Rock Band Wireless Wooden Fender Stratocaster Review: No Turning Back

Video game accessory Mad Catz teams up with guitar manufacturer Fender to create the Rock Band Wireless Wooden Fender Stratocaster, $300 worth of fake guitar that begs the question, "How serious are you about your music games?"

The Wireless Wooden Fender Stratocaster is a full-sized replica of Fender's famous guitar, with all of the necessary Rock Band bells and whistles thrown in. Instead of strings, pickups, and frets you get a strum bar and fret buttons, with the various dials and ports assigned to functions normally found in music games, like start and select. As an added plus, the wireless controller actually functions like one of Microsoft's own, requiring no additional dongle be hooked up in order to play. All of this, housed inside the body of one of the most iconic instruments in rock history.

It certainly sounds lovely, but is it $300 lovely?

Loved
How It Feels: This isn't a small wooden replica of a guitar. This is a real Fender Stratocaster body, crafted and assembled at a Fender manufacturing facility. It has all of the weight and beauty of a real Strat, with real metal bits and an authentic three-tone sunburst finish. It even comes with a real cloth guitar strap. It's a beautiful thing to behold, and even more satisfying to hold in your hands. It feels more like a real guitar than my real guitar does, though in all honesty my real guitar is a $99 piece of crap. The point here is that the Wooden Fender Stratocaster has the sort of look and feel that will ruin you for plastic guitar controllers for all time.

I should note that during my initial session with the guitar I dropped it, dislodging one of the fret buttons. It popped back on readily, however, and I noticed no degradation in the action. And no, it wasn't the orange one I never use anyway.

How It Plays: Along with having the satisfying weight on your shoulders and the feeling that you're holding an actual grown-up guitar, the action on the fret buttons of the wooden Stratocaster have a much smoother action than you generally find with its plastic counterparts. The strum bar has more of a click to it than I would like, but I found it extremely responsive, so I can't complain too much.

Hated
Everything Else Is Just Toys: Playing Rock Band with a full contingent now leaves me slightly embarrassed for the rest of my band. When you've got one guitarist with a full-sized wooden replica and the other on a tiny plastic piece of crap, not to mention a drummer playing what looks like My First Electronic Drum Kit, you begin to feel like one of the kids in those Sesame Street "One of these kids is not like the other" skits. It might not be an issue for everyone, but for me it tends to throw off the feeling of the endeavor somewhat.

The Rock Band Wireless Wooden Fender Stratocaster is hands-down the best guitar video game peripheral I've had the pleasure to play. Having said that, is this a controller I would go to the store and buy? Probably not. There are simply too many other things approaching that price point that I'd rather own, and up until I spent a good month playing with this wooden model, the plastic guitars worked just fine for me.

That's not to say you shouldn't pick one up. If the highlight of your week is getting together with your pals and burning through the latest Rock Band downloadable content, or you have a friend or relative that you never see without a plastic guitar controller in hand, then the Rock Band Wireless Wooden Fender Stratocaster might represent $300 well-spent. Just be warned - there ain't no going back.

The Rock Band Wireless Wooden Stratocaster was designed and manufactured by Mad Catz and Fender, and released in September for the Xbox 360. Retails for $299.99 USD, though retail prices may vary. A review unit of the controller was given to us by the manufacturer for reviewing purposes. Used the controller for two months in Rock Band, Lego Rock Band, Guitar Hero 5, and Band Hero.

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