There’s a reason why game controllers come in so many different shapes and configurations: for all their talk, every game console is basically just a box spitting out an image on a TV screen. It’s the games that make the console what it is, but it’s the game controller that makes all the difference in just playing OK or playing awesome. The controller in your hand needs to be meaty and solid and ready to take whatever abuse you throw at it no matter what. And for sure it doesn’t hurt if it looks really good too. So when I picked up the heavy metal chassis of the ATROX Arcade Stick for Xbox 360, I knew I was holding on to something special. Two things you note right off is that it’s kind of euro-curved and that the rubber pad on the bottom will keep it from skidding when you go nuts. The Start/Back set of buttons sit on the right side and there’s a socket for the connecting cable (with break-away cable attached) at the rear for going into the Xbox. Everything else is on the sleek, shiny top, including this squiggly green line design. But if you don’t like the pattern, Razer gives you a template for making your own skin.
The two row of buttons at the top right are complimented by the joystick to the left. The ball top’s plenty big, full sized just like in the arcades and has the same hard but comfortable feel that I remember from back in the day. Better yet, a few seconds of pushing it around yields a satisfactory resistance that’s just enough feedback. If you’re a gamer, you know what I mean by this and if not a gamer, you soon will be, because a stick like this makes all the difference between playing “casual” and “hard.”
There’s a tab at the front edge that I pushed in. This caused the ATROX Arcade Stick’s top compartment to separate so I could pull it open — a strong strut holding it safely in place (showing the company’s commitment to a safe and sensible design). I could see the underside of the controls and the mass of wire connectors but also the storage space that holds the 13 foot connecting cable so you won’t forget it if you take the stick to a friend’s house. There’s also a dual-end screwdriver with magnetized tips to use for replacing the ball top with a skinnier bat top. Pushing the compartment down reengages the latching mechanism. I tried picking it up and swinging it around and even turned it upside down and the latch held.
I then turned my attention to the small series of buttons located at the top left (the guide/direction pad button with the Xbox logo on it is for Xbox specific control). These consist of a locking switch (negates the Start, Back, Xbox Guide and Turbo buttons) and a control stick switch (LS for emulating a left analog stick, RS for emulating a direction pad so that the guide/direction pad button functions), DP for emulating a right analog stick). Also there are two horizontal rows of Turbo mode buttons, which you hold down instead of tapping — this works a lot better and makes for a faster action. The top row gives you a 4X Turbo action and the bottom 8X.
So let’s give the ATROX Arcade Stick a go. I started with some simple titles where joystick control needs to be fine, rather than gross (old-school examples from the Midway collection like Marble Madness and Robotron 2084). Then I moved on to Call of Duty and Halo. The joystick’s response was right-on and the button response immediate. But what about durability? For that, I turned it over to my friend Bill’s teenage son and told him to go wild. Which he did. He pounded the hell out of the buttons and if the joystick could be yanked out from some brutal swings, this was the time to find out. It didn’t happen. About the only bad thing was how he howled when I took it back 2 weeks later. Let his dad buy him one.
Bottom line: The ATROX Arcade Stick for Xbox 360 is built to take abuse and keep on going. There’s a high level of construction overall, and the attention to detail and added capabilities found in the storage space are worth having. To play games seriously, shell out $199.99 and get this already.
Front-mounted headphone port for Xbox-compatible headset, Compatible with Windows XP/Vista/7/8, Interior electronics accessible for modding
Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and journalist specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture.