I've been pretty excited about the Mad Catz Fender Rock Band Bass since it was first announced, though my cultivated distrust of the quality of Mad Catz products made me bit wary of the product. It took a heartfelt assurance of the guitar's quality from Mad Catz's Global PR & Comms Manager Alex Verrey to convince me to give it a go, and I have to say I'm pretty glad I did. I can honestly say that this is the best damn replica bass guitar for Rock Band, and only part of me is poking fun at it being one of the only ones available.
The first thing you notice about the Fender Bass upon removing it from the package and putting the top bit on is its size. This is a very long instrument, a fact a relatively long person like myself can surely appreciate. It towers over its smaller cousin, the original Rock Band Fender Strat, but that's not the only difference. The bass lacks a whammy bar, leaving said function to a dial located on the top left of the body. It takes a little getting used to, of course, but after awhile I got so good at grabbing the knob and twisting it back and forth that I completely lost my train of thought as my brain overloaded on sexual innuendo.
Increasing the guitar's overall knobiness, the effects selector is now a dial, as is the start and select buttons, now accessed via twisting either right or left on the bottom knob, a fact that hammered home the importance of instructions and wasted a good ten minutes of my life.
By far the most important feature of the Fender Bass is the dual strum bar, meant to encourage two-finger plucking, as made popular by bassists since the very first one seeped out of the primordial ooze, grabbed the first groupie, and took it out back for a little hot osmosis action. The face even has a thumb-rest, allowing your fingers to properly hang off the edge for authentic plucking action.
So how does it work? After getting used to playing bass in Rock Band the way I had always wanted to play bass in Rock Band, the dual strum bar is an extremely lovely feature. The action on both bars is very tight, even after a couple weekends filled with gameplay, and I've gotten so comfortable with it that playing bass with a standard controller at my local GameStop's Fable II launch party just didn't feel right, and that's my excuse for failing Living On A Prayer.
That really is the main drawback of the Mad Catz Fender Bass. You get so used to the dual fret action that it changes the way you play the game, to the point where I am seriously considering getting a guitar bag so I can carry the thing around with me, just in case.
Completely unintentional pun there, by the way.
So yes, score one for Mad Catz. A bit pricey at $US79.99, but the bass is incredibly solid and adds a functionality that wasn't present before, making it a step up from standard third-party controllers. Of course I would prefer it wireless, but one step at a time.