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Mad Catz Panther XL

Posted: 2-6-99

Written by: Roger "Wildwolf" Morris

Estimated retail price: $60



While most people would consider the use of a joystick for First Person Shooters (FPS) the same thing as painting a big target on your body, this one may surprise you.


I've often heard people talk bad about Mad Catz to varying degrees. Some said their support wasn't all that great. Some said that their products are cheaply made, and don't function as smoothly as some of the higher priced controllers available. I can speak from experience on both issues. After using one personally for about five months, I unintentionally twisted, turned, and pulled in ways that weren't designed, and broke a spring within the joystick, so alas, I had to contact customer support to find out how to take advantage of the one year warranty, and see about getting a replacement. The gentleman on the phone was very courteous, and promptly set my worries at ease, as he gave me an address to mail my busted joystick, no RMA# needed. Within a short two week waiting period (cheap as I am, I sent 3rd class with insurance) I had a shiny new one, waiting for me one day when I got back from work. Now if that's bad service, you could have fooled me. As to the cheaply made...trust me, I punished this joystick before it finally gave in.


Features / Specifications

Joystick Features

Flight Stick - Controls movement of the character onscreen.

Control Ball - Controls the character's view or eye movement.

Hat Switches - 2 four direction hatswitches located on the Flight Stick.

Action Buttons - Located around the Control Ball and on the Flight Stick.

Throttle - Can be used to control the rate of speed in some games.

Rudder Pedal Connector - If you happen to have pedals, you can hook them up here.

Mouse Emulation - You can use the trackball as a mouse, nifty feature, just make sure you disable that function before playing a game.

There are a total of 17 buttons on this puppy, and everyone of them can be custom set to anything you so choose, software permitting of course.


Supported Games

These games support the use of a Mad Catz Panther XL:

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter
Redneck Rampage
Quake II
Descent II
Half Life
Klingon Honor Guard
Dark Forces
Shadow Warrior
Doom II
Jedi Knight
Duke Nukem 3D
Duke Forever
Hexen II
Heretic 2
Starseige Tribes



This went by smoothly. All I did was hook up the joystick to the game port on my sound card, pop in the installation CD, and was soon greeted with an install window similar to this:

That gives you the choice of installing the drivers, DirectX 5, a trial from Earthlink, or one of the three included game demos: Jedi Knight, Redneck Rampage, or Turok.

Before using the Panther XL, you must calibrate it in two areas: Within Windows95, and there's an included DOS setup and calibration utility for use with some older DOS games.



I personally use the joystick for several games including: Need For Speed (1 & 3), Nascar Racing 2, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, Half Life, Viper Racing, and Quake II. While it is listed to be a great joystick for flight sims, I personally do not like them, so haven't bothered trying it out there. You might have to do a little tweaking to get your Panther XL set up to your liking for a particular game, but wouldn't we all do that with any controller anyway.


Action & Control

Before I bought this joystick I had never played a FPS before, as they didn't really interest me. I had a bunch of friends wanting me to try Quake2 with them though, so I went out and got it, and this joystick. Why? Well, like a lot of other people, I've always used a joystick. Atari, Coleco Vision, Nintendo, SNES, PSX, etc, etc. I've been kind of babied by the easy controllers on the home systems, and felt there was no way I was either willing or had the patience, to learn the mouse/keyboard combo for playing FPS.

Once I had it hooked up and installed, I played the Jedi Knight included Demo for fun. The controls are completely customizable, or so I thought. Once I installed Quake2, and began playing it online, and talking to other people who actually knew the game head to toe, I learned just how configurable Quake2 really is, especially when using the Mad Catz Panther XL.

You basically use the joystick to move: forward/back, and side-strafing, while the control ball is used for eye movement. You can look in any direction no matter where you happen to be moving with ease. This makes sometimes difficult moves, such as circle strafing, and running-flips (not all games support this) a mere twist of the hands, or flick of the wrists.

While it may take a little bit of time for you diehard keyboard/mousers to get used to it, you'll never go back after you are.



In conclusion, the Panther XL is a great investment if you plan on playing a lot of first person shooters. If you're more into racing games, you'd be much better off getting a wheel/pedals setup. Speaking of pedals, that brings up a bad point to consider as well. The Panther XL includes a port for the addition of pedals, but I've found no place on their website where they sell the pedals as an add-on/upgrade. I've even managed to only find one place (a local store) that had a pair of pedals by themselves w/o the requirement of a bundled wheel. I think pedals would add a unique twist to a game such as Quake II, but you might have a hard time of finding some.

The quality is good, but construction could have been a little better. I recently broke another button, the trigger aka main firing button, and upon closer inspection, it was just a pivot that broke, a little foresight, and making the pivot from a small metal rod instead of plastic, would have prevented that. As for the springs, I've already informed their design engineers that a simple rubber band works wonders, and doesn't break near as often. I've broken two springs now, and no rubber band.

It may take some getting used to, and it will by no means make you a "frag god" overnight, but it's a step for some of us in the right direction.

[+] Good
Ergonomically designed for ease of use
Easy installation/setup
Good customer support/response time
Can be used as a mouse
Pretty good price compared to other joysticks

[-] Bad
Limited official game support


Mad Catz PantherXL Score
Value 8.0
Performance 10.0
Features 9.0
Quality 7.0
Overall 8.5


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