Gamers old enough to recall the last few generations of console gaming may be familiar with the Mad Catz Corporation. They are the San Diego-based organization that created third party controllers and accessories for the Playstation, Nintendo 64 and Dreamcast. Years ago, an Electronics Boutique employee convinced me to buy the Mad Catz Dreamblaster pistol controller, a phaser-shaped light-gun that worked with House of the Dead. Although the controller was a few dollars cheaper that the official accessory, it held up amazingly well through hundreds of intense trigger pulls. Others weren’t as fortunate, as some Mad Catz manufactured-accessories perished prematurely, giving the company a dubious reputation.
F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, “There are no second acts in American lives”, a cliché that the revitalized corporation is desperately trying to disprove. With new leadership, the company has secured the rights to create a line of officially licensed Rock Band peripherals. We sat down with the M.I.C, a cringe-worthy acronym for a stalwart peripheral: the Microphone with Integrated Controller.
Here’s your chance to ‘rock the MIC like a vandal, light up the stage, and wax a chump like a candle.’
When playing Rock Band with the bundled mic, players must also use another controller for making menu selections; an unwieldy task. Two problems occur when playing Rock Band with the headset that comes bundled with the 360. First, players have to hold the Xbox controller, which restricts the mobility of the lead singer. Secondly, the headset’s microphone is designed for voice communication, and does a poor job at handling the range required for singing. Often the pitch meter would fluctuate between three broad increments for us, failing to capture the intricacies of our vocal frequencies.
Since the MIC is a wired accessory, it needs to be plugged into the USB port on the front of the 360. While the 9.8 foot length of the cord allows for some movement for the lead singer, we wished the cable were about three feet longer. The upside is that the MIC receives power from the 360, and doesn’t require any batteries. When we first plugged in the controller, we noticed that the Rock Band pitch meter responded with much greater accuracy and our scores improved drastically. As a microphone, the sound quality was exceptional and rivaled the sound from studio microphones.
These schematics were stored in a droid, that jettisoned via a small escape pod. Treat them with care, Rebel.
The MIC conveniently places a majority of the 360’s buttons and a miniature d-pad on the front of the controller. Additionally, a lock switch allows the player to block unintended triggering of the controller’s buttons. While the buttons on the MIC felt solid, we were disappointed by the inaccuracy of the d-pad. Pressing a direction of the miniature pad registered about eighty percent of the time, and made menu navigation a bit of a chore. While Mad Catz chose to make the make the directional stick small and flush with the body of the microphone, we would have sacrificed ergodynamics for increased accuracy. Other than that small problem, the built quality of the controller was good; the controller had a solid weight and felt durable. We took comfort in knowing heavy-handed taps to the top of the controller wouldn’t damage the microphone.
After a marathon Rock Band session, we found the controller worked flawlessly in Guitar Hero: World Tour. Launching Star Power with a press of the “A” button was wonderfully intuitive and functional. Typically, our clap would be inconsistently recognized by the game, and saying “star power” was an excise in futility. Now, we couldn’t imagine playing GH:WT without the MIC.
For Rock Band and Guitar Hero: World Tour fanatics, the Mad Catz MIC is a solid purchase; the microphone easily outperforms its counterpart from the Rock Band bundle. If the USB cable was a few feet longer and the directional control was improved, we’d give the controller an unequivocal approval. With the cost of many USB mics in the forty dollar range, paying sixty dollars for a studio quality microphone seems like an acceptable premium.