The Great Controller Showdown

So, pro gaming has grown immensely in recent years and while it typically doesn’t intersect with my normal day to day activities.  One thing that eventually drew my attention was the influx of controllers targeting the pro-gamer demographic.  Now, first-party controllers have typically been the “expensive” controllers while third-parties filled the budget gap with less expensive accessories.  This new pro-gamer angle however, seems to have reversed this arrangement.  Pro-controllers often go anywhere from $80-$100 at retail, compared to $50 or so for a standard first-party controller.  This was insane!  Given time and the power of the internet, I was able to take some of these controllers out for a spin and see why, if at all, these controllers were worth the premium.  I was able to get my hands on 4 controllers and have summed up my thoughts below.

But first!

New Games

This might get a bit lengthy

  • Bravely Default – Collector’s Edition (3DS)
  • South Park: The Stick of Truth (360)
  • Fallout 3 – Game of the Year Edition (360)
  • Fallout: New Vegas – Ultimate Edition (360)
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Legendary Edition (360)
  • Titanfall (360)
  • Torchlight (XboxLive Arcade)
  • Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (Wii U)
  • Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection (PS3)
  • Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance – Wal-Mart Soundtrack Edition (PS3)
  • Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (PS3)
  • Brothers in Arms: Double Time (Wii)
  • Civilization: Revolution (Xbox GoD)
  • Deadlight (XboxLive Arcade)
  • Deadpool (360)
  • Dust: An Elysian Tail (XboxLive Arcade)
  • Hitman: Absolution (Xbox GoD)
  • Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
  • Sleeping Dogs (Xbox GoD)
  • Toy Soldiers: Cold War (XboxLive Arcade)
  • The 7th Guest (PC Digital)
  • The 11th Hour (PC Digital)
  • Harvester (PC Digital)
  • I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream (PC Digital)
  • Shadow Man (PC Digital)
  • System Shock 2 (PC Digital)
  • Wizardry 6: Bane of the Cosmic Forge (PC Digital)
  • Wizardry 7: Crusaders of the Dark Savant (PC Digital)
  • Wizardry 8
  • Street Fighter 25th Anniversary Collector Set (360)
  • Tales of Symphonia Chronicles – Collector’s Edition (360)
  • Injustice: Gods Among Us – Collector’s Edition (360)
  • Saint’s Row the Third (Xbox GoD)

Not a bad haul.  Xbox Live’s Games for Gold and a Humble Bundle are partially to credit for the length of this list.  I was interested in trying out Watch Dogs and Hitman: Absolution so I’m really glad to have gotten these for free.  I used to own a copy of I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream for the PC.  I never got to play it as it required some DOS emulation to get running, plus I let a friend borrow it who then lost it.  I love the short story through and I’m curious to see how it translated into the game.

I got four major Collector’s Editions in this haul, Bravely Default, Tales of Symphonia Chronicles, Injustice: Gods Among Us, and the Street Fighter 25th Anniversary Collector Set.  All of these are quite awesome and will be seen in LE Reviews in the near future!  Now the copy of Metal Gear Rising I got was an exclusive Wal-Mart version that included a soundtrack.  This is the same soundtrack that is included in the Collector’s Edition.  As much as my collector’s nature compels me to want Rising’s Collector’s edition, looking at its contents, I just can’t bring myself to buy it given its inflated price because of a lamp.  Maybe I’ll pick it up one day when its insanely cheap but until then I’m happy with just the soundtrack.

Controller Showdown

Group ShotSo here’s a group shot of our competitors, along with with a standard 360 Wireless controller for scale. These are all for the Xbox 360.  In most cases, a PS3 version is also available.

PDP Battlefield 4 Controller

PDP Battlefield 4 Controller PDP Battlefield 4 ControllerPDP Battlefield 4 Controller 

I’m not sure if this guy is technically a “pro” controller but it does include a few features that are common to some of the other controllers on this list.  Originally retailing for $49.99, it actually matches the price of the stock wireless controller and is the lowest MSRP of all controllers on this list.

Its first major feature is the addition of two multi-function wheels along the back.  Three of the controller’s buttons can be mapped to each wheel.  Each wheel can be rotated up or down and can be pressed to trigger a mapped command.  There are two relatively minor issues with the wheels.  The first has to do a bit with the controller itself.  As seen in the group shot, its a bit smaller than the other controllers.  This isn’t a huge issue save that you have to learn to use the wheels not with the tips of your fingers but with the knuckle right below it.  Otherwise you need to curl your fingers to use the wheels, which can wear on your fingers after extended use.

The controller also has a removable cable like several other controllers on this list.  Unlike the other controllers however, this controller uses a standard USB to Mini-USB connector, which can have uses elsewhere.  The controller’s other features are mostly cosmetic.  The controller has a Battlefield 4 logo that lights up when the controller is connected and zinc-alloy triggers, both of which look neat but don’t really add much functionality.

The big question mark is the controller’s “SmartTrack” technology which is supposed to fine tune the thumbsticks to be more accurate or something.  I felt the thumbsticks responded very well.  I don’t know if the controller was just built well or if there is some technological wizardry going on but I like how they felt.

PowerA Fus1on Tournament Controller

DSCF6759PowerA Fus1ionPowerA Fus1ion  PowerA Fus1ion

The PowerA Fusion controller is the only controller in our lineup that lacks a removable cable.  It also lacks any real worthwhile  features. It features a braided cable and comes with a carrying case, features that the remaining controllers on this list will include.

The controller’s biggest feature would be the design of the thumbsticks themselves.  Compared to the rest of the controllers in the group shot, the sticks on this controller are immense.  This is supposed to allow for finer control and reduce strain over long sessions..  I didn’t notice this too much but I also suspect that I’m perhaps a little less attuned to this that some of the more intense players out there.

The controller has illuminated sticks and buttons whose color can be changed with the press of a button.  This doesn’t affect gameplay much and I often find myself turning off completely, especially if I’m playing in a darkened room.  The controller also includes a pair of grips for that change the feel of the handles on the controller.  Its a neat feature but their solution, requiring a screwdriver (included), seems to be a bit inefficient for what really should be a simple task.

It should be noted that this controller includes possibly the most elaborate packaging of all the controllers on display.  The carrying case is relatively large and seems designed to impress just as much as it is design to hold the controller.  With an original MSRP of $79.99, I think this controller is a bit too expensive for what you’re getting.

Onza Sabertooth

DSCF6752DSCF6753Razer SabertoothRazer Sabertooth 

The Razer Sabertooth is an updated version of Razer’s Onza controller.  The Onza received mixed reviews, and criticism for its D-Pad in particular.  The Sabertooth was Razer’s attempt to address the issues with the Onza and it looks like they did a darn good job of it.  The Sabertooth includes a total of 6 programmable buttons; one between each shoulder button and trigger, plus 2 rocking triggers on the back that can map two buttons each.  The controller can also save 2 sets of controller mappings that can be switched between with the touch of a button.

The rocking triggers on the back are removable in case you would prefer to play without them and a screwdriver is for removing them is included.  Also included are a pair of green thumbstick grips not that they’re exactly necessary but they’re there if you’d like them.  The thumbsticks are slightly taller than the sticks on a standard controller, providing some finer aiming control.  The D-Pad is segmented, appearing a lot like the Playstation D-Pad at first glance.  The major difference is while the D-Pad is segmented on the outside of the controller, it is a single piece of plastic.  On the Sabertooth, each button is entirely separate, making the d-pad very accurate.

Also of note are the face buttons, which feel a lot less squishy than they do on the standard controller and don’t have to be pressed as deep to be activated.  Its a minor addition but its noticeable and appreciated.  The cable on the controller is removable and screws onto the main body to provide a secure connection.  The final major feature is the small OLED screen on the controller which is used for programming the additional buttons, enabling/disabling the face button illumination, and reviewing/testing the face buttons and sticks.

Finally, the case is compact, holds the controller securely and has space for holding the rest of the controller’s accessories.  This controller retailed for $79.99, the same as the Fusion but is easily the better choice.  In fact, I’d say this is my favorite controller of all the ones I’m showing today.

MLG Mad Catz Pro Circuit Controller

MLG Pro Circuit Controller DSCF6758 DSCF6770MLG Pro Circuit Controller

This is the MLG version of Mad Catz’ Pro Circuit controller and wow!  This is an amazing controller.  It lacks some fancy features like backlit buttons or additional programmable buttons (MLG regulations actually forbid programmable button) but this thing is customizable in a way none of the other controllers on this list can even touch.

The controller is modularly designed  The main body is the base and you can swap thumbsticks and d-pads as you like.  Playing on the 360 but prefer the PS3’s layout with the sticks on the inside?  feel free to set them up like that.  In addition, the controller comes with two pairs of thumbsticks.  One pair matching the 360’s concave pads and one with the PS3’s domed pads.  The domed pads can actually be screwed off, allowing you to add spacers (sold separately) to increase the height of the sticks for finer aiming and can be replaced with a pair of concave style tips (sold separately).  Also sold separately are additional thumbsticks that vary in tightness allowing for further customization.  The same goes for the D-pad.  The controller includes a PS3 style D-Pad and a Nintendo-style cross pad but other styles can be bought.

The front of the controller is divided into three sections, the main body, and the two grips, which can be swapped out between matte and glossy versions.  In addition Mad Catz sells additional colors allowing you to customize the controller as you see fit.  This system, unlike the Fusion’s clumsy method, is done using magnets so swapping is easy but still secure.  The braided cable screws on like with the Sabertooth controller but with a more heavy-duty type of connection.  Replacements in different colors are also available.

There is a compartment on the back that can be kept mostly flat (pictured) but can be replaced with a different cover that holds one or 2 of the included 35g weights, allowing you some customizability even in the controller’s weight.  The controller’s carrying case is also cuztomizable.  The dividers have velcro tips on each end, allowing you to change the interior layout to whatever works best for you.

All this customization doesn’t come cheap.  This controller is the most expensive all the ones shown here today, coming it at $99.99.  It seems though that MadCatz has released a new version of the controller that drops the MLG branding as well as some of the included accessories (which can be bought later) and is selling it for $79.99.

Conclusion:

So which is my favorite?  I think I mentioned above that the Sabertooth is my favorite and that’s because the things it does compliment how and what I like to play.  I love the programmable buttons and I find it hard to believe I used to play competitive shooters without them.  The Mad Catz Pro Circuit controller comes in at second place.  Its got an amazing level of customization, making sure you have the controller you need, be it an FPS or a fighting game.  The PDP Battlefield 4 controller comes in at third place but don’t take that to mean its a bad controller.  It feels really good in the hands and has the multi-function wheels which serve the same purpose as the extra buttons on the Sabertooth.  Its a little smaller so it may be more comfortable for those with smaller hands and perhaps not the wisest of choice for my bigger-handed readers.  Finally, there’s the Fusion controller.  I find this hard to recommend.  It really feels like a generic third-party controller in a very fancy box.  Find it cheap and give it a shot if you’re curious and think you’ll notice a difference with its massive thumbsticks but I just don’t feel this controller brings enough to the table compared to the other options out there, including the stock Xbox 360 controller.

There are certainly more Pro Level controllers out there.  The biggest one that I didn’t cover are probably the scuff controllers which have an interesting set of features and partnered with MLG.

Street Fighter 25th Anniversary Collector Set

 Street Fighter 25th Anniversary


Included:

  • Street Fighter x Tekken/Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition
  • Downloadable games and Add-On Content
  • Street Fighter 25th Anniversary Film Collection
  • Ryu lightup figurine
  • Hardcover Tribute Art Book
  • Ryu Belt
  • 11-Disc series soundtrack
  • Numbered Letter of Authenticity
  • Box

Street Fighter X Tekken/Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition

    A copy of the two most recent games in the Street Fighter series (up to that point) together with cover art unique to this set.

Downloadable Games and Add-On Content

The set includes a download codes for Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, Street Fighter III: Third Strike and costume packs for Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition and Street Fighter X Tekken.  The set includes a single code that must be redeemed through a Capcom site for a set of XBox Live Tokens.

Street Fighter 25th Anniversary Film Collection

A 2-Disc Blu Ray set that contains a Street Fighter Documentary, Street Fighter 2: The Animated Movie, Street Fighter IV: The Ties that Bind, Super Street Fighter IV: Original Film, Street Fighter: The Animated Series.

Ryu Light Up Figurine

A roughly 8″ tall figurine of Ryu that lights up (with the 2 included AAA Batteries).

Hardcover Tribute Art Book

64-Page hardcover book collecting tribute art from a variety of artists.

Ryu Belt

A full-sized replica of Ryu’s Belt.

11-Disc Series soundtrack

Soundtrack CDs spanning the series history covering Street Fighter, Super Street Fighter II: Turbo, Street Fighter Alpha 3, Street Fighter III: Third Strike, Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition, and Street Fighter X Tekken, plus an extra disc of Fan-Made Mixes, and a disc of original Fan-Made music.

Numbered Letter of Authenticity

A numbered letter from series producer Yoshinori Ono.  Mine happens to be 18,702 of 30,000.

Box

A really nice box that holds everything neatly in place.

Wow!  And I’m not even that big of a Street Fighter fan!  This is an amazing set that does the series justice.  With an MSRP of $150 but routinely available cheaper nowadays, this set really tries to make itself worth the money.  The set includes Street Fighter X Tekken, which was less than a year old at the time and Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition, a mountain of DLC for each game, and Street Fighter II & III which could make up half of the the set’s $150 price tag.

The rest of the set could easily make up the rest of the price tag.  The 11-Disc Soundtrack could probably set you back $100 on its own and covers most of the major entries in the series and even gives a shout out to the community by including their work on two of the 11 discs.

I’ve mentioned that I’m not a big fan of statues and figurines but the Ryu figure here isn’t big enough to get in the way but still detailed enough to remain impressive.  The light up feature is a nice addition.  The Tribute Art Book is a really nice step up from the usual undersized art books.  Its not quite on the level of Skyrim’s coffee table quality book but its a still a great book that pays due respect to the series’ history.

The Film Collection is an impressive collection of animation from across the series’ history and the belt seems to be a good quality martial arts belt.  I haven’t measured to see how long it is but it seems like it would make a great little showpieces or a good part of a cosplay outfit.  The box has a foil-stamped cloth exterior which holds everything securely, which elevates it above a standard cardboard box that just holds everything.

Even at its full price, the contents of this collector set is easily worth its asking price.  Nowadays this set can be found as cheap as $50, which is an absolute steal.  This is definitely a worthy tribute to one of gaming’s biggest series.  Sure, any big enough fan to want to pick this up would likely own all the games it includes but the set includes plenty of worthwhile extras to make this a great deal for fans, whether they’ve been with the series since the beginning, or if they’re curious about jumping in.