Xbox 360 Arcade FightStick (GBP 69.99)
At less than half of the price of the Tournament Edition, the standard FightStick is a more affordable and realistic proposition for most players. It has been clearly positioned as a direct rival to the widespread Hori EX2 (the official licensed stick for Dead or Alive 4, Virtua Fighter 5 and so on). While it's of a similar size, length and width as its rival, it's also much deeper, heavier and prettier, Mad Catz precision-designing its features to marginally trump the EX2 in most areas.
The core difference between the FightStick and the Tournament Edition is in size and components. It's far smaller than the premium controller and uses 'Japanese-style' parts rather than actual Sanwa Denshii components. While the stick aims for a similarly loose Japanese feel, the result is slightly stiffer, although it's a difference that's difficult to perceive outside of a direct side-by-side comparison.
In terms of button layout, the positioning of the start and select buttons and the recessed switches the controller is identical to the TE (outlined in detail above). The stick has a far more off-the-shelf build quality than its more expensive cousin, one of the rubber feet coming off the stick during our first play session. The licensed Street Fighter art isn't printed directly onto the surface plate, but instead sits on a high gloss vinyl adhesive, which has small bumps and bubbles in it right from unpacking. Nevertheless, the weight and height of the controller ensure it still feels like a quality product and for beginner and intermediate players who aren't looking for a stick to throw into a rucksack en route to a tournament, it is more than sufficient.
While we slightly prefer the feel of the EX2's ball-top stick to that of the stiffer standard FightStick, in almost every other area Mad Catz' product comes out on top. It is also far easier to modify than Hori's notoriously difficult product, so if you do feel like upgrading the parts in the future it will be a lot more straightforward.
For the vast majority of players the FightStick provides enough quality and precision to suffice, its main niggling shortcoming being the knowledge that it will always play second fiddle to the Tournament Edition.
Xbox 360 FightPad (GBP 34.99)
While Eurogamer would encourage every prospective Street Fighter IV player to take the time to learn how to play the game with a bona fide arcade stick, there will always be some players for whom the learning curve is too steep. For these players a more (less?) traditional controller is required, a gap which the FightPad hopes to fill.
Neither the PlayStation 3 nor Xbox 360 standard controllers have been designed with beat-'em-up control in mind, their d-pads blistering thumbs in minutes. In contrast, Mad Catz' FightPad is a d-pad-only controller that's been designed specifically to allow for the fluid, fast-flowing quarter- and half-turn motions that form Street Fighter's interactive building blocks.
Based on the SEGA Saturn controller, widely regarded as the greatest d-pad controller this side of a Neo-Geo Pocket, the FightPad feels a little large in the hands, closer to a Megadrive pad than the Saturn in raw size terms. At first touch the size of the controller was a slight disappointment, being slightly larger than ASCII's comparable third-party beat-'em-up peripherals, but in time we grew accustomed to its full feel in the hands.
With neither analogue sticks on the controller's face, a large floating d-pad is the only input method available to players. The size of the plastic is welcome, making inputs comfortable over long play sessions. What is most impressive is the precision of the pad, which, contrary to its loose feel, effortlessly translates complex motions to screen. As with the FightSticks, a mounted switch allows players to specify whether the d-pad controls the console's left stick, right stick or d-pad so its use extends beyond Street Fighter IV to other suitable games on the system.
The button layout again apes that of the SEGA Saturn and orthodox Japanese arcade sticks, with two rows of three buttons on the controller's face. Unlike the FightSticks, the LB/L2 and RB/R2 buttons are mounted on the pad's shoulders, rather than on the face. As you use your thumb to control the face buttons (rather than your fingers as with a stick) it's impossible to press all three punches or kicks simultaneously, meaning that the only way to trigger Ultras is to use the shoulder buttons. We found this awkward and difficult and it's the one area where the FightPad gives Street Fighter IV players a clear disadvantage.
The pad is light but the build quality is above average. The base and face of the pad uses high-gloss plastic while the back and sides are constructed from textured, soft plastic that affords players a pleasing amount of grip. As with the other products in the range, the FightPad has been thoughtfully designed. While most serious players will always opt for a stick, for players who do require a pad, in the context of Street Fighter IV the FightPad is far superior to a standard Xbox or PS3 controller. Its size and lightweight feel might put some off but the low price and thoughtful design make it a solid purchase for those looking for a well-featured orthodox pad for their consoles.
The MadCatz range of SFIV peripherals is due out for PS3 and Xbox 360 on 20th February. You can place pre-orders at Mad Catz' website, although the Tournament Edition is currently out of stock.
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