Published on January 3rd, 2011 | by Ruth0
Mad Catz: The Best Gaming Gear This Season
It’s been a fairly slow season in games- only a few major titles have come out in the last couple of months that have made us drop everything and play. But even when we weren’t busy shooting or jumping, we were enjoying some new gear from Mad Catz- the R.A.T. 9 mouse. And when we were playing one of the season’s hottest titles, Call of Duty: Black Ops, we were playing with a headset from their fairly new acquisition, Tritton- aptly named the Call of Duty: Black Ops 5.1 Headset. Finally, we put ourselves in the driver’s seat with the Mad Catz Wireless Racing Wheel and Pedals set for the Xbox 360.
We’ll hit each one in turn, starting with the R.A.T. 9. For those who haven’t read our review of the very similar R.A.T. 7, these are probably the best gaming mice on the market- infinitely customizable, comfortable, packed with features and options, and extremely accurate. The R.A.T. 9 adds wireless to the equation- it’s not a major change, but with many gaming mice failing the latency test, it was still a tricky addition. Using 2.4 Ghz, we were relieved to find basically no difference between the wired version and this new, wireless model. As before, the mouse surface is silky and grippable, but we loved the ability to add some texture. But we noticed that our normal grip resulted in a bit of uncomfortable pinching on the right side, despite tweaks- we ended up adjusting ourselves a bit to the mouse, but it seemed a fair trade. What you gain is a nifty hot-swappable battery pack system- it’s a bit tricky at first, but a lot of fun. And battery life is excellent. Teflon feet keep it sliding across any surface, and a 5600 dpi engine that can be lowered on the fly kep us hitting our targets. It’s a bit heavy for travel, and that’s even without the various additions- extra weights and surfaces and the dock/transmitter. Also, we don’t know how it would perform with a lot of other 2.4Ghz devices active in the same area- it’s a busy spectrum section. But the low latency and convenience kept us coming back versus it’s wired sibling, and the great looks haven’t changed. $120, available online.
If it’s sound your after, Tritton has you covered- we’ve checked out some of their previous offerings both 5.1 and not, and have come away convinced that they offer some of the best headsets around. This model is aimed at PC gamers- and whatever the actual product title may be, it worked great across a wide variety of games, and even for VoIP applications. The directional 5.1 sound excelled for first person shooters, allowing us to locate and find our enemies quickly. The packaging, we should note was pretty great- a nice case, durable braided cables, and sleek black pads. As with their previous model, these work best going around your ears, and thus can feel a bit large or heavy when you first put them on. But with a little time, it’s easy to get used to them- secure, enveloping even, and without any of the pressure directly on your ears which can quickly end a gaming session. Volume was more than sufficient, and the mic was great- a little less adjustability than we like, but sound quality was reported to be clear. Overall, it felt like this was a fairly minor upgrade on the AX 720, but it feels and looks expensive- a great gift, if you are at the end of your rope this holiday season. It can take a minute to assemble, but offers adjustable channels and works wonderfully with minimal tweaking. At $150, it’s a good deal, and in line with competitors. An Xbox 360 and PS3 version is also going to be available shortly.
Finally, Mad Catz has always offered interesting gaming accessories, some through their Saitek brand. But this season, they’ve come up with their first Wireless Racing Wheel for the 360, which comes complete with non-slip pedals. Powered by regular AA batteries (three required), it features a lap rest support (though we found it a bit awkward to use that way). But the lap pads can be easily detached, and you can mount it with a clamp on any decent-sized desk or table. We didn’t have any left-handed folks try it out, but they’ve been taken into consideration with the switchable gear shift. Wireless is easy, of course- the usual 360 method allows quick setup and re-synchronization to different consoles. We had tried the official Microsoft version quite a while ago, and found it pretty decent if a bit unrealistic, and as this one is apparently courtesy of the Saitek side, it feels authentic. You can play for about 40 hours off of one set of batteries, but that leads to one of the downsides. The key missing feature is force feedback- it’s sadly absent, even if you won’t notice it much for arcade racers (a bit more for simulators such as, say, Forza- it’s pretty key and a surprising omission). Some design details we liked a lot though- the top stripe for precision turns, the excellent grip material on the wheel itself, and the solid pedals. The pedals are fixed to an interesting base unit, raised a bit, and spring back nicely- and they are also covered in a good grip material. We like Kinect as much as anyone- but for racing, it’s great to have your hands on something responsive and real. $130, available directly from Mad Catz.