I’ve used a few Mad Catz controllers in my time and really liked the old MicroCon ones that were made for the original Xbox. So, I was looking forward to see what they had up their sleeve with their Call of Duty: Black Ops PrecisionAIM controller that I first saw at E3. Mad Catz sent one for me to test out and I took it for a spin in, well, Black Ops.
The Call of Duty: Black Ops PrecisionAIM Controller is pretty much the same size as a regular Xbox 360 controller. As you can see, it’s a wired controller meaning you’ll be tethered to your Xbox 360 when using it. Microsoft’s pretty picky on who they license their wireless technology to so Mad Catz had to make do with a wired solution. It’s got a nice long, braided cord though and features the breakaway cable that’s synonymous with all wired Xbox 360 controllers. Mad Catz could’ve gone the dongle route I guess, but making it a wired controller does cut down on some costs.
On the outside, it has a very nice soft matted feel to it and has some very comfortable rubber grips on the palm area. Combine the two and you get a good feeling controller to hold. Because it is a Call of Duty: Black Ops branded controller, it has some interesting designs on it as well. The designs aren’t outlandish and they are in a grey color that matches the black on the controller nicely in my opinion.
The two analog sticks feature a smooth top and a glowing red base when plugged in. Both sticks have a nice feel to them when moved around and the springs feature just the right amount of tension to make it comfortable to use. Unfortunately, the smooth top offers up some minor problems as it makes it a little too slick to hold with your thumb when you get a little perspiration on it. On a regular Xbox 360 controller, there are four protruding dots that help keep your thumb in place. The PrecisionAIM controller’s lack of these grooves makes it a little harder to keep your thumb on, and this is an issue when the action gets fast and furious. I found my thumb slipping a little more than a regular controller and that interfered with how well I played sometimes. When the action gets fast, you need to be in complete control and at times, the smooth surface can make hard to handle.
All the jewel buttons have a good feel to them and good amount of give when pressed. The springs feel right and have a nice bounce back to them. The PrecisionAIM’s buttons are flat on the top, compared to the Xbox 360’s more rounded colored buttons, but I didn’t find it any better or worse in my use.
The trigger and bumper buttons feature very solid feeling springs with a nice feel when pressed. I especially liked how the triggers felt as it seems to bounce back quickly so during the times when I have to press them in quick succession, it didn’t skip a beat. Compared to a regular Xbox 360 controller, I like the triggers on the PrecisionAIM a little more.
To set the controller apart from the rest, the Call of Duty: Black Ops PrecisionAIM Controller features two action buttons that sit on the underbelly of the controller. These two buttons can be set to mimic either the jeweled buttons or the analog stick button, but it doesn’t replace the button they are set to. In theory, they are very nice and having them on the bottom should make it easy to access. Unfortunately, where they are placed is just a little off from the optimal spot to get to when holding a controller. A few centimeters towards the top and I think the action buttons would’ve been in perfect position. Where it sits now, it’s either uncomfortable to reach or I have to switch my grip to a less than comfortable position to be able to press it consistently. I did like being able to make one of the buttons the knife and the other the run. Personally, I’d rather press a button than the stick to be able to knife with more consistency. One option I would’ve loved would be to disable the analog stick buttons when using the action buttons as the substitute so I don’t accidentally press them again. Still, the position of the buttons makes them harder to use than I would’ve liked.
You can also tie one of the action buttons to slow down your aiming for situations such as getting a bead on a head when scoped. I did found the level of slowdown to be more than I wanted it and there’s no way to adjust how slow the button would adjust your aim. I like the idea but the execution needs a little more polished to be useful in my opinion.
I’m a little torn though as I love, love the feel of the Black Ops PrecisionAIM controller in my hand. The rubberized grips and coating makes it so nice to hold. The main buttons and triggers are also well engineered. When it comes to the features that separate this apart from regular third party controllers such as the action buttons and the sensitivity adjustment, Mad Catz almost got them right. I found myself using the controller more so as a regular controller and not taking advantage of the unique features. At around $50, it’s close to the pricing of a regular wireless controller and I would have no problem recommending it over a regular controller if it was wireless as well based on the feel and buttons alone. Still, those that don’t mind a wire will like how it feels in the hand and that might be worth spending on. I hope that Mad Catz refines the controller for a new revision and moves the action buttons to a more comfortable position as well as add some notches on top of the analog sticks to help keep from slipping. If they do, I think they have a real winner on their hands even if it’s not wireless.