capsule review

Mad Catz MLG Pro Circuit Xbox 360 Controller

At a Glance
  • Mad Catz Inc. MLG Pro Circuit Xbox 360 Controller

    PCWorld Rating

    This high-end Xbox 360 controller feels great and includes plenty of hardcore gamer-friendly features, but you'll pay a premium price for it.

The Mad Catz Major League Gaming Pro Circuit controller has arrived, and it is good. However, its premium construction and tweakability come at a steep cost that only hardcore gamers (or generous gift-givers) can stomach. That's why we ran it by the four top gamers in the PCWorld office to see whether the quality is worth the cost.

When it comes to console gamepads, you used to be able to count on the original manufacturer's controllers to be the gold standard for quality and feel, and the third-party peripheral makers were relegated to throwing in mostly-useless features onto sub-par pads and hoping they could undercut Nintendo or Sony's gamepads by a few bucks. The MLG Pro Circuit controller ($100) changes the game; you could opt for a standard wired Xbox 360 controller for $30 ($35 for wireless), or spend over three times that for the MLG Pro Circuit controller.

That $100 price tag gets you a well-constructed gamepad with responsive, clicky buttons, two removable 35g controller weights, two removable faceplates (matte black and glossy black), a three-meter braided controller cable (this controller doesn't do wireless because wireless controllers typically aren't allowed in major competitions), a set of four swappable analog sticks and two directional pads, an adapter for the Xbox 360 headset, and a case to keep all this gear in.

This gamepad is the Xbox 360 equivalent of the Mad Catz Cyborg R.A.T.7 gaming mouse, except instead of molding a mouse to fit your hand, you can swap out different kinds of directional pads and analog sticks to match your preference. For example, you can swap the position of the d-pad and left analog stick to match the PS3 configuration, or swap the Xbox-style concave analog sticks out for PS3-style convex analog sticks, or mix and match the two types as you prefer.

Patrick Miller, How-Tos Editor

I'm probably the least qualified person to test this controller, as I prefer arcade sticks for my fighting games and rarely turn on my Xbox for anything else. Nonetheless, fighting games are a true test of any game controller's usability--if your gamepad can make a fighting game feel playable to an arcade stick veteran, it's a pretty darn good controller. So I put it through its paces with Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition, and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3.

Frankly, I can't stand using the analog sticks for fighting games, so I chose to use a directional pad (the Xbox-style full cross, not the PS3-style segmented d-pad) in the slot usually used for the left analog stick. It felt great. Normally, I have problems with getting unintentional jumps in HD Remix with the Xbox 360 d-pad, but I didn't have a single problem with inaccurate inputs on the directional pad and the buttons felt responsive, offered great feedback, and were easy to press. The gamepad also fared well enough on Third Strike and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, though I personally don't think either game is ideal for a pad.

I also played an hour of bullet-hell spaceship shooter Ikaruga to test out the analog sticks. I stuck to the standard Xbox-style concave analog sticks and noticed that they gripped my thumb nicely--I never had to exert any downward pressure on the sticks to make sure my thumb stayed on them, which was nice because I never had to worry about any accidental L3 inputs.

The MLG Pro Circuit is a really nice controller, and if I played any games that required a gamepad, I wouldn't have a problem shelling out the $100 for the MLG Pro Circuit model. My favorite layout used the Xbox-style parts, with the main stick or d-pad (depending on the game) in the leftmost position, and the matte black faceplates. Don't buy it anticipating you'll be constantly swapping parts in and out--I'm willing to bet that most people will find a set of parts they like best overall and stick with them.

Nate Ralph, Desktops Guru

A professional-grade gamepad like this separates the wheat from the chaff, but I find myself firmly entrenched amongst the latter. The buttons feel great, being suitably responsive and giving a nice, audible clack when they’re pressed. Swapping the controller’s inputs around is nice, albeit a bit gimmicky -- I swapped the positions of the left analog and directional pad, but I don’t see much use in ever moving them around much. Ditto for the multitude of controller input options; I stuck with the standard Xbox 360 offerings, but new options released later on could be neat, if only for their cosmetic value.

Lots to like. But I kept finding my attention drawn back to that cable, arguably the controller’s raison d’être. I get it: a wired connection to the console will all but eliminate perceived latency, and that’s oh-so important for serious gamers. And while I’d never dream of depending on a wireless connection to get my PC or console connected to the internet, when it comes to console controls I just don’t care. While camped out on the couch I tend to flop about in all manner of un-ergonomic poses, and that wired connection added a bit of extra weight in just the wrong place. It’s a distraction -- my insect-brain wants to focus on maintaining that perfect line in Pac-Man CE DX, but I’m thinking about keeping the controller upright, to cut down on the cable’s drag. It’s a fine controller, but give me wireless any day -- we’ll just blame my horrific Gears of War kill-to-death ratio on controller latency.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    This high-end Xbox 360 controller feels great and includes plenty of hardcore gamer-friendly features, but you'll pay a premium price for it.

    Pros

    • Swappable ProModules allow for customization.
    • Great build quality.

    Cons

    • Expensive.
    • No wireless option.
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