On the Bleeding Edge - Razer’s New StarCraft II Gear at E3 2010

were a surprisingly large number of MMOGs to be seen during the
all too brief three days at href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/events/e3/2010">E3
2010, the vast majority of which
solid entries into the genre. A quick glance at our lengthy list of
coverage from the show floor reveals that not only is the genre
entering a new period of expansive growth, but that the ways in which
MMOGs are played is heading in
some interesting new directions as well.
Many booths went so far as to provide both a gamepad as well as the
standard keyboard and mouse setups for their playable demos. This is
due in part to a slight shift away from the tried and true stand back
and auto attack formula prevalent in the vast majority of earlier
titles, with the player’s ability to take aim and land
attacks on their target manually stepping up to take center stage.

But as all PC gamers will tell
you, while a gamepad is nice for grab
and go gaming, it’s still not the best solution for certain
types of games like first person shooters or real time strategy where
you need absolute control to stand a chance. This holds doubly true if
you intend to play on a competitive level or have hopes of ever seeing
your name bumping the highest limits of various leaderboards.

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Marauder Gaming Keyboard

It’s in this sense
that the hardware we choose to interface
our favorite games with becomes equally important as any other system
spec for playing newer games. As such, I was pretty excited about one
of my E3 appointments that deviated from the MMOG demo crowd and
allowed me to check out Razer’s recently announced lineup of
StarCraft II
gear. Don’t be fooled by the branded
merchandising though, as this new hardware packs a solid peripheral
punch regardless of your pro level status within the game.

Before I get started on
breaking down some of the cool new features of
the Spectre mouse, Marauder keyboard and Banshee headset, however, I
think it’s worth mentioning what my current setup is at home.
Basically put, I will admit a certain bias when it comes to Razer

In my current setup I use the
Razer Lycosa keyboard and DeathAdder
mouse, and with the keyboard in particular I honestly
couldn’t imagine using anything else. I not only spend a
hefty amount of time gaming on my PC but an even more gargantuan chunk
of time writing on a daily basis. So without even getting into features
like the customizable hardware profiles or fancy backlit keys, I have
had a secret love affair with the Lycosa’s low profile,
non-slip rubber keypad ever since picking one up nearly two years ago.
Simply put, it’s like typing on butter, only thankfully
not quite so messy.

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Banshee Gaming Headset

So how does Razer’s
newest product line stand up? Do the new
StarCraft II
gaming peripherals offer more than a cool new themed
chassis? Having used and even recommended their products many times in
the past, not to mention having spent a fair amount of time playing the
SC2 multiplayer, I’ll give you a rundown on Razer’s
newest branded creations below and let you be the judge.

Heading into my appointment, I
was pleasantly surprised to discover
that none other than the President of Razor, Robert
“Razerguy” Krakoff, would be showing me the new
StarCraft II
product line. Throughout his presentation I could tell
that he was not only enthusiastic about these three new peripherals,
but about working with Blizzard to help insure that each of them
contained plenty of features not just for gamers in general, but
specifically geared towards the SC2 enthusiast as well. In fact, Robert
explained that pro level StarCraft
players helped design all three
products, so you know that the included features weren’t just
random, arbitrary decisions or that the Spectre, Marauder and Banshee
aren’t just standard products with a glowing SC2 logo slapped
on the surface.

Gaming Mouse

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Starting off with the Spectre
gaming mouse, Robert walked me through
some of the unique features that not only make these a solid performer
regardless of your interest level in the upcoming RTS, but more
importantly the ways in which they were specifically designed for
optimal performance if you have aims of taking the SC2 leaderboards by

Flipping the Spectre over
reveals a small adjustable slider which
controls the button force adjustment for left clicking. While a
seemingly simple thing, I personally think this will be incredibly
handy as it will allow for on-the-fly adjustment rather than having to
dig into the on-screen driver menus.

Speaking of the interface,
it’s also worth noting that all
three items (mouse, keyboard and headset) can be accessed through a
single window rather than needing to bring up each one individually.
This will no doubt prove to be more of an upfront benefit, unless
you’re one of those gamers who constantly tweak the various
settings for their hardware to achieve maximum performance.

I’ll only give a
brief mention to this here, as the APM
lighting alert system truly shines brightest (pun fully intended of
course) with the Marauder keyboard. Basically though, you’ll
have the ability to set custom game alerts which are mapped to the
various illuminated areas on your mouse. A common use here will be to
track your actions per minute as you play. So you could set the sides
of the mouse to glow yellow at the start, then red once you reach 100
APM and green at 200 APM as an example. This is small, but powerful
feature for the more competitive players out there for sure.

Gaming Keyboard

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Due to a case of being in the
right place at the wrong time, I
wasn’t able to directly interact with one of these bad boys
unfortunately. As it turns out, Blizzard was paying Razor a visit at
the same time and the demo keyboards were all squirreled away behind a
closed meeting room door with them. That said, I can’t really
make any direct comments on key responsiveness, ergonomics or the like
though I can at least attest to the fact that having used my Lycosa for
countless hours each day for almost two years I know that Razer makes
some of the best keyboards out there currently, gaming or otherwise.

The biggest thing of note on
the Marauder though, is that this is where
the APM lighting system begins kicking ass and taking names. In a
nutshell, it allows you to create up to 16 custom alerts, each using a
different color or even lighting source on the keyboard if you so
choose. For example, you could set the SC2 logo, side lights or even
keypad backlights to flash red when your units come under attack.

The other feature worth
mentioning here is that the Marauder allows you
to record unlimited macros on-the-fly, with a total of 10 different
possible profiles. In other words, you can create essential macros
directly from within SC2 rather than doing so via the driver menus.
Personally I can’t wait to see this particular feature in
action, as I genuinely dig storing separate profiles on my Lycosa but
haven’t necessarily been a fan of having to do so through the
driver menu if I opt to switch out a single keybind here or there.

Gaming Headset

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Just like the Spectre and the
Marauder, the Banshee headset also
features the new APM lighting system, though I’d imagine it
will see far less use since your focus will hopefully be on the screen
and not checking a nearby mirror to see which color your ears are
glowing. This feature will likely be a staple during tournament play
though, as the APM alerts can more readily be seen by spectators or
even other players should they be curious to see where your current APM
is at compared to their own.

Otherwise, the Banshee headset
is a lightweight, though pretty solid
unit. One thing I like about it is that you have the option to adjust
various settings for each ear directly on the headset, not to mention
that I’m a huge fan of gaming headsets that fully enclose
your ears. To me, this tends to be much more comfortable over longer
periods and also helps block out unwanted ambient sounds so that you
can keep your focus on the game. This is extra important if
you’re ever gaming with someone who speaks a bit too quietly
in voice chat, especially since proper communication in a game like SC2
(or any online multiplayer game really) will often be the difference
between winning and taking a virtual dirt nap.

a Wrap

While the new StarCraft
line of peripherals from
Razer may be custom
built for optimal performance in Blizzard’s upcoming RTS
powerhouse, all three products will no doubt be just as viable for
everyday use. For example, while most SC2 players won’t
necessarily actively use the two thumb buttons included on the Spectre
mouse, having used them extensively on my DeathAdder at this point for
everyday tasks I couldn’t imagine using a mouse without them.

Razer has earned a positive
reputation with gamers over the years for
making some of the absolute best products on the market, and from what
I was shown that will continue to be the case with its newest product
line. Look for these bad boys to drop shortly after the launch of SC2,
and in the meantime be sure to check out the rest of href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/events/e3/2010">Ten
Hammer’s exclusive E3 2010 coverage!

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty Game Page.

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