TurtleBeach EarForce PX21 Review

Console gaming headsets are in a weird place. On one hand, they’re relatively cheap and plentiful. On the other hand, that low price point means the drivers inside aren’t great. Hardware manufacturers like to cover this up with bass response, the PX21 set is no exception.

Though I don’t think you can even find a headset for consoles that doesn’t color the output, it isn’t any excuse for making cheap junk.

The big downsides are often similar across manufactures and models, comfort for extended sessions and quality.

TurtleBeach’s PX21 headset looks fine on paper, it has a great mic that is super-flexible, and is the first headset from TurtleBeach to support the PS3. It also supports the 360 and PC gaming.

The immediate downside is simple.

There is a terrible hissing noise.

You can minimize it by swapping out the included red/white RCA bypass jacks for going straight to your TV or hi-fi tuner setup’s headphone audio out jack, and then adjusting that system’s volume up. Then you turn the volume down on the PX 21’s built-in amp.

But that still doesn’t eliminate the hiss, and it is extremely annoying during any part of a game that has quiet spots.

Games with quiet spots are why I own a PS3, I don’t play just shooters; I play games like Heavy Rain and I don’t want the quiet points in games to be marred by the ear-piercing whine these produce. Even the recent Red Dead Redemption sounds like crap and gives me a headache due to this headset’s hissing noise.

Of course to hook them up they need to be plugged into the PS3 (or other device) via USB for power. On the 360 you’ve got a special bypass cable to chat through the controller. On the PS3 the connection is simpler since the chat audio goes straight through the USB cable.

This means the headset is really mixing two inputs, the game connection over the RCA (or headphone jack)  input and the chat audio over the USB wire or the supplied 360 bypass cable.

This design of two mixed inputs is either brilliant or stupid. Brilliant because it works around every situation you might want to use it in, stupid because the hardware TurtleBeach has chosen is so cheap it can’t really give you a clean sound.

The PX21 headset is otherwise extremely lightweight & comfortable. It also covers the technical bases of supporting the PS3, 360, and PC gaming. I hope TurtleBeach will go back to the drawing board to design a headset that doesn’t hiss, even if it means raising the price slightly. Maybe in some magical laboratory somewhere these things don’t hiss, but other reviews corroborate my testimony. As it is I cannot recommend this headset unless you only play loud games that have little-to-no quiet points, like Modern Warfare 2.

Even then you should keep your receipt, I returned the PX21 headset to Best Buy after just 24 hours.

Falcon 4.0: Allied Force Review

Falcon 4.0: Allied Force is the definition of depth when it comes to the interactive experience of combat flight. All declassified features of Lockheed Martin’s F-16 are fully controllable and functional, you won’t turn anything off or on that doesn’t affect some function of your jet. Your responsibilities range from controlling the flow of your fuel supply to operating realistic air-to-air and air-to-ground radar.

The scope of Allied Force extends far beyond such desired elements, requiring air traffic control commands for takeoff, landing and identifying targets through AWACS before shooting them down. Even more lifelike is the fact that you have to check in and check out with AWACS to complete a mission successfully. You’ll feel the pressure of succeeding with friendly aircraft all around you that will be in line to land in sequence right behind and in front of you after a mission. There’s a full-scale war surrounding your every move, so you’ll hear real time chatter of pilots calmly landing as well as expressing acute fear when their lives are seriously threatened in battle. There are times when you’ll hear all of this in one fell swoop, before you ever taxi onto the runway for takeoff. Every aspect of a campaign is running in real time and that’s the real beauty of Faclon. This creates more interest than any storyline due to the variety it dictates. The same thing never happens twice in any mission, so you won’t be able to adjust your strategy based on where you were last shot down.

There isn’t a respawn in this game. If you get shot down and end the mission, you’ll be put in the cockpit of the jet that was second to you in formation and so on, should you continue the mission once back at the briefing screen. Your squadron loses a plane every time you get shot down, so if you’re in a flight of four, for instance, and get killed three times, you’ll be the only friendly left flying in the area.

There is often much left to be desired from the artificial intelligence of interactive software, but Falcon has just about every AI engine that I’ve seen beat dead to rights. This combat flight simulator features what seem to be real people whom you have to go up against, giving you good reason to choose your battles. Let’s say you’ve identified hostile aircraft and are willing to follow him to make sure he never comes back, but suddenly you notice three dots on your screen as you close for the kill. Those are his wingmen and you’re about to be engaged in a four to one aerial assault. You get a warning that a missile has been launched in your direction. There is a true to life technique for dodging both air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles. If you haven’t learned those techniques, you’re about to go blind (lose all radar and heads up display function of your jet) and either eject or be blown to bits.

Flying the F-16 in Allied Force can be frustrating, but it’s one interactive software application that will make you feel as if you’ve accomplished something constructive in the free time you spend with it. The best part of the sim, the depth, can be the most frustrating, but it’s also what makes the replay value of this game nearly infinite if you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to be a fighter pilot, lacking only the desire to risk your actual life.

Continue reading “Falcon 4.0: Allied Force Review”

Battlefield 2 1.50 Beta Patch

The Olney group playing Battlefield 2

Finally, DICE and EA have released the 1.50 Beta Patch for Battlefield 2. It adds one new map (Blue Pearl) and includes the previously optional download of Highway Tampa. Here is the complete list of changes:

  • Additional support for Windows Vista.
  • Added Highway Tampa as a required map.
  • Added a new map called Operation Blue Pearl.
  • Added support for Widescreen resolutions
  • Added support for the Novint Falcon controller – www.novint.com
  • Changes made to both the J10 and F35B to make them more balanced. Please note that the J10 is a superior dogfighter to the F35B and as such these two aircraft will never be equally matched.
  • AA targeting tweaked to make it more effective.
  • Added checks to prevent “runway grieving”.
  • Various changes made to prevent cheating.
  • Tweaked the hit detection, hits will be more accurate to the model.
  • Increased the time to go prone after jumping from 0.3 seconds to 0.7 seconds
  • Fixed G36E HUD during sprinting to match other weapons.

The update comes in pretty huge at 1.26GB and requires the game to be updated to version 1.41 already.

Get it from AtomicGamer or FileShack.

Update on Call of Duty: World at War PC Patch/DLC

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While Call of Duty: World at War’s DLC on the 360 may have set new sales records and surpassed some ambiguous high water mark, it isn’t available yet on the PC. Why? JD_2020 explains on the CoD forums:

Hi all,

The Patch (and DLC) is not releasing for the PC this week. By now you’ve realized the patch did not come yesterday as the rumor claimed. I am not sure exactly where the rumor started, but as always if you didn’t hear it from me, and I am not confirming it, you should take it with a grain of salt.

We have not yet posted an ETA for the patch or the DLC – we are still working some things out behind-the-scenes and do not have further information at this time.

When we do have more information, I will be sure to provide it. There have been requests regarding which “Phase” of the patching process we’re at, but we are in a different process this time around where DLC is releasing hand-in-hand with Patch 1.4. As such, there are additional steps that are unique to this update and therefore override the standard delivery timelines. I will not respond to requests for specific dates — there are many factors outside of the control of the development team, and I can only speak to those parts of the process that are within the control of the development team.

Regards,
-JD

Basically what JD_2020 is saying is that it’ll be done when it is done and your tears will only cause his cold metal heart to rust and release the content slower. I’m not sure how we can complain as we’ll probably be getting it for free.

Space Combat Sims for fans of X-Wing v Tie Fighter Part 2: Software

In some ways, this is the best of times for space sim aficionados. FreeSpace 2, the last great commercial space combat sim is open-source and there are a lot of games based on that codebase which are freely available, or will be released shortly.

Personally I would recommend starting out with Freespace 2, picking an updated engine for it so it runs well on your system, and going to town. Then, if you’re interested, move on to all the other cool projects around the Freespace community.

Good Old Games also sells both Freespace 1 and Freespace 2 for $5.99 per game. They also sell a number of other fine space combat games. The game itself is excellent, it features the best capital ships in this kind of game that I’ve ever seen.

The biggest Freespace modding community appears to be at Hard Light Productions. They host a number of projects, though one of the most popular project out there is the Battlestar Galactica Total Conversion called Beyond the Red Line which has a demo available.

Hard Light does host a Babylon 5 Total Conversion called The Babylon Project, which seems like a good idea, but I haven’t tried it yet.

Unfortunately, no mod really seems to bring the graphics in the Freespace 2 Engine up to modern standards. Though it is certainly nicer looking than the wireframe graphics from the X-Wing games.

Older games can even be played through emulators if they don’t work natively. Ben Armstrong at Microsoft even made X-Wing run under Virtual PC. Unfortunately that solution won’t allow joysticks to work, so most people recommend using DosBox instead.

There is even a patch for the Win95 version of X-Wing to make it work on modern machines.

Newer games include the X series of space sims which are a bit more like Wing Commander Privateer and have you in a more open-space kind of profiteering game. Trading goods and ships for wealth and power respectively. These games are more like Elite and there are six in the series plus a stand-alone expansion here and there:

The “No Goo Left Behind” Act

World of GooYesterday I found out about the World of Goo sale on Steam, via CAG, just before it ended.

Today I’m rescuing a goo-lady of, shall we say, “Ample carriage?”

Regardless, I’m escorting her down a red carpet, oh and look now, she’s just killed all of her fans. The good thing about this shallow-yet-not-insubstantial debutante is that her fanbase is leading her to a series of gears that will grind her up into the raw materials of beauty.

At least, that is beauty as far as goo is concerned.

So what is World of Goo, and what am I talking about?

World of Goo is an excellent indie physics puzzle game from 2dboy. You can get it on Steam, or a boxed copy via this amazon link. It’s so overlooked that I wanted to give it a mention. Now is the time to go back and try it if you haven’t.

I was like you, having only played through the free demo on Steam, I ignored the atmosphere of the game and dismissed it as shallow cuteness. Just as shallow as the gooball lady?

Now, having played more in the full game, I can hopefully cure you of your apathy. Give World of Goo a chance. I’m only up to Chapter 3, but the game is definitely more substantial than you might think from having just played the demo. It is even available for Linux now! Apple fans can get it, too. One license from 2dboy’s site appears to let you play it on any of those three platforms, as well.

I dare you to try playing it without a smile on your face. Everything from the overworld to the tower-building metagame put one on mine. Each level left me feeling good about my intelligence for having completed it, the way a good puzzle game should. Beyond the demo you also find new kinds of goo that make the solutions to each puzzle feel different.

Even the music is brilliant, but don’t take my word for it, download the soundtrack for free, from the developer. Maybe not something you’ll listen to much before you’ve played the game, but it is demonstrative of the game’s quality.

That metagame I mentioned is also pretty cool, it keeps you moving through the levels, and gives you a reason to go back to them. You see, each time you finish a level you can have a few balls of goo left over. The metagame has you employing those gooballs as joists and struts in support of a giant tower that you’re building to compete with everyone on the internet. It is pretty nifty, you’ll see what I mean when you try the game.

Maybe you’ll even send some ample goo-people to the spinning gears of doom, too.

Space Combat Sims for fans of X-Wing v Tie Fighter Part 1: Hardware

porkins

A lot of people like myself miss the old days. Let us then reminisce, and also blow the crap out of our enemies.

To get started, you’ll need some kind of joystick. I use Logitech joysticks because I like the twisting functionality on the stick itself for adjusting yaw on helicopters and jets in games like Battlefield 2 and sometimes roll in space sims like Freespace 2.

The two Logitech sticks I have are the Force 3D Pro and the Extreme 3D Pro. Names are kind of goofy, but they get the job done with the features i like and a reasonable price. Unfortunately, some games don’t support the force feedback. However, that can been taken as an advantage seeing as how the version without the Force Feedback costs half as much.

If you’re really cheap, you might even find an older USB stick at goodwill. I found an older USB Microsoft SideWinder there that I haven’t even tried yet. Adapters probably exist to go from gameport to USB, but I doubt they would work for joysticks unless such a product is designed specifically for them. Older gameport joysticks often required special software, unfortunately.

In my next post I’ll talk about some of the games you can play with these sticks.

What do you think? Are there some sims you want to see covered? Or maybe some sticks that I didn’t mention? Let me know in the comments below.