NHL GameCenter Live on PS3: featureful but buggy

I’m a hockey fan. It’s probably the only sport I enjoy watching. I also happen to be one of those new age hippies that doesn’t pay for cable or satellite… streaming content is the only thing I care about. I am not interested in paying for channels that do not interest me, so I don’t see the merits in paying for TV I won’t watch just so I can subscribe to NHL Center Ice.

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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.

MadCatz Super Street Fighter 4 Wireless PS3 FightPad Review

There are a lot of choices when it comes to playing fighting games at home. You could go with the full Arcade experience and buy your own Street Fighter cabinet, or maybe you just want the joystick portion.

Maybe though you’re more like me; too cheap even for the MadCatz fighting sticks. Though most of the Street Fighter community seems to consider sticks to be the only option, I only play for fun. So that’s why I went with the FightPad.

You might be surprised to find that the fightpad is wireless since MadCatz goes out of their way to hide the USB wireless dongle in the bottom of the packaging. It doesn’t even use bluetooth, opting instead for the el cheapo 2.4 Ghz RF technology. More importantly, it is still extremely responsive despite all that.

Playing with Marvel vs. Capcom 2, Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo HD Remix and Street Fighter 4; I didn’t notice any lag. So, maybe they are right to hide the dongle, I wouldn’t have bought it if I had known. The battery solution for the pad is a standard battery AA housing on the back like the MS 360 gamepads. However, this gamepad doesn’t include contacts for the 360’s rechargeable battery pack. So you are on your own for that.

The directional pad and saturn-esque button layout is a tremendous upgrade from the Dual Shock 3. Just like the original fightpads you can still swap the dpad’s toggle to control either the left or right analog sticks if you’re trying to work with a game that doesn’t support one or the other. The turbo functionality works just like it should, tap the turbo button once and then the button you want to repeat; then tap that button again and it’ll repeat.

It probably wouldn’t be too surprising if I told you that the build quality isn’t great. I’m not even sure it suits the $40 price tag at most retailers. The buttons feel loose, and the noise they make while the pad is in motion isn’t  reassuring. Though that probably doesn’t impact their accuracy,  the quality is going to impact the controller’s lifespan. Moreover it makes it me wish for a “tournament edition” of the fightpad with higher-quality parts. I don’t like wasting space in landfills. You can tell already that this pad is going to end up broken and sent to one within a few months of dedicated playing.

This FightPad isn’t limited to fighting either, it also works really well with emulated games. Though the dpad shows up as a joystick hat, which is kind of strange. I tried out Sunset Riders with it, and can say that this is perhaps the ultimate way to play Sunset Riders.

Overall it is easy to recommend the pad to folks like me, casual players who are too cheap or don’t have the room for the larger arcade-style fighting sticks. Dedicated players will wear it out in time, but even they should enjoy it while it lasts. My understanding is that the 360 version is similar, but wired.

Finally, a Burn Zombie Burn! Review

Everyone is a fan of Zombies, and some people are in the Scott Sharkey fan club. What you get when you combine the two?

A review of Burn Zombie Burn! over at 1up:

Burn Zombie Burn gets straight to the damn point. There are zombies. You burn the holy screaming hell out of them. Then, if you’re so inclined, you run into the burning mess of deadguys holding a lawnmower out in front of you. You can share this experience with your peers, if you’re so inclined.

Nice to know if the game is any good, I just wish things had worked out so the review would have gone up before the game.

3-On-3 NHL Arcade (PS3) Review

nhl_arcade3 On 3 NHL Arcade is the first PSN game I’ve tried where the demo version converts to the full version with just a token download. It is also fantastic with just a few minor nitpicks, and one big one.

  • Minor: Your teams, while easily distinguishable, are just red/blue. So you can’t pick the Flyers and get their jerseys.
  • Minor: Limited player selection, you can’t pick the Flyers and get their players.
  • Giant Humongous Failure: No friend invites/searching for friend games

What were they thinking with the no friend invites! In order to play versus a friend I had to set the custom unranked game to play-to a certain number of goals so my buddy could find it when he searched for a custom game. I know the PSN isn’t the best in the world, but I’m sure that NHL 09 had some kind of system for inviting friends, right?

Despite all that, I heartily recommend NHL Arcade, it is a fun game with almost all of the complications removed. In the place of those complications remain the tight skill stick or button controls, and cartoon stylings to the characters along with power-ups.