Xbox 360 Accessory Review: Mad Catz Game Pad Pro

Third party companies are going to have a problem on the Xbox 360. Microsoft's controller is brilliant, perfectly formed and designed. It's also wireless. Mad Catz produced Game Pad Pro fails to be an adequate replacement, and given the price, you'd be better off spending the extra cash for an official pad.

Coming in black or white, this breakaway, corded controller's first strike is its ergonomics. The hand grips are sharper, instead of being smoothly rounded. The bottom corners are the worst offenders, and it's not particularly comfortable to hold in long sessions. The rubber on the outside is broken up and doesn't serve much a purpose, while the rubber on the inside isn't tough enough to help in any way.

However, Mad Catz did a far better job on the bumpers compared to Microsoft. Both of these are enlarged significantly compared to Microsoft's first party pad, and they feel great. They're entirely flat, and much easier to handle.

The actual triggers are sadly not the same. These are thin, and fail to conform to anyone's fingers. Unlike nearly all other controllers with the same feature, the cheap black controller outer shell doesn't cover the space where the buttons return. As such, it's far too easy to get pinched in a tense situation, and though it's not severely painful, it's enough to recognize that it happened.

The dual analog sticks are a source of concern. They feel quite a bit like the one on the Nintendo 64 first party pad given how tall they are from the face. They offer a wide range, and in a test with Ridge Racer, pick up movement sooner than the official controller. This will cause problems though, especially in games where the L3 and R3 buttons are needed. It's nearly impossible to press these down without moving the stick, and in first-person shooters, that's life or death.

Face buttons are flat on the top, creating an effortless feel. These offer little resistance, so long play sessions save your right thumb from carpal tunnel for a least a few more years. The d-pad follows the same path, and it's surprisingly accurate. It's rare there's focus these days on standard analog pads, so for fighting game fans that don't want to push for an arcade stick, this should offer an adequate alternative (especially when combined with the face buttons).

Start, select, and the guide button are nearly inside the controller. They don't stick up from the surface at all, and it's easy to graze them expecting contact. These three buttons are tossed together at the top, and the slim, hard to even see start/select buttons is a source of concern.

The Control Pad Pro has two major differences besides aesthetic feel. A switch on the back provides gamers with the options to invert their vertical analog controls. Since the 360 allows this to be set for every game in the player's profile, it serves no purpose other than to make a cruel joke to a friend who's trying to play the latest FPS. Finally, a backlit turbo button works as advertised, though few games as of now need it.

Dropping this into someone's hand after they spend hours with the wireless masterpiece that is included with the system only makes them realize how they loved what they had. While not completely fun to hold, Mad Catz has a decent controller for someone who plans of playing a lot of fighting games just because of the d-pad. Sadly, those players will likely splurge on an arcade stick, and not a corded, cheap looking, semi-functional third party pad.

(*** out of *****)

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