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Mad Catz Product Spotlight [CES 2012]

It’s been three years, nearly to the day, since we first met up with Mad Catz at CES and were blown away by how far they’d come since the company we’d distanced ourselves from the 90s. With each passing year they have gone bigger and better, acquiring a series of partner companies with each focused on providing a top-end experience in their designated marketplaces. This past year represents as another big landmark for the company as their audio company, Tritton, partnered with Microsoft to produce a line of co-branded Microsoft headsets for the Xbox 360.

We’ll have a nostalgia piece up shortly, recapping some of the highlights of Mad Catz last three years, since we were reintroduced to the company, including a short interview with head of PR Alex Verrey, but for the moment I wanted to take a moment to spotlight some of the key pieces of hardware showcased at this year’s CES.

The first big piece on the tour was the successor to Mad Catz flag-ship product: Their tournament edition fight stick pro, now in Street Fighter x Tekken flavors. There’s two unique fight-sticks being offered to tie-in with the upcoming Tecmo/Capcom fighter, and both were on display for the public. They are the same quality product that has been offered since the release of the fight-stick three years ago which has made them the king of the arcade stick, now with a snazzy new look.

Street Fighter x Tekken Fight Stick Pro

Make sure to check the other pictures of these beauties in the gallery below.

Fans of pads are sure to be happy as well as Mad Catz took the veil off their new edition of the fight-pad for Street Fighter x Tekken, which took the advice of the public and reduced the over-all size of the controller. Along with a new sleeker look, Mad Catz has also tweaked the d-pad for improved performance, helping to keep the pad competitive for those who have it as their preference. The pad also features, of course, some sexy new artwork to take advantage of the new franchise and is looking pretty good to this particular writer (though I think I’m going to stay with my fight-stick).

Street Fighter x Tekken Fightpad

The biggest announce and feature of the Street Fighter x Tekken line-up though was the VS stick. This thing is a beast. It’s constructed of a solid metal design, is heavy enough to make sure that it won’t be moved, and can combine Voltron-style with a similar fight-stick to make an arcade-perfect panel. Seeing these two sticks linked up together was a thing of beauty, and with the attachment kit (purchased separately) you and screw the two individual sticks together to create one awesome panel that is exactly the same dimensions of the arcade units in Japan.

Mad Catz doesn’t play favorites when it comes to fighters though, and their recently-announced fight-stick for the upcoming Soul Calibur V was also on display. The quality and design is as sleek and iconic as its Street Fighter cousin, but the layout has been modified slightly to represent the style of game that is Soul Calibur. There were a bunch of other minor tweaks input into the new stick as well, including a new rounded button type, but as with all the Mad Catz fight-sticks the real key to the success is in keeping what already works (and has made them the number one choice for competitive players) and presenting it with a sexy new piece of custom art.

Soul Calibur V Fightstick

Moving then out of the realm of competitive fighting games, and their peripherals, I had the chance to check out Mad Catz recently released set of controllers and headsets for Xbox 360 and PS3.

We’ve previously see the new MLG controllers designed for competitive play on Xbox and PS3, but the news out of this show is that they’re finally available for public purchase. If happened to have forgot, here’s the cliff-notes versions: The MLG controller is a pro-quality product that allows players to customize their experience. With a removable face-plate and modular design players can customize their control stick layout, add or remove d-pad controls, and shift things around on the fly. More than that the system also includes a wired-type set that makes sure that there is no issue of lag, while remembering the small things like the weight of the controller. On the back of the console is an option to add and adjust the feel of the controller through the included weights so that you don’t lose that sensation of a battery pack when you swap to the no-lag experience of the wired controller.

MLG Pro Controller

These controllers are sexy, and sure to be my new default way to play. Absolutely something that is sure to become a mainstay in the competitive gamer market, hopefully doing for Mad Catz in the realm of FPS/Action titles what the fight-stick has already done for them in the realm of fighting games.

Finally, on the console front, was the unveil of the final two products in the co-branded Tritton headsets for the Xbox 360. The wireless Primer and its corded brother, Trigger. Both headsets provide a rather impressive stereo output, and built from the ground up (thanks to their partnership with Microsoft) with the Xbox 360 in mind, taking advantage of the voice features of Xbox Live. The audio quality on the Primer was a pleasant surprise for a “lower-end” model, it output beautifully. Look forward to a review on the site in the near future detailing the microphone quality of the rig as well as a more in-depth peak at the audio performance.

Tritton Primer

Having thoroughly dominated the console marketplace over the last few years, it’s been easy to forget that their subsidiary, Cyborg, has also become a house-hold name in the world of PC gamers. Mad Catz has increased their support of Cyborg this year by expanding on the ‘family’ of PC accessories, adding a new headset (The F.R.E.Q. 5 Pro-Gaming Headset) and a new variation of the popular R.A.T. mouse designed specifically for MMO gamers.

Honestly while the look of the F.R.E.Q. is as unique and impressive as its mouse predecessor, the sound quality left a little something to be desired. At the high end (when the volume was cranked) the sound did get a little ‘tin-y’ which is a little unusual. Mad Catz PR super-star Alex did note that it seemed to be a preference thing (comparing the sound quality of the new Tritton Primer to the Cyborg F.R.E.Q.) suggesting that it seemed to be a split between people on which unit was the preferred sound. So, take the criticism with a grain of salt, of course I’m not the audio connoisseur that is Corey Rollins, but my personal preference would probably be for a Tritton headset over the Cyborg series.

Cyborg F.R.E.Q.

The most impressive, and mind-blowing, from Cyborg for me personally though was the MMO edition of the R.A.T. The new version of the Cyborg mouse features enhanced features and additional buttons to take advantage of hotkeys on the mouse to make sure that players have access to virtually everything at touch of a (mouse) button. With the three different sets of programmable hotkeys (accessed through the click of a button) you have the ability to lock 78 individual actions to the mouse. That’s easily enough for me to run every single spell in my book for my Mage in WoW. Additionally the mouse features a ‘lock’ feature that allows users to click in a button, select the left, right or both mouse buttons and lock them into position, tricking the system into believing that they are being held. This means that on those long treks across the world in MMOs you have the ability auto-move your character (or set a host of other auto-actions).

R.A.T. MMO

All-in-all a rather impressive showing from Mad Catz on our third-anniversary visit to their showcase at CES, enough so that I decided to take a quick walk with Alex down memory lane and discuss the history of the company and their rise to super-stardom in the world of gaming peripherals. You can look forward to that write-up and interview on the site shortly.