Pro Circuit Controller is twice the controller for twice the price

, | Game reviews

So you’ve paid $100 for a Mad Catz Pro Circuit Controller for your Xbox 360 when you could have bought a regular controller for $50. Or just used the one that came with your 360 for free. What do you have to show for it?

For starters, your Pro Circuit Controller comes with a manpurse for stylish portability. You’ll be the talk of the system link party as you unzipper the side and take out — whoops, you’ve accidentally brought your beard trimmer and all its attachments. Next time, remember the Pro Circuit Controller manpurse has a small Major League Gaming logo on the side.

After the jump, enough about cases. What about the controller itself?

One of the main selling points of the Pro Circuit Controller is that you can swap out the components. This lets you choose whether your analog sticks have concave or convex surfaces. Do you want your thumbs nestled in comfortable hollows, or do you want them perched atop gentle hillocks? Furthermore, do you want your d-pad, long an Achilles heel of the 360 controller, to be a single disc or four discrete buttons? Pop off the face plate and snap the pieces you want into place.

Wait, don’t put that face plate back on yet! There’s more! Your $100 earns you the unique privilege of swapping the position of the d-pad and left analog stick. It sounds crazy, and it obviously flies in the face of dozens of man hours of usability research at the company that decided we wanted to move aside our coffee tables and hold our arms outstretched to play videogames and watch Netflix. So if you’re partial to the Playstation controller’s symmetry, this is the configuration for you.

Speaking of flying in the face of hundreds of man hours of usability research and testing, the Pro Circuit Controller situates the back and start buttons along the top of the controller, safe from the casual brush of a wayward thumb. And since this isn’t a Microsoft product, the Xbox button doesn’t dominate your controller like a green eye of Sauron peering at you from Seattle. It’s smaller and tucked discreetly at the top of the controller, making room for the Major League Gaming and Pro Circuit logo.

The triggers have a shorter and more concise pull and the shoulder buttons are deliciously clicky. There’s nothing mushy about this controller, which is where your $100 really pays off. The bottom has a hefty rubberized surface. The cord is covered in that braided nylon anti-tangle casing puppies love. It screws seriously into the controller like some Monster cable that costs $50 at Best Buy. And, yes, you have to use the cord. Wireless controllers are for people who don’t mind the lag of a signal flying from your controller to your console. Also, vinyl sounds warmer and cell phones cause brain cancer. Of course, the real advantage of a wired contoller is that I always know exactly where it is. Start at the console, follow the cord, and — voila! — I’ve found it.

Since it’s not a wireless controller, it doesn’t need a power source. So in the place where the batteries would go, the Pro Circuit Controller has a compartment that holds zero, one, or two 35 gram weights. I actually like this feature a lot. Without the battery pack, wired controllers feel insubstantial, like you’re videogaming on the moon. I’m not sure how or whether this confers any sort of competitive edge, but I keep my Pro Circuit Controller loaded with the 35 gram weights. That’s right, both of them. I’m manly that way. I do wrist curls with my Pro Circuit Controller while the levels in The Witcher 2 load.

For the most part, this is a vanity product. Unless you feel strongly about having both analog sticks at the bottom of the controller, the difference between this and a regular controller isn’t going to be dramatic for the casual gamer. But it’s a solid, hefty, reliable piece of work that I feel would serve me much better than a regular controller if I had to beat off an attacker. And it comes with its own manpurse.

3 stars
Xbox 360