It is without a doubt that both Rock Band and Guitar Hero have been a resounding success for its developers. Numerous tracks are released on the virtual marketplaces of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation3 each week, and peripherals are littering many gaming dens and living room floors. It can be a struggle for gamers (and their wallets) to keep up with the advancement of band peripherals that are bundled with each new series. Despite these official releases, we also are spoilt for choice by the number of third-party products that also compete for our hard earned money and our appetite to upgrade. Mad Catz is just one third-party that has brought their new range of Rock Band compatible Guitars and Basses to console gamers. In this review I will be going through one of the latter instruments – the Mad Catz Wireless Fender Precision Replica Bass for the Xbox 360, so let’s unwrap this beast and get “slapping da’ bass!”
Whilst observing the box I soon realise that things are a little different to your normal gaming instrument, we’re talking size here, as the box is a lot bigger than your normal guitar box. Opening up the box reveals the pearl-white Fender bass in all its glory. Once the head is clicked into place, the bass becomes a good fair size; although the bass is a scaled down, the size of it almost resembles the size of a full-size guitar, and this is made more obvious once put alongside the stock guitars that are bundled with Guitar Hero and Rock Band…
Grasping the Fender Bass for the first time I was immediately surprised with the overall build quality. There were no creaks or rattles made whilst gaming, which is something that I have found quite common with the official stock guitars. The buttons on the arm feel well placed given the slightly full-size length of the arm. Traditionally basses are a fair length in size, yet with this scaled down version, the overall size of it does look and feel like a real guitar, which is great if you prefer not to look like an overgrown child, man-handling a child’s toy – something I get when using the stock GH and RB guitars.
As I mentioned earlier, the Mad Catz Wireless Fender Precision Replica Bass is aimed at the Rock Band franchise, however as we have all come to expect, using this guitar with Guitar Hero titles is not a problem either. On the back is a small micro switch that allows you to switch to Rock Band 1 and Rock Band 2 compatibility. For Guitar Hero players out there it is recommended that you set this switch to ‘RB1’ in order for it to work with these titles, else you’ll find you will only be singing on stage.
On the front of the bass you’ll find the usual standard set of switches that are found on all axes, however being a bass instrument you will find no whammy bar here. This is not a bad thing if you are playing as a bassist in the game, but if you are prone to impressing your mates with some pitch-bending prowess, then you may miss the bar here. An odd feature I found with the bass was the use of rocking switches for the Start and Back buttons; sure this may give a more authentic feel to the peripheral, but for practical use it can be cumbersome during the navigation of menus in such titles like Rock Band: The Beatles, which requires you to press Start instead of Green in some cases.
The most striking and innovative feature of the Fender Bass is its Dual/Split Strum Bar. This splits the strum bar into two parts for some two-finger bass plucking. A small bridge sits above the strum bar which lets you rest your thumb on and allows you to let your two fingers do the magic. The strum bar is very responsive and advertises as lasting over 2.5 million strum cycles, which is pretty impressive and crucial for the more hardened strummer. Each piece of the strum bar works off its own independent switch, so in a way you could just use one of the two strum bars, and should it fail way down the line, you have a backup ready and waiting for you; or you could just ease the wear and tare of the bass by alternating between the two bars. The Dual/Split strum bar is a great addition for this peripheral, and once mastered, nailing those expert tracks could come faster than you think.
On the arm of the bass we have the usual array of buttons commonly found on Rock Band peripherals. The smaller, higher note, buttons are also present on the arm, for those gamers with smaller arms or do not want to stretch out along the full length of the bass.
In conclusion I am very impressed with the Wireless Fender Bass. Mad Catz has done themselves proud with their range of third-party Rock Band instruments, and this Fender Bass adds to well crafted range of premium peripherals for the console. The bass comes in a small range of colours to fit your style, the buttons are responsive and the Dual/Split strum bar is a nice touch for novices and experts alike. The arrangement of buttons let the side down a little bit, but these are only interacted with whilst navigating and do not hinder your performance during gameplay. The Mad Catz Wireless Fender Precision Replica Bass comes recommend for anyone seeking a larger size instrument over the more toy-like official alternatives, and should you wish to master the Dual/Split strum bar, you’ll be rewarded well in return – Rock on!