Mad Catz Fightpad Pro
March 11, 2016, Author: Andy Corrigan
Despite first discovering fighting games in the arcades during my youth, I’ve actually spent most of my life playing them with gamepads rather than arcade sticks, mainly because the SNES controller was a great fit for Street Fighter II thanks to its perfect D-pad, and most of Sony’s pads seemed tailor-made for Namco’s Tekken.
In fact, despite switching back to sticks in recent years (triggered mainly because of a thoughtful Christmas gift from my wife a few years back), my most successful period with Street Fighter IV happened when I was hammering combos on a standard Xbox 360 controller. With that, it’s natural that I still like to dabble with gamepads from time to time, and I spent considerable time with both Mad Catz’s phat and smaller offerings last-gen, always curious to see if, given my background, they could improve my form. The results were spotty.
Nonetheless, with Street Fighter now on a new generation and a fresh wave of controllers with it, including Mad Catz’s brand new Fightpad Pro, it’d be rude not to give gamepads another go, right?
Straight off the bat, the Fightpad Pro looks and feels like a huge improvement on Mad Catz’ previous pads. The old pads always looked a bit gaudy with Street Fighter art pasted without much thought across the entire casing, while the Fightpad Pro keeps things classier with minimalistic motifs. The Ryu pad (the one I opted for) is a lovely clean white, with only the black lettering from Ryu’s gloves breaking up the solid colour. Likewise, the red Ken pad makes reference to Ken’s reliance on the Dragon Punch, and the blue Chun Li pad features the infamous yellow trims from her trademark outfit. On the whole it’s a far subtler approach to design from Mad Catz on these products than we’re used to, and they look much better because of it.
Although Mad Catz have ditched the rounded, Mega Drive-inspired shape for something a bit boxier, the Fightpad Pro feels much nicer in the hands than its predecessor, and the asymmetrical design allows for two holding positions: the traditional pad grip, and the over-grip. Personally, I don’t find the over-grip particularly comfortable or helpful, but that’s down to player preference.
One benefit that the pad has over the Venom Arcade Stick I’m currently using is that it features the DualShock 4’s trademark touchpad, which enables some nifty shortcut features in Street Fighter V’s training mode. This includes resetting opponent positions quickly, allowing you to get the most out of your training time instead of fiddling around in menus.
The old pads always, in spite of their usability, seemed cheaply made and felt a bit delicate for the type of game that would see them battered massively, and this certainly isn’t the case now. The new pads feel solid and durable, as if easily capable of withstanding hard input hammering, and will probably survive the odd tantrum too.
There are, sadly, some downsides. The d-pad is frankly awful; a definite step down from the previous Mad Catz efforts. It just doesn’t have the same tactile feel, and rolling the quarter circles, particularly to the left, feels stiff and yields unreliable results, so you can forget about more complicated inputs. This will be a deal-breaker for many, but for me, when I was doing well at vanilla Street Fighter IV on a 360 pad, I was using the analogue stick.
Thankfully, in this regard, the analogue stick fares much better, matching the DualShock 4’s sticks in terms of movement and resistance, and in comparison to my time with the D-pad, I rarely failed any of my specials with it. When using the Fightpad Pro in Training Mode, I was impressed – not only was I nailing my specials as I would with an arcade stick, but I was also getting a higher success rate in terms of landing combos; they just seemed to be coming a lot more naturally…
In Training Mode.
Outside of Training Mode, however, when using the pad online against actual people that can hit me back – exactly where it really counts – I felt my reaction times were definitely suffering with the Fightpad Pro. My inputs were registering fine, technically, moves were happening, but I was constantly feeling just a fraction off the pace. This saw me lose to player types I’d usually beat, and positively demolished by players I’d at least put up a solid fight against. I can’t quite put my finger on what the problem was; the analogue stick felt great, the pad was comfortable, but something just felt wrong compared to the older pads, and ‘feel’ is one of the most important aspects when it comes to controllers and fighting games.
After playing for four hours on my first night as a Fightpad Pro owner and not winning a single fight in the process, frustrated, I switched back to my fight stick just before calling it a night. I won immediately.
I think that tells an interesting story.
Sticking with the stick…
I’m amazed at how quickly disappointment set in with the Fightpad Pro after it made so many positive early impressions with its smart design, solid build quality (D-pad not withstanding) and its feature set. Maybe I’m just too conditioned to hammering on an arcade stick these days to make an effective switch back, maybe I just need to give it a bit more time, but the difference in my results with and without the Fightpad Pro has been sobering.
As a collector of all things relating to Street Fighter, I’m happy to have it in my collection, but I’m unsure as to how much use it’s going to get over the next few years.
Please note: This article can also be found on Andy’s new fighting game blog, 1 Hit Combo.