Rating: ★★★★★

When playing racing games, use a wheel. For flight sims, get a flight stick. And for fighting games, I use a fight stick, the classic joystick plus six buttons layout seen in arcades. For fighting games like Street Fighter IV, that’s the most authentic experience. The problem is fightsticks – good ones anyways – are big, bulky, heavy and expensive. Using a standard gamepad sucks for fighters, so what is a price-wary gamer to do?

Then two weeks ago we got a glimpse at PDP’s Xbox 360 Versus Fighting Pad: Marvel Edition, and I was taken aback. So the good people at Performance Designed Products sent one over and I must confess, I’m enjoying the heck out of it. Almost as much as the classic arcade-style fightstick.

The Xbox 360 Versus Fighting Pad: Marvel Edition (Versus forthwith) is a smartly built, intelligently designed and exceptionally lightweight fightpad that is so stunning, I’m almost at a loss for words. As we showed originally, the decal design is daring and jam-packed characters from the recently released Marvel VS Capcom 3 (review coming soon) like Captain America, Spider-Man, Wolverine and others. There are no Street Fighter characters to be found. This is solely Marvel, thus ‘Marvel Edition’.

What’s really impressive about the Versus is how the controller feels. The buttons aren’t mushy like most controllers, but have the same clicky feel of a mouse. Each button press reverberates back into your hand and your ear, with that satisfying click acknowledging that yes, a button was pressed. This may sound useless, but for a fighting game, the difference between one pressed and one missed button is the difference between victory and defeat.

As you can see, there aren’t four, but six face buttons, identical to arcades to give the most genuine feel on an Xbox 360 controller. What’s best about these face buttons isn’t that they feel so great, but that players can press on them with either a thumb or fingers, like they would on an actual arcade stick and buttons layout. That’s thanks to the brilliant shape of the entire controller, which is made to fit firmly in the right and left hand in a standard grip, but also with the right thumb clinging to the inside of the grip and three fingers pressing the face buttons. Such a design is unexpected, but it works wonders for more classically-inclined gamers. I’ve played both ways, with thumbs and fingers, and the fact that it works excellently both ways is a testament to PDP’s brilliant design of the fightpad.

The left side is smaller but has a more defined grip to hold comfortably two ways

Then there’s the D-pad. Firstly, no analog sticks. The Versus controller eliminates both for a finely-tuned D-pad built in a large, rotund shape vastly different from most. It’s more akin to an analog stick, but clicks at each press just like the face buttons. It’s one of, if not the best D-pads I’ve ever used. The concave top is mushy and offers solid grip for the thumb. Not once has my thumb slipped atop the D-pad.

Even the triggers have the clicky feel, though I’m not fond of using them in-game. MvC3 requires a lot of buttons, and if you plan on using fingers for the face buttons, then you’ll have to forgo using the right trigger entirely. The start and back buttons sit to the left of the right trigger, which is good positioning for those buttons so they don’t get in the way or accidentally pressed. The Xbox button is also far enough to not be accidentally pressed by anyone but the most careless of gamers.

But what I’m perhaps most fond of is the lightness of the Versus. It’s so light that even after losing six rounds straight and throwing the controller in anger, it just bounced off the carpet unscathed. That light weight is surprisingly handy for a game where tensions can run very high, though the front decal can’t take too much abuse. Signs of wear appeared after just a few days. The buttons are unscathed and work just fine. The rubberized back is also tremendously smart, especially for gamers who cling to their controllers for dear life. It doesn’t get loose in the hand, doesn’t get sweaty, and still offers excellent grip.

Will a fightpad ever replace a fightstick? Problably not. But after playing Marvel VS Capcom 3 for the past week and a half with a full-blown fightstick and the Xbox 360 Versus Fight Pad Marvel Edition, this writer’s household enjoys the lighter, smaller controller for its ease of use, relative safety from harm, and excellent feel. The only downside is that it isn’t available for the Playstation 3, meaning Sony gamers have to miss out on this great controller. Great looks, excellent feel, and a top-notch design makes the Versus fightpad something to both decorate your  room and deliver an excellent gaming experience.

The Versus Fighting Pad: Marvel Edition is currently available exclusively from Gamestop for $39.99.










James Pikover

 
Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.