Call of Duty: Black Ops - hands-on with the Mad Catz peripherals

"Mad Catz is not the same company, that's for sure," said Alex Verrey, the company's global PR manager, as he stood over a table covered with high-end Black Ops branded wares.And he's right -the Mad Catzwe knew as thego-to punch line for jokes about cheap plastic is gone. The companymay still manufacturesome budget products, but check out these far-from-cheap Black Ops peripherals... ifthey work as well as they look, you'd be happy to own them whether or not you're a fan of the series.

The Controllers

The PS3 Black Opscontroller is wireless, with rechargeable batteries, but does not include rumble. The 360 controller, which we gave ashort test run,is the opposite - a wired controller with rumble.

The analog sticks and D-padwere identical tothose on official 360 controllers, but the triggers felt different -nice and springy. The grips on the sides were somewhat functional (they at least felt nice against our palms), but seemed to be largely an aesthetic addition. That's okay, though,because the controllers looked great, especially when they got their glow on:


Above: Don't stare directly into the controller's red eyes - it'll possess you and force you to makeweird faces in photos

The most significant features of both the 360 and PS3 controllersare the "Combat Buttons," two inset, circular buttons on the back of the controller. The extra buttons can simply be mapped to other buttons on the controller, aswith the Modern Warfare 2 controllers,or beset to activate the new"Precision Aim" mode when held down. The unique mode decreases the sensitivity of the right analog stick to slowthe reticule to a smooth crawl,allowing forfiner aiming.

Precision Aim workedpretty well- my ability to line up super-long-distance shotswas easier (as long as my target stayed still) - but whether or not the feature will bemore than a passing gimmickis yet to be seen, and will probablyvary betweenplayers. I found it difficult to hit the Combat Buttons at all, as Inormally hold my index fingers elsewhere on the back of the controller. Verrey explained that putting the buttons where thefingers are naturally held would have made them too easy to accidentally hit,but that after a whileone gets used them.

On top my difficulty finding the buttons, pressing them often caused me to alsopress one of the analog sticks, partially because of the pressure on the back of the controller, and partiallybecause ofan involuntarysqueeze from my thumb when I pressed my index or middle fingers. I imagine the problem fades away after some getting used to.

Overall, the $49.99 USD controllers are solid, good-looking devices, but unless Precision Aim turns out to be a game changer, they're not the strongest of the Black Opsperipherals. There's much more to see...

The Mouse

This ugly, Michael-Bay-Transformers beast mouse isa hunk of all-metal Serious Business. It looks likeit doesbecause just about every part of it can be adjusted to fit your hand perfectly. Like the Black Ops controllers, the Black OpsCyborg R.A.T. 7 mouse also features a "Precision Aim" button which drops the sensitivity for better headshotting.

Ididn't get a chance to actually play a game with the mouse, but it felt very nice in my hand, andMaximum PC called the model"the best gaming mouse ever." So, there's that.

The $99.99 USDmonster also ships with a 1 gigabyte USB drive dog tag preloaded with a custom profile for the mouse and a 10 page game guide.

If you want to get stupider, Mad Catz is releasinga non-CoD-branded wireless mouse - theCyborg R.A.T. 9- for $129.99 USD in October. The mouse comes with two rechargeable USB-drive-looking batteries which can be swapped out on the fly, and a USB-powered charger.

The Headsets

Triton, which Mad Catz recently acquired, makes some fancy-ass and very popular headsets. Three Black Ops headsets are in the works - two different 360/PS3 versions, and one PC version.

Gamestop will be selling the lower-end PS3/360 headset for $199, while Best Buy will have the high-end version for $250. The cheaper headset features Dolby technology which emulates 5.1 surround sound, whereas the pricier version actually contains four speakers in each side. Nuts! The PC version, for $149.99, takes 5.1 analog inputs, so your surround-sound experience will depend on your sound card. However, PC users should also be able to use the $250 console version.


Above: The Triton logo (the two barely-visibleright angles)lights up when they're on

The... Glasses?

We'll skip over the Wii peripherals because, well, if you care enough about Black Ops to care about these peripherals, we imagine you don't play a lot ofCall of Duty on the Wii.

The last thing we got a peek atwere these Black Ops Gunnar glasses.They'rebuilt to make long gaming sessions easier on your eyes,butwe think theirstreamlined formmakes GR's Chris Antista a little easier on the eyes too.

Sep 7, 2010