There’s no denying that Mad Catz has "second run" reputation to many seasoned gamers. The Mad Catz controller was the one your mom mistakenly bought for you for Christmas and the one you always made you friends use when they came over to play N64. Recently, however, the company has been working hard to turn around their reputation of making second-class controllers. And with this year’s lineup, they’re on the right path.
The first peripherals I saw were Mad Catz’ latest line of fight sticks for both Street Fighter X Tekken and SoulCalibur V. The fight sticks are both designed to the specifications of Capcom and Namco’s button/stick layouts, and even the buttons are placed at just the right angle to resemble the original arcade machines. Designed for comfort and stability, the sticks offer a nice wrist rest and feature sturdy (and for some smaller gamers, a bit too heavy) construction.
But at the end of the day, they’re just some really nice fight sticks. What really sets Mad Catz’ sticks apart is the fact that for the cost of a $20 kit, you can combine two sticks—or as many as you want—to create your very own arcade feel. Bringing the shoulder-bumping excitement of playing right next to your opponent to a living room is an awesome feat. Even more so is the fact that when combined, the sticks are a millimeter-per-millimeter replica of a Japanese arcade machine.
If handheld controllers are more your thing when beating the piss out of your friends; the FightPad SD is another solid piece of hardware. Built smaller than previous fight pads, it fit better in my hands and felt more natural than other fight pads. New to this round of controllers, both PS3 and Xbox 360 controllers are wired, as wireless controllers are generally banned at tournaments. But don’t worry, with a nine-foot cord, you won’t be sitting too close to your TV.
For anyone still unconvinced of Mad Catz’ return from…wherever they were; the coup de grâce of this year’s lineup is their MLG Pro Circuit Controller. The name of the game with this controller is “customize.” The wired competition controller aims to fill the need of each and every competitive gamer in one fell swoop. Three different vanities on the controller are easily removable and replaceable. The back of the controller is loaded with two different weights so you can get the controller to feel just right in your hand—for example, if you’re more accustomed to the lighter PS3 controller you can remove all of the weight.
What most impressed me; however, were the controller’s removable components. Each joystick and the d-pad are removable and replaceable. If you want two PS3 convex sticks on the bottom of the controller, you can have that. You can even have the PS3’s superior d-pad. Hell, if you want an Xbox stick on one side and a PS3 stick on the other, it’s a matter of twisting it out and replacing it. To sweeten the deal, Mad Catz has included each of these components with the controller. The final feature of the Pro Circuit Controller is the ability to switch the trigger layout even if game controls don’t allow it. This is particularly useful for gamers unhappy with the PS3’s sometimes uncomfortable trigger layout.
Though I didn’t actually get to play on any of the controllers, they certainly seemed competent. Time will tell if a lot of awesome features will make these controllers the choice of pro gamers across the globe, or if they just end up in the hands of lesser-liked friends.