Fighting games have always been a serious business but when Capcom released Street Fighter IV in 2009, the modern day fighting game resurgence began and the idea of owning your own arcade stick began to seem far more reasonable. It would be fair to say that I am fond of collecting and customising arcade sticks so when a new product is announced, especially one that seems a little different, my interest is piqued.
The Atrox was a long time coming and much has been said about gathering input from the community during its design and initial testing. This is certainly evident in the final product and has worked both for and against its usability. The unit is noticeably heavier than most sticks and while this might be seen as problematic for transport it is a huge plus when playing. The weight combined with the very effective rubber base means that the stick stays put during even the most rigorous of play sessions. The overall build quality is excellent and, scuffs aside, you’d have a hard time damaging it through play or transport.
With most consumer arcade sticks now using Sanwa parts as standard, any new product needs to have something different to offer to be considered. The Atrox has a few tricks up its sleeve but not all of them live up to the potential. The most noticeable is the ‘flip-top’ mechanism that, similar to the short lived Hori VLX series, allows easy access to the inner workings of the stick. Razer have taken the idea one step further with a hydraulic arm that will hold the stick safely open while it is being worked on. It seems to be the same kind of mechanism used in a car boot and it works well and feels solid.
Once open you will have access to the buttons and stick, as well as the wiring, should you need to make any quick repairs. In addition, the insides house a storage compartment for the included screwdriver and american style ‘bat top’ that can be swapped out if the more traditional ball top is preferred, as well as storage for the detachable USB cable. Even when packed with all the included accessories there is a good deal of room left, but unfortunately not enough to store a standard game case; a real missed opportunity.
A detachable cable is a great feature and one that I’ve modded into some of my own sticks in the past. Unfortunately the quick release connector used on the Atrox doesn’t feel very sturdy. It’s a large square connector that was clearly designed for a different purpose. The square socket has 13 pin holes while the plug on the cable used just four. If Razer wanted to re-purpose an existing connector then they should have used the fantastic screw on cable from their excellent Sabertooth pad. In tournament play I can see players being weary of the the quick release system used and that’s a real shame as detachable cables are a fantastic idea. On the plus side, the cable, once evenly folded, fits easily into its compartment, allaying the fears of cable damage I have always felt when packing up a MadCatz TE stick.
Razer have appealed to my inner creativity with their support for easy customisation of the Atrox. While swapping parts has been made easy, they’ve also taken a step to encouraging customisation that I’ve never seen before in an off-the-shelf arcade stick. The clear perspex top panel is removable with very little effort allowing the artwork sheet to be removed and swapped out for literally any artwork the owner desires. This design choice is to be applauded but there is an unfortunate downside: while the top and bottom of the perspex panel sit flush against the bevels of the casing, the sides run all the way to the outer edges leaving hard right angles that some players, including myself, will find their wrists resting on. During prolonged play sessions I found this extremely uncomfortable and even found myself with diagonal indentations across my arms. The most disappointing thing about this potential game-breaker is that this mistake was already made, and corrected, in some of the early MadCatz TE S edtion sticks.
The release of the Atrox comes at an odd time. The new console generation is about to start and this being an Xbox 360 only product I have to question its long term appeal. That said, the fighting game community will still be playing this generation’s games for some time and none of the major developers have announced anything new in the genre for the Xbox One or PlayStation 4. It is also worth noting that, by virtue of its Xbox 360 innards, it also works perfectly under Windows 7 & 8.
The Razer Atrox is a well built stick that appeals to my desire for customisation but while it innovates it also falls foul to some fairly obvious failures in design. This is Razer’s first entry into the arcade stick market and they have gone on record as saying it was an experiment. £179.99 is a little too much to ask when cheaper and better, if not just as innovative, products have been on the market for some time.
Solid, weighty build quality.
Simple but effective rubber base.
Side edges are uncomfortable.
Stock art seems out of place.
Potentially problematic cable connector.
Ineffective turbo function.