcement got gamers’ attention: a new controller design with customizable inserts, allowing users to configure the layout according to their own preferences, potentially freeing the gamer from the sloppy and inaccurate clutches of the Xbox 360 dpad (and to be honest, the dpad was 90% of the reason I ordered the MLG Pro Circuit Controller).
Last week, the new controller finally shipped, and I’ve got a few solid days of testing in. How does it stack up against the competition?
Like most of the offerings since the Great & Sudden Mad Catz Quality Turnaround, the MLG controller feels solid and well-built. With the controller packaged in a two-sided flip up container with display windows, the unboxing experience is pleasant, reminding one that yes, I really did just pay $99 for a third party game controller.
But whatever. Kudos on the nice presentation, but is it any good?
Where controllers are concerned, I’m an Xbox apologist. The OEM 360 controller is one of the most comfortable I’ve used, is arranged smartly, and aside from the horrible dpad, features generally excellent buttons and sticks all around. The PlayStation controller, on the other hand, has an awkward legacy design that feels too small for my hands and convex sticks positioned too close to each other, but a responsive dpad and face buttons.
The Mad Catz and Razer controllers take design cues from the 360 controller, with each improving on its deficiencies in differing ways. Both controllers resolve the slow-turn issue that some have seen with the OEM sticks, with the Onza going a step further, letting the user adjust the stiffness of the sticks via a twisting torsion control.
Mad Catz, on the other hand, has done something entirely new, allowing the user to completely remove and relocate the two sticks and dpad (the face buttons cannot be swapped out), rearranging them into preferred positions or replacing them entirely with new variations that are expected to be released sometime soon. Assuming the next console revision doesn’t change up the controller scheme, I can see gamers using the Mad Catz MLG Pro Circuit Controller well into the next generation.
Both Razer and Mad Catz have relocated the Start and Back buttons, the Razer’s positioned at the bottom of the controller face, the Mad Catz’ up top, just above the Guide button. While each lessens accidental presses, I find the Razer Start/Back buttons easier to reach and more convenient for games that use them often.
Buttons & Triggers
I like the bumper and trigger buttons on both the Onza and MLG Pro Circuit Controller. The assignable extra set of bumpers on the Razer are fun to have around (I usually have the top right mapped to Back, for example), but I haven’t found myself missing them in any way on the MLG controller. There were rumors for a time that the MLG would feature the ability to swap trigger/bumper assignments, but there’s nothing of the sort in the final version. Sure, it would’ve been a nice touch (Hi Dark Souls!), but the lack of such an option isn’t a deal breaker.
Bonus! Fan of the Mad Catz MLG Pro Circuit Controller? Here’s a 1680×1050 desktop background version of the above image.
The face buttons on the Mad Catz MLG Pro Circuit Controller feel very much like the 360 OEM setup, with comparable button travel and resistance. I’ve never really had a problem with the 360 buttons, and these are just as serviceable in use.
The Razor Onza microswitch buttons, on the other hand, are extremely sensitive and tactile, requiring only the slightest touch to activate. They do take a bit of getting used to, and even after months of use I still occasionally fumble in games that have both tap and press to hold actions assigned to the face buttons (hi Skyrim!). I can see some gamers preferring them over the OEM and Mad Catz buttons, but I give the edge to Mad Catz here.
One other minor point: the Razer face buttons are backlit, while the Mad Catz are not.
The Mad Catz MLG Pro Circuit Controller ships with two pairs of sticks: one concave dimpled set, matching the Xbox standard, and one textured convex set, similar in feel to those on the DUALSHOCK 3.
As far as I can tell, both sets function exactly the same and are roughly the same height, so choosing one or the other will depend entirely on your comfort preferences. I like the concave dimpled sticks, myself.
Thank you, Mad Catz, thank you!
Not only has Mad Catz been kind enough to give us two dpads â€“ an Xbox style one-piece over the base dpad and a PS3 style separated nubs under the base dpad â€“ but both of them are good! While I prefer the PS3 DUALSHOCK 3 pad mounted in the Xbox position, both are responsive, accurate, and well constructed. A notable improvement over the original (and the Razer), I can’t say enough good about ’em.
Razer tried, bless their hearts, but the Onza dpad is as bad as the one on the OEM Xbox 360 controller, just in an entirely different way. While the 360 dpad is sloppy and inaccurate, the Onza dpad is clunky with a ridiculous amount of travel. Sure, it’s great for weapon switching or to call up menus, but for games that use the dpad as a primary means of control, it’s awful. That’s unfortunate, as the rest of the controller is so well designed.
The MLG Pro Controller ships with an entire extra set of magnetic plates that attach to the face and grips of the unit, letting the user choose between the lightly textured matte or shiny smooth plates. I prefer the matte plates, and set aside the shiny ones for a paint job sometime in the future.
A quick note about cables. Thanks to Microsoft’s stranglehold on their wireless format and the baffling disdain of the hardcore towards wireless, both the Razer and Mad Catz controllers are wired. They each make up for this with extra-long braided cabling, with the Mad Catz MLG Controller going a step further, allowing the user to unscrew and detach the cable completely for storage. A good idea in theory, but in practice, the extra bulk of the cable attachment brings the center of gravity on the MLG Controller too far forward. Luckily, this can be mostly counteracted by the included weights that fit in where the battery on a wireless controller would go. I’ve found the best balance by using only the rear-most weight, but I’m sure everyone will have their own preference.
Speaking of weight, out of the other three controllers, I believe the DUALSHOCK3 is the lightest, followed by the Onza, with the Xbox OEM the heaviest of the bunch. Without any of the weights added, the Mad Catz MLG Pro Circuit Controller sits somewhere in the middle, but once the two 35g weight cartridges are in place, it’s noticeably heavier than the others.
To complete the package, Mad Catz includes an MLG-branded case to store the controller and all your extra bits in. The compartment walls are velcro so you can rearrange them as you please, and the case is padded enough to keep everything fairly secure.
So is the Mad Catz MLG Pro Circuit Controller worth $99? The OEM 360 controller is by no means a bad controller. If you have no complaints with it, then hell, keep what you’ve got and game on. But if you do, and if you have no problem spending a little extra on a quality piece of kit, chances are that Mad Catz has resolved your issues with the release of the MLG Pro Circuit Controller. You’ll be happy with this one.
Honestly, my only real complaint with the Mad Catz MLG Pro Circuit Controller (if you can even call it a complaint) is that it doesn’t magically work with both the PS3 and Xbox 360. That’s a shame, as it means I’ll probably end up doling out another hundred bucks down the road for the PS3 compatible version. What can ya do.
Is it worth the upgrade cost if you already have a Razer Onza? If you cherish the idea of a quality XBox 360 dpad, or want nothing more than the PS3 stick layout on your 360 controller, then yes, it absolutely is. Otherwise, aside from the input swapping, the Mad Catz MLG Pro Circuit Controller does lack the bells and whistles of the Razer Onza. I don’t miss them, but your story may be different, so try to get your hands on one for a few days to give it a shot before buying. Still, I have a feeling that if you’re currently watching the controller landscape even after owning an Onza, you’ll probably end up siding with the Mad Catz.