Xbox Live Starter Kit and Halo 2 edition headset


27 Jan 2005

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Product: starter kit and headset
Price: €59.99 and €38 respectively
Online gaming has traditionally been the preserve of the PC platform. Xbox Live is an attempt by Microsoft to bring it to its Xbox gaming console. It allows up to 16 players to compete against each other over a broadband connection. Games using this technology include the timeless classics of shoot-em-ups and football.

Up to four players with one console can pitch their finger skills against 12 other players from any corner of the connected world. The choice of opponent may seem exotic and limitless at first, but the pool rarely wandered far from Sticksville, US.

The Xbox Live Starter Kit comprises an installation disc and a communicator headset. And Halo 2 gamers who play Xbox Live can focus on strategy, not equipment, thanks to the Halo 2 edition headset from Plantronics. The headset plugs into one of the controllers and allows for real-time dialogue.

An optimised speaker, microphone and contoured one-ear fit maximise the audio for gamers’ complete immersion while also letting them stay aware of what’s happening in their other reality, the living room. It means you get the opportunity to accost other players for their lack of motor skills but it encourages team play at the same time. It sounds great but we soon realise how dull the conversation becomes. “He’s behind you” becomes a recurring theme of the online shoot-em-up. The novelty of the headset soon wears off. The digitised voices are barely audible and become distracting when trying to play.

Xbox Live’s most attractive quality is its ease of use. Whereas traditional online gaming has a nerdy stigma, Xbox Live is an active attempt by Microsoft to dismantle cultural barriers by bringing the online experience into the living room and making it extremely simple to use. The obvious advantage of the kit is the universal enjoyment it unleashes. It’s exciting and brings a freshness to the console experience. Games change from a single player experience to an adrenalin-filled event, whereby friends and strangers can join in on the battle for superiority and rank. The connection also allows glitches in games to be fixed and new features to be added, such as new multiplayer levels.

The Xbox Live may start out as an attempt to increase your enjoyment of gaming, but there is a danger of it taking over your life. It offers unlimited access to exciting entertainment, but it comes at a price. Xbox Live is addictive and can easily consume your precious few spare hours. I know for a fact that one of Ireland’s highest ranking Halo 2 players missed numerous weeks of college to affirm his position as one of the top thousand in the world. It’s easy to see why your initial enjoyment soon wanes when playing against such serious opponents. The sublime novelty soon dissipates into competitiveness and aggression. Where’s the fun gone?

Overall, battles on Xbox Live are more intense due to its multiplayer advances, and while not perfect, the Halo 2 headset will give you a competitive edge in demolishing the opposition.

By Lisa Deeney