With the collective profile of eSports rising over the last decade, you've seen an ever-increasing prominence of the kind of endorsed accessories and products that hover around physical sports. Gaming mice, keyboards and gamepads that promise to make you better, faster and more accurate sell to hardcore fans who want an edge in matches where split-seconds matter. So, it follows that Major League Gaming promotion would try its hand at the accessories game.
The MLG Pro Circuit Controller doesn't quite promise to turn you into a gamer who can earn thousands of dollars on the competitive circuit. But that logic kind of implied by the thing's very existence. My mitts got friendly with the gamepad over the course of a week and what follows are my impressions of this configurable accessory.
What you get is a lightweight attempt at the kind of performance-centric customisation you see in specialised gaming mice. You can swap out the two included pairs of analogue sticks -- either a pebbled, slightly grippy convex pair or a glossy concave set -- in the corresponding bays. Same goes for the d-pad, which is either segmented or a connected cross design. The draw here is that you can switch between the offset Xbox 360 stick layout or the same-plane alignment of the DualShock three for the PS3.
Prospective users should be warned that can be a bit tricky managing the pull-and-twist action required to get the sticks and pad to lock or come loose at first. The MLG Pro's face plate and grips come in two similar options -- matte or glossy -- that you can slap on more easily thanks to magnets. There's also a weight that docks into a compartment where batteries normally go on wireless controllers.
Speaking of wireless, don't go expecting that option here. Microsoft still seems to want to their own first-party pads to be the only option for cable-free play. Nevertheless, the cable's flexible but tough enough to withstand wear and tear.
Overall, the Pro Circuit Controller's a solid build, right up there with first-party controllers. The guide button feels a little small, but that seems to be a way to avoid accidental triggering during heated sessions. I didn't like the placements of the Select and Start buttons, either. Again, from what must be pro gamer considerations, moving Start away from the area of thumb action is probably a smart move. But, the bottom line is that the button's not where you're used to it being and that'll take some getting used to.
The analogue sticks seem to bear the same amount of tension, so it's not like one set moved differently than the other. I played a bit of Batman: Arkham City and Gotham City Impostors with the Pro Circuit controller and found my time in both games to be smooth and worry-free.
Did the MLG Pro make me feel more skilled? Not necessarily. But, at $US100, it's a way to make a controller feel more like your own weapon. I can certainly see branded stick, pad and plate options rolling out if this accessory's successful. You can pre-order the MLG Pro Circuit Controller now over at the Game Shark site. Becoming a pro gamer? That's all on you and how much you practice, buddy.