Review: Madcatz MLG Pro Circuit Controller

Meet Mad Catz Newest Controller

Note: This was tested on the Playstation 3. It is also available for the Xbox 360. 

We recently got our hands on the new Mad Catz MLG Pro Circuit controller for the Playstation 3, and from the moment it was unboxed, it was clear it trumped many aftermarket controllers. With any controller, really, you are stuck with whatever options you are given and have to hope for the best. For example, the PDP Afterglow controller is slightly smaller than the stock PS3 controller with the Xbox 360 analog stick layout. But the sticks were concave, so I trashed the controller. Mad Catz has an answer for that, but at a steep $99.99 US pricetag.

With a unique modular design, the Pro Circuit controller allows players a very customized experience. After you unbox this glorious controller and pick it up, you’ll immediately notice the extra weight and soft, velvety backing. The weight is added due to an interchangeable  weight cartridge with two 35 gram weights in it. You can remove one weight or replace the whole piece with a cover. Even without the weights, the controller is heavier than the standard Dualshock controller.

The back’s texture offers great grip during intense situations (ie. Major League Gaming), and when my hands started to sweat, there was no slipping off or re-gripping the controller, unlike my Dualshock. While the back surface can’t be replaced, the front can. The front plates can be swapped out between matte and gloss finishes. The middle, larger piece is easy to remove and attach, but also stays in place like it should thanks to small magnets. The small side pieces (the “legs” of the controller) were a little harder to swap off and on, but once you decide which finish you want, it shouldn’t be an issue. I preferred the matte finish just because it matched the rest of the controller, though the shiny finish didn’t actually feel any different during gameplay (as opposed to having the shiny finish on the back, which would have felt different).

Back to the modules, this is what truly sets this controller apart and puts it in the major leagues. The Pro Circuit controller comes with a pair of D-Pads, a pair of convex analog sticks and a pair of concave analog sticks. After lifting off the front plate, you turn the module counter-clockwise to unlock and remove it. The analog sticks (both styles) have little notches around the base, making the whole process a lot easier. The D-Pads, though, don’t, so you actually had to use the lifted button part to get a grip and lock/unlock it. I found that to be a small problem, and didn’t like switching D-Pads at all.

One of the D-Pads is a cross-style, while the other is button-style. I preferred the seperated, button-style as opposed to the other when playing shooters. But if I was using the button-style one to navigate menus, if I didn’t hit it just right it also moved in another direction. However, this could have been me not being used to the setup I was using (X360-style).

Both of the analog options have the same tension setting as the other. After going back and forth with the Dualshock and Pro Circuit controllers, the Mad Catz offering has a much stiffer analog stick. This is something that might be easier for X360 gamers to get used to, but someone who only plays on a PS3 might have some issues getting comfortable with the difference in tension.

The varying degrees of controller layout offer each individual player their own way to play. You can play with the standard Dualshock option, the standard X360 option, or any mix in between. For awhile, I played with a X360 layout that had a concave left stick, button-style D-Pad, and a convex right stick. But I eventually went back to my comfort zone of having dual convex sticks.

The controller is also considerably bulkier than my usual Dualshock controller. It has the X360 shape, and even the triggers resemble the X360. The Home, Start and Select buttons are all positioned towards the top of the controller which made certain things more difficult. I’m sure it keeps some people from accidentally hitting those buttons (I don’t run into that problem, myself), but when you are playing Battlefield 3, my shooter of choice, it made it much more difficult to spot people with the Select button.

If you are looking for a wireless option, look elsewhere. While the 9 foot cable has considerable length, certain home-gaming situations just don’t work well with me (and I’m sure some other people). That said, this is designed for competitive gamers, specifically MLG combatants. For those unfamiliar with their rules; you can’t take controllers that have a “turbo” or “macro” option, and controllers have to be wired if not stock controllers. Mad Catz was thoughtful and designed one sturdy cable that actually screws into place.

A last minute addition to the Pro Circuit controller is a “reverse trigger mode”. I saw this advertised and it wasn’t in the manual, though I have been told this will be fixed for future manual prints. Holding the Start and Select button (it should be noted this is a PS3-only feature) for around 5 seconds will reverse the L1/R1 and L2/R2 trigger functions. I played the first night with the standard setting and it just wasn’t comfortable at all. After enabling this mode, everything felt more natural with this particular controller.

All of these goodies, and the controllers still give you more. How about a nice little carrying bag? It fits nice and snugly, so you can take the ownage with you anywhere you go.

If you want to replace your standard controller, and want something more customizable, the Pro Circuit controller from Mad Catz has you covered. In the future, different colored modules and plates are going to be available too, so you can not only own the battlefield, but do it in style.

However, if you are not into competitive gaming, and just need a new controller, the high price-tag may be a big factor in your decision on purchasing or not.

Pros:

  • Modular design offers multiple controller configurations
  • Soft, velvety backing gives great grip
  • Ease of swapping parts on the fly, and a carrying case to keep everything together

Cons:

  • High price-tag
  • Re-positioning the Home, Start and Select buttons
  • Difference in tension between the Pro Circuit and Dualshock analog sticks

Score: 4/5

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Author: Don Parsons View all posts by
Starting out as a founding member of Gamingcore Podcast, Don ventured on to start Gameciety; which began as a podcast, and ended as a blog. Don now handles Vagary.tv's PR work, is part of the reviews staff and has various other little projects he does for the site.