Ten years ago, Sundance DiGiovanni and Mike Sepso founded Major League Gaming, a professional electronic sports organisation headquartered in New York that sought to elevate videogames tournaments to viable competitive and spectator events. In the last decade its Pro Circuit has hosted and broadcast countless national and international championships, awarding victors with monetary prizes exceeding tens of thousands of dollars. These competitions illustrate that playing games is more than a casual undertaking to some; it’s an opportunity to fund an education, or secure a future.
When it comes to peripherals, particularly joypads, few third party companies cater to this breed of player. Sure, many may market their merchandise with punchy slogans promoting improved durability or game-changing features, though from experience the ‘style over substance’ ideology rings true too often. Not so with the MLG Pro Circuit Controller. Built by reputable manufacturer Mad Catz, its creation has been heavily influenced by feedback from elite MLG competitors. It is therefore a controller designed by gamers for gamers, but can it realistically compete with Sony Computer Entertainment’s robust and reliable DualShock 3?
On initial inspection, the MLG PCC is a hybrid of Microsoft and Sony’s first party pads. Its glossy chassis is modelled on the Xbox 360 controller, while its two convex (curving out or bulging outward) analog sticks and divided D-Pad are laid out as per the classic PS3 arrangement. But there’s much more to the product. Delve deeper into its packaging and you’ll discover a number of substitutable ancillary components, including matte finish faceplates, two concave (curving in or hollowed inward) analog sticks, an adjoined D-Pad, and an clip-on cartridge containing two 35g weights – all of which can be interchanged on-the-fly without the need for a screwdriver or similar tool.
Lift the primary faceplate from the five mini magnets holding it in place and you’ll gain access to MC’s patented ProModule system. Say you want to swap the right convex thumb stick for a concave one. Simply twist the analog module anticlockwise to unlock it, and remove it. Then, insert the replacement analog module and rotate clockwise until a click is heard. Return the faceplate and presto, job done. The MLG PCC’s hassle-free compartmental construction empowers gamers to build a controller that meets their individual preferences, be it an Xbox-style layout (left concave analog, adjoined D-Pad, right concave analog) a PS3-style layout (divided D-Pad, left convex analog, right convex analog) or an exclusive configuration somewhere in between.
The third-party pad doesn’t fail to impress from a performance perspective either. Its rubberised contours sit comfortably in the palms of your hands, and hours of continuous play can be had before your digits’ dexterity starts to deteriorate. A mandatory wired connection precludes battery-related disconnections occurring at inopportune moments, and the 3m gold-plated USB cable supplied eliminates input latency, ensuring that thumb sticks, D-Pad, face and shoulder buttons respond optimally. The most welcome function though is the trigger switch, a nifty trick oddly absent from the peripheral’s user manual. By holding down Start and Select for a few seconds you can remap the shoulder buttons so that L1 and R1 perform the actions assigned to L2 and R2, and vice versa (the joypad's controller assignment indicator lights invert to notify the user that the switch is active). To begin with I found the change disorienting, but after a few Team Deathmatches on Call of Duty I’d familiarised myself with the new set-up, and it felt so natural that I found reverting back to the PS3 norm challenging.
Despite its alluring features, the MLG PCC is marred by a few inadequacies. For one, neither of MC’s D-Pad modules cut the mustard in terms of precision. Occasionally, pushing up or down will concurrently perform a task mapped to left or right, which makes executing combos in Tekken 6, for instance, rather cumbersome. The analog sticks take a bit of getting used to also. Apply a touch too much pressure when turning and a slight adjustment accelerates to a fast revolution. As such, aligning iron sights with moving targets in first-person shooters proves extremely difficult, and even after altering my sensitivity settings I still found myself doing an increased amount of strafing with the left analog stick to compensate.
The repositioning of the Start and Select buttons is sore point as well. I imagine they were moved to lessen the likelihood of pressing them accidentally during intense gameplay moments, but their new placement makes accessing menus and scoreboards in-game an awkward affair. Last of all, the premium controller is lacking a basic PlayStation 3-specific trait: SixAxis support. To most this won’t be a deal breaker, especially considering how few games nowadays harness the technology. Nevertheless, as someone who likes to revisit Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune or Heavenly Sword from time to time, its omission is hard for me to ignore.
Maybe I’m not the videogames God I thought I was, or perhaps I’m just too used to the feel of my worn, well-used Dualshock 3. Whatever the explanation, I wasn’t able to fully adjust to the MLG Pro Circuit Controller, although that’s not to imply Mad Catz’s joypad is a poor product. Its build quality is second to none. The innovative ProModule system offers unmatched versatility and personalisation possibilities, and FPS enthusiasts will definitely value the (strangely) secret trigger switch function. Dedicated and tournament-standard players will love this peripheral, of that I am confident, but casual and budget-conscious gamers might be opposed to investing £79.99 in hardware that marginally outshines Sony’s own.
For more information on how we review games/hardware check out our criteria here. The MLG Pro Circuit Controller was provided to TheParanoidGamer by Mad Catz for the purpose of this review.