There are controllers, and then there are controllers. Today, most of us just use whatever comes with the console, and nothing else. Microsoft or Sony did a tremendous job with their gamepads, but it has taken 3rd parties too long to match or better that quality. They just haven’t been as good. That finally changes in a big way.

The MLG Pro Circuit box is expertly crafted

Mad Catz decided to best the millions of man-hours and research put into the 360 and Dualshock controllers by aiming for the high-end consumer and not the everyman gamer. I’ve gotta say, the MLG Pro Circuit Controller fits that bill.

Available for both the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, the MLG Pro Circuit Controller shares the 360 gamepad’s shape, but what sets it apart is one feature: interchangeable parts. Faceplates are secondary. The d-Pad, analog sticks, faceplate, wrist holds, even the cable are all detachable, replaceable, and customisable. It may seem useless, but consider you’re a PS3 gamer who likes the concave 360 analog sticks. It’s an easy switch: twist the convex ones out, put the concave ones in, and done. The snap-on system isn’t as easy to open as they should be, more akin to opening a bottle of pills with that child-safety lock. Both the 360 and PS3 models are identical (save for the Xbox/PS button).

In the box is the controller, a set of analog sticks in both PS3 and 360 style, d-Pads for both, a 9′ braided cable that screws onto the controller, two weights (35g each), and a carrying case for all of the above. It isn’t wireless because it’s a pro-gamer controller. Wired controllers are faster, more reliable, are also the only ones allowed in tournaments.

I’ve been using the Pro Circuit for the past week and it’s a real pleasure to use, not just because it’s a good controller, but because of the interchangeable parts. I played through the Metal Gear Solid HD collection on the 360, but clearly the game was designed for the PS2′s Dualshock. For that game, I switched the d-Pad to the PS3′s and put it on the top left, put a 360 analog stick on the bottom left, and kept a PS3 analog stick on the right. For me, this setup was the most effective. Fast paced 360 shooters, like Modern Warfare 3, are easier for me with the PS3 right stick and 360 left stick.

In a sense, it’s like having both consoles wrapped into one. The only sad news is that because of licensing, there’s no way to get one controller that would work with both consoles.

But the Pro Circuit isn’t perfect. The face buttons are a bit mushy, especially so out of the box. They’re better after being broken in, but the style of the buttons may not appeal to all players, including pro gamers. The buttons have a lot of give, compared to the mouse-like buttons of the Razer Onza controller.

The Pro Circuit with both back panels, with and without weights

 

It’s also expensive. For $100, the Pro Circuit is an investment, one that may prove to save money. Like I wrote in my hands-on preview, I have a stack of working but worn out Xbox 360 controllers, four with completely worn out indents on the analog sticks. A set of analog sticks will be available for purchase for $15 each, which will make the controller worthwhile for the long-term. It just depends on your gaming habits. I just feel that Mad Catz is a little late to the controller game. If the Pro Circuit came out at least a year ago, it would have a much better chance to succeed and prosper. With today’s rumors of a new Xbox and Playstation within the coming year, even if the current controllers work with new consoles it limits just how well a new controller can do today.

Mad Catz will also put out additional parts for the Pro Circuit, including different style faceplates, different length cables, and potentially even different style joysticks. The MLG Pro Circuit Controller is a very solid gamepad, one with an exceptional switch system for analog sticks and d-Pads. I think that the Pro Circuit can be better over time, as more faceplate, palm rests, joysticks and d-Pads become available, though right now it’s still a great controller.

Editor’s Rating:

Rating: ★★★½☆

Very Good

Bottom Line: The MLG Pro Circuit Controller is a great gamepad that thanks to interchangeable parts is highly customizable, more than any controller before it.

Pros:

  • Comfortable gamepad
  • Interchangeable parts are a brilliant direction for a gamepad
  • A good long-term controller investment
Cons:
  • Expensive
  • Mushy, high-profile face buttons
  • Limited customizable parts










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.