A few years back, Razer got into the fight stick market with the release of the Razer Atrox for the Xbox One. While it wasn’t exactly the greatest example available – mainly due to its expensive price point – it did produce a high level of quality that made for ideal sessions of games like Killer Instinct and Mortal Kombat X. And the fighting competition has obviously picked up with new games, including Injustice 2 and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, so there’s plenty to keep players busy.
Now, there’s a model available for the PlayStation 4, in the form of the Razer Panthera, and while it’s made a few minor improvements to the previous Atrox model when it comes to accessibility and feel, it has some small drawbacks as well – and that same price point. But for those that can afford it, it’s a viable option when it comes to getting the true feel of a fighting game, compared to that of a DualShock 4 controller.
The model design for the Panthera is almost nearly the same as that of the Atrox, in terms of size, being able to open it up to store the connector cable and see the connections that are inside, and the spaced out joystick and buttons, built similarly to other fight stick models on the market. It comes with a design face that features a blue and black Razer style design, and, unfortunately, the way that the stick is glued together, you can’t really modify it with your own art without putting in a little bit of effort. That takes some points off, especially considering that other models on the market have that option.
But at least the design isn’t bad, and, for that matter, the feel is just about right for a fightstick. The joystick reacts wonderfully with on-screen characters, as I had no trouble executing special moves in both Injustice 2 and Ultra Street Fighter IV during my prolonged sessions. The buttons work very well, too, although it takes some getting used to if you’ve played previously on a DualShock. You just need to adjust the control settings and, after a few fights, you’ll get the hang of it.
It’s also neat to see that there’s a TouchPad built right into the Panthera, in case you need to do some motion-based stuff on top of the other functions. It’s set out of the way, near the top of the pad, so you don’t have to worry about accidentally bumping it while you’re making your moves. It was also smart of Razer to install the start and share buttons on the side of the unit, so, again, you don’t accidentally bump something when you’re in the middle of a heated match.
There’s also a slightly more quality build when it comes to the Panthera, compared to the Atrox. The plastic appears to be sturdier, so it can take more of a beating if you’re ferociously executing commands (though don’t throw it around, because it’s not a Frisbee) and the panel provides easy access to the wiring beneath. You probably shouldn’t mess with that unless you know what you’re doing, though – the last thing you need to be doing is pulling out cables that are required to keep the stick up and running properly.
In addition, it’s great to see improvement with the USB connector this time around, so you don’t accidentally become dis-attached to the cable like you could with the Atrox. You can screw it in using a 5-pin aviation system, with the included cable, and I didn’t experience any problems when it came to connectivity. It’s also a pretty lengthy cable, so you can play from the convenience of your couch without worrying if it’s long enough. Nintendo could learn a thing or two with these extensive cables when it comes to their all-in-one systems, like the SNES Classic Edition.
If you’re a fighting fan, then you’ll also like the various options available with stick and console selector toggles, as well as other tweaks that you can make. There’s also PCB support, if you’re hardcore enough, but, again, you probably shouldn’t mess with it unless you really know what you’re doing.
As for performance, as I stated above, the controls work just fine with games, though there are very slight instances where input can lag just a slight bit, like with Tekken 7. I noticed a few moves coming off with a little less split-second timing. But that could’ve been the fault of the game, which was recently patched, and it performed just fine with the others, so it’s really not too big of a deal.
That said, there is the big issue here – and that’s the price. The stick does go for $199, and that’s about the usual range of quality tournament controllers these days. But this is a bit more on the bulky side compared to smaller, less expensive models, so it’s probably going to be best reserved for those that are truly serious about showing off their fighting expertise. And even then, the lack of being able to customize easily may be a bit of a problem.
If you can accept the general design, however, and start to get a feel of what this controller set-up has to offer, then the Razer Panthera is a quality choice. It’ll set you back a bit, and its abundant options are really best when you’re a true fighting pro, but it’s a top-notch peripheral for those that want to show off their skills like a true champ, instead of fiddling with a smaller controller.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Disclaimer: A review unit was provided by the publisher.