What do you give the game fanatic who has everything? A can of Red Bull and a SideWinder Game Voice. This communication unit has no direct bearing on a game itself but does, as they say, enhance the gaming experience. The small, circular, black box is covered with an unhealthy number of buttons on its top surface, nearly all of which light up when engaged.
They’re for contacting different combinations of players in your ‘team’ – the Game Voice is all about multi-player gaming – so you can shout encouragement along the lines of ‘Get your arse down to the cellar and give me cover, I’m going for the flag’.
The device is remarkably adept at doing this, as it hooks straight into your network (local or Internet) and enables you to assign different players or combinations of players to different buttons. So, you can direct remarks to single players or to any defined sub-sets you set up. There’s an All button, too, to speak to everyone.
All these terse conversations are picked up by the headset you wear, complete with miniature boom microphone, which leaves your hands free to concentrate on the game. Mic and headphones plug into the side of the Game Voice and two other leads connect to equivalent jacks on your PC’s sound card, with control and software connection through a third, USB lead. The sound quality is fair, though you’re not likely to want to play your CD collection back through it.
The device comes with software which handles the connection process, locally or through a game-hosting Web site. The product really comes into its own when there are quite a few of you playing, so it’s ideal for Internet use, or perhaps on a company network (if you can get away with it).
As well as adding another dimension to gameplay, Game Voice has one further trick up its digital sleeve. A big, press-and-hold button on the outer ring of the device switches the unit to Command mode. Now you can issue commands to your game software verbally, rather than by remembering keyboard shortcuts. It’s a lot easier to say ‘sniper rifle’ than to remember a shortcut in the heat of battle.
Microsoft provides a good few game profiles, with the common shortcuts you might want to test its speech recognition with, but you can create your own, too, of course. Overall, this is a neat piece of kit if you regularly play multi-player games, but it does comes a bit expensive as a digital intercom.
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