The fight stick that’s built for modding: PAR goes hands-on with Razer’s Atrox
When you depress a button on the front side of the Razer Atrox, a latch comes undone and the entire top panel can be lifted up to reveal the innards of the system. A small hydraulic lets out a barely audible “whoooosh” as it opens. You've now got access to every moving piece on the fight stick.
The Atrox carries a hefty price tag at $200, but it earns every dollar with a well-conceived design and a quality build. The thing that strikes me the most about this fight stick after spending the better part of a week using it is that I never once found myself annoyed or frustrated by the hardware. My hands and arms felt comfortable resting on it at all times, my play experience was great, and whenever I wanted to tried to swap out a part it was a breeze.
This is far more stick than the average gamer needs to enjoy a few fighting games, but if you have the means…
With most fight sticks there's a bit of construction that takes place when you want to swap out a part or repair something. You've got to get out a screwdriver and remove some panels before getting to the insides, and even then they're not always built with modding in mind. The Atrox is built to be toyed with.
As mentioned, just one button opens up the front hood and puts everything right in front of you. Want to replace a button? Just pinch the sides and they snap out (and back in) with ease. Prefer a bat top stick to the Atrox's standard ball top? There's a bathead included inside the case…along with a little screwdriver to aid the process. Changing the stick head takes all of 30 seconds. That's the story of the Atrox: thoughtfulness.
The most difficult part to modify is the art underneath the plastic top panel. And even that's more tedious than difficult as the buttons must first be removed, then you have to deal with six small screws.
The Sanwa joystick is also a bit tough to replace. The screws that secure the stick in place are covered in a light epoxy which prevents them from moving. It keeps the stick firm, but adds another step to the process.
Some difficulty in modding the joystick is forgiven, however, because of how nice it feels to use. It's a high-quality piece that feels firm in the hand and yet easy to manuever. I never got tired of the satisfying little click the stick makes when it confirms a directional input. As I write this, I keep reaching over to the stick just to wiggle it around a little and enjoy the feedback.
I loved the stick the moment I set my hands on the Atrox, but the buttons took a little getting used to. They're not firm, click-y buttons like I've grown accostomed to in the arcades on games like Tekken 3.
They're very loose, light-touch buttons which aren't as satisfying to press. I've grown to appreciate the speed that these buttons grant to play, but this is one area where the Atrox could prove a little divisive. The buttons work perfectly, and I never once ran into a problem, but they don't exude quality in the same way the rest of the system does, and they're the one part of the stick I'd consider swapping out.
Neither of those are going to be the first thing you'll notice about the Atrox though. The first thing you'll notice is its weight. This is quite a hefty device. The shipping container it arrived in weighed it in at 12 pounds with a fair bit of packaging included.
I would have thought that this would become a detracting factor, but as I used the system more and more I found myself appreciating the weight. Combined with the rubber grip on the underside, the Atrox doesn't budge at all when you're using it on your lap or on a table. Even when you're in the middle of a hectic game of Street Fighter and your hadoukens have turned into full-arm motions, it stays put.
The Atrox is only capable of working with PC and Xbox 360 systems, so no PS3 or Wii games allowed, and I'm not sure what this means for the upcoming console generation. If you don't currently have a fight stick then I don't think that's too much of a problem; a good fight stick can breath new life into your collection of Xbox 360 fighting games. If you're looking to upgrade, however, then you might be better off sticking it out for a little while until the next generation sticks start coming out.
It's not a disaster though. The PC is starting to get a strong roster of fighting games including Divekick, Skullgirls, and Capcom has brought Super Street Fighter 4 and Street Fighter X Tekken to the PC as well. I spent most of my time with the stick playing on PC.
It's a high quality machine, but it also justifies its price with a lot of extras that aren't necessary for the common person who just wants play some fighting games.
So if you're just looking for the basic functionality of a fight stick then the Atrox is more than you need and you should probably consider a mid-level stick in the $80-$100 range. But if you've got the cash and you don't mind paying a premium for a luxury device? The Atrox wont disappoint.