Reviewed: May 3, 2003
I've been playing lightgun games since they wheeled Duck Hunt into my local Aladdin’s Castle more than 20 years ago. Technology and games have come a long way since then and we now have games like Time Crisis, House of the Dead, Area 51 and plenty of other variations on the theme that all involve shooting something.
With recent social and political events the government seems to be putting undue pressure on the gaming industry and subsequently games that use “guns” have nearly become extinct. Thankfully a few bold game publishers are still making shooting games and Mad Catz is supporting our constitutional rights to bear arms – even if they are plastic, with their Mad Catz Blaster lightgun for the Xbox.
Mad Catz released this peripheral last October in conjunction with SEGA’s release of The House of the Dead III, and you couldn't have asked for more perfect timing. These two products compliment each other so well they probably should have just been bundled together. In fact, if you search eBay (one of the few places you can actually find the gun or the game) you will probably see these items being sold as a combo-package.
Between kids shooting teachers and each other and the D.C. Beltway Sniper you are going to have a hard time finding a lightgun game or a lightgun in any major franchise store like WalMart or Meijer. If you are lucky you might find one tucked away on the bottom shelf of your local Babbages or EB.
This is a shame because the Blaster is perhaps the finest lightgun I have ever had the pleasure of using for any system. It’s the only one that I know of that is available for the Xbox and since HOTD3 is the only game that supports a lightgun at this time I seriously doubt too many other hardware manufacturers are scrambling to compete with Mad Catz in this niche market.
Hooking up the Blaster to your Xbox is incredibly easy. The recent trend in lightguns has incorporated a pass-thru connection that you must send the video (yellow cable) signal through to synch-up the gun with your TV. While this gives you excellent calibration and precise control, those with S-Video connections will find it frustrating to have to revert to their original cables whenever they want to play a lightgun game. Mad Catz has worked closely with Microsoft to create a new protocol that lets you plug the lightgun directly into the Xbox controller port and everything works flawlessly. No pass-thru connection, no cable switching, just plug-n-play.
The Blaster is the first gun for any console to incorporate a 'Shotgun' firing mode, enabling players to fire five rounds at a time. This is perfect for HOTD3 since the gun you are wielding in the game is in fact, a shotgun. The Blaster features three firing modes, "Auto", "Burst", and "Shotgun" and an auto-reload function that gives players unlimited ammunition for an enhanced gaming experience. "Auto" allows players to shoot 360 rounds per minute, similar to a fully automatic weapon. "Burst" allows players to fire three rounds per second with a single trigger pull. "Shotgun" is the new feature exclusive to Blaster and allows five rounds to be fired in a star-like pattern on and around the target point. This enables a larger surface area to be blasted with one trigger pull. Other features include rubberized grips for increased comfort and high precision optics, making the Blaster the most accurate gun available.
One of the coolest design features of the Xbox Blaster has to be the addition of a Memory Unit socket located in the front grip of the gun. The PS2 version of the Blaster doesn’t have this. You can insert your memory unit into the gun just like an ammo clip. I’m not sure about the practicality of this feature but it sure looks cool. I supposed if you have a dedicated memory unit just for HOTD3 then the gun would be the obvious and perfect place to keep it.
The gun feels great in your hand, perfectly weighted and balanced so you can play for extended periods of time with no abnormal arm or wrist strain. The buttons are all within easy reach and the D-Pad is conveniently located for easy thumb reach and the reload button molded into the grip is perfectly placed. There are multi-colored, multi-function buttons that light up to indicate various firing and reload modes. The 10-foot cable is plenty long; you don’t want to be any further from the screen in a gun game anyway.
The Blaster for the Xbox is definitely a niche controller for a very limited target audience. The simple fact is that the Xbox only has one lightgun game at this time, so if you are the proud and lucky owner of The House of the Dead III then you absolutely will want to get the Mad Catz Blaster to go with it. This gun combined with this game has never brought a more accurate arcade experience into your living room, and we can only hope for more lightgun supported games in the near future.