Love it or hate it, the release of Modern Warfare 3 is sure to be one of the biggest launches in gaming history. We've already seen the fanfare, ranging from amazingly stupid promotions, to the most badass events (friggin' zip lines and paintball!)
The most recent stop on this hype train brings us to one of its more practical destinations, Turtle Beach headsets. I recently had the a chance to check the latest line of Turtle Beach's hardware. In a nutshell, FPS nuts have a real cause for celebration, but get ready to break the bank for real quality.
These Modern Warfare 3 branded headsets are the first licensed headsets that Turtle Beach has every put out. With the aim to do more than simply cash-in on the Call of Duty brand with a pretty paint job, Turtle Beach has really gone deep with the design by including the audio designers at Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer.
Some of you might remember the Turtle Beach PX5 that were released earlier this year. One of the first fully programmable headsets, the team at Visceral Games were given advanced version of the headset's sound editor to fine tune the presets for optimal performance with Dead Space 2.
Turtle Beach has done the same with the new line of headsets for Modern Warfare 3. Out of the box, each of the Modern Warfare 3 headsets are sharply tuned and optimized for the best possible performance with Modern Warfare 3, courtesy of Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer. From the high-end Delta to the budget line Foxtrot, these headsets are quite literally designed with Modern Warfare 3, for Modern Warfare 3. If you find yourself wanting more control over these presets though, the Earforce Delta allows for full audio customization.
The partnership with Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer has benefits beyond the technical design too. At the cosmetic level, Turtle Beach has worked with the two studios to create unique packaging for the higher-end Delta and Bravo models. Both headsets come packaged in a military-style hard case with foam cushion lining, aiming to sell the look and feel that you are buying a piece of equipment rather than a consumer electronic. All of the MW3 headsets also come packaged with additional content such as download codes for an abridged version of Brady Games' Modern Warfare 3 strategy guide, desktop wallpapers and trial memberships for yet to be announced services and promotions (Fingers crossed for a Call of Duty: Elite trial.) So even with the lower end Foxtrots, you get quite of bit of extra content.
Additionally, the MW3 branded headsets have voice prompts to alert you of what chat mode you are in, when the headset is powering on or off, when the batteries are running low, etc. All of these prompts are voiced by Col. Hank Keirsy, the military adviser for the Modern Warfare series. I got a brief amount of time to see how this feature works, and while it's nothing to write home about, it adds a small touch of personality. Factor in that you can download and switch out voice prompts from characters in the Modern Warfare universe and it has potential to be pretty cool, for the sake of added customization if nothing else.
There are a total of four MW3 branded headsets: Delta, Bravo, Charlie, and Foxtrot. Delta leads the pack as the best in class. Retailing at a whopping $299.95, it features wireless Dolby 7.1 surround sound and is fully programmable so you can further optimize presets to your liking. Its functionally universal and comes packaged with a Bluetooth adapter that plugs into the Xbox 360 controller, eliminating all cords.
The Earforce Delta was the first headset I got to try out, demoed with Modern Warfare 2. To really put these headsets through their paces, I tried them out on the single-player mission "The Gulag" where the audio is an absolute assault on auditory senses, loud and rich with the sound of gunfire, explosions, helicopter blades and jet engines.
Here, the Earforce Delta stood up extremely well with pitch perfect clarity from all of the audio channels. Sounds were all distinct and beautifully delivered, never once jumbled or muddled together. The physical design is no slouch either. The ear cup cushioning felt soft and light, and I even started to forget they were there from time to time. I can easily envision continued comfort after hours of play on the Delta.
Next were the Earforce Bravo stereo headsets retailing at the more attractive $179.95. Bravos are wireless and universally functional like the Deltas. You can choose from a number of presets, but Bravos are not fully programmable. While the sound remained solid throughout, the drop off in quality is very noticeable. When there isn't too much going in with respect to the audio presentation, the Bravos work admirably well. However sounds are noticeably muddied and can even drown out one another when there's a lot of gunfire, explosions, music, dialogue and other sounds going on at the same time. The clarity just doesn't seem to hold up when put under pressure.
On the lower end we have the Earforce Charlie and the Earforce Foxtrot. Designed specifically with PC gamers in mind, the $129.95 Charlie is an eight speaker, multi-driver headset with four speakers in each ear cup. The Earforce Charlie offer 5.1 surround sound and complete control of each of the 5.1 audio channels with the headset's amplifier.
Rounding out the series are the Earforce Foxtrot. The lowest end of the MW3 headsets, the Foxtrots are simple stereo wireless headsets. Retailing at $99.95, they're poised to offer solid stereo sound at a budget price. Neither the Foxtrot or Charlie was part of my demo.
Finally, Turtle Beach will also be releasing their XP500 series alongside the Modern Warfare 3 branded headsets. Feature identical to the Earforce Delta, the XP500 is a fully programmable 7.1 Dolby surround sound headset that offers universal functionality and completely wireless Bluetooth functionality for the Xbox 360. A key difference between these and the Delta is that the presets for the XP500 were not fine tuned and optimized by the sound designers at Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer. Only the MW3 branded headsets enjoy that privilege. It will retail for $269.95, and will be available for all of you to get your hands on October 24, day and date with the Modern Warfare 3 branded Turtle Beaches.
The quality on offer with the Earforce Delta is to be lauded, but at just about $300 (MSRP $299.95) most will find the barrier of entry too high. The Bravos may not warrant the same high praise that the Deltas do, but for the price they definitely seem like a better offer for those wanting something more financially feasible. But even at the Foxtrot level, stereo headsets have always proven reliable enough for sounding out enemy footsteps in multiplayer and all of these headsets will give you an edge against the competition.