I’m a gamer. Not a serious, spend all night (at least not often) playing games type, but still a gamer. I’ve played a lot of Call of Duty on Xbox Live in the last couple years, and while I rank well enough, it is obvious that the younger kids definitely have an advantage when it comes to reflexes. I have managed to find a few ways that technology can shave a little off that advantage.
The most important advantage is a good network connection, though this is often the one thing we have the least control over. Routers that allow you to set Quality of Service (QoS) on gaming packets can help, as can reducing bandwidth usage. Stop the torrents and kick the kids off Netflix.
A nice TV. Bigger is better, up to a point. If you have to turn your head to see the edges of the screen you may have gone too far. I use a 42″ LCD with an HDMI cable to the Xbox. Some people say that HDMI adds some latency, but I didn’t notice a difference when I switched from composite. Sit up close to the TV. My aging eyes are still pretty good at picking up movement, but not from across the room.
However, the one thing that had the greatest impact on my K/D ratio was a pair of surround sound headphones. Just upgrading from a cheap pair of stereo headphones was enough to bump my Free-for-All K/D from about 1 to 1.4. It takes a little while to get used to the sound, but once you do, you’ll be able to hear your opponents around the corner, and gauge exactly when start shooting.
My current pair of headphones are the Turtle Beach XP400. They were sent to me about a month ago for review, and I must admit I was skeptical. I’d heard enough people complain in game about the older Turtle Beach headsets cutting out, various forms of interference and static, and poor chat quality. I think that Turtle Beach may have been listening, because I’ve experienced none of those issues with these.
Setup is easy. Plug the optical cable into the back of the Xbox, and feed it some power with the attached USB cable. The headphones are charged with a very long mini USB cable. Mine were charged enough to play right out of the box, but I still plugged them in to top off the batteries. I suspect the manual recommended fully charging before use, but who ever does that? I did have to crack the manual open to sync the transmitter and receiver, but other than that the controls are mostly well labeled. The chat channel is connected to the headphones via a bluetooth dongle. The dongle is small and won’t get in the way.
I’m not an audiophile, but I think they sound great. The sound is brighter, and more full than the Tritton AX Pro that I have been using for about a year. The surround separation was different than the Tritton, but I was able to find a preset that I liked. At times in the game where I used to rely on the crunch of footsteps to locate an opponent, I’m now able to locate reloading and shooting much better, and at farther distances.
The range is good. I was able to walk out to the garage (about 30 feet and 3 walls away) and still hear game and chat audio. I walked a little farther and game audio cut out, but chat kept working. I expect they would perform well with no obstructions up to 50 or 60 feet away, which happens to be a lot farther than I could see the TV from.
There are two slightly annoying features, but they are only slight, and not a reason to dislike the headphones. When the mic is muted, the headphones beep every now and again to remind you that they are muted. It’s only a short beep, but it can be annoying if you like to play with the mic muted most of the time, but switch it on when you want to talk. The other annoyance is the surround presets. When clicking the preset button it isn’t obvious which preset you’ve picked. The lights flash in a pattern, but even after reading through the manual I’m not sure which preset I’m using. I just memorized the order of lights and go back to that one if someone changes it on me.
Wired: Great sound, clear 3d, and comfortable.
Tired: Beep on mute, but some players might like that reminder.
The Turtle Beach XP400 are available at Amazon for under $200.