Immersion is one of those “power” words in the MMOG
industry. Developers, journalists and fans all love to talk about this
immersion concept; the idea that a virtual world could be so
“realistic” that a person could – if they
chose to – become totally engrossed in the virtual
environment. If you still don’t get the concept think of
target="_blank">Star Trek’s Holodeck as
the epitome of what every video game
developer is shooting for; you can’t tell what’s
real and what isn’t.
developers would love to have the "immersion" factor of Star Trek's
target="_blank">As I’ve said previously,
having a horrible sound experience
can render even the most impressive environments lackluster. In many
titles, I’ve found myself wondering why my sword collisions
still sound the same, even though I’m colliding against a foe
that is obviously wearing metal armor? Even if a developer includes
innumerable sound effects for any sort of situation, if a gamer
doesn’t have a sound system that is at least adequate for
exploring those environments, again the immersion goes the way of the href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dodo_bird" target="_blank">dodo
If you’ve been following Ten Ton Hammer’s contests
over the last few weeks, you surely noticed the incredible giveaway
that we’re hosting with the help from the folks at Creative.
In short, we’re href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/giveaways/SoundBlaster"
target="_blank">giving away five Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium
Fatal1ty Professional Series sound cards and five Fata1lty Gaming
[We took one for a test
drive already, target="_blank"> check it out!—Ed.].
Even with these fantastic prizes available, Creative wanted to make
sure our readers knew what they were getting when they signed up for
the contest, so they sent over one extra Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium
Fatal1ty Champion Series card so I could put it through the grinder and
see what a gamer really thought of the their latest Sound Blaster card
Just like the Fatal1ty Gaming Headset, the Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium
Fatal1ty Champion Series card comes in some pretty packaging, which I
hastily tore to shreds to get to the meat and potatoes of the product.
Luckily, the actual sound card components themselves were just as sexy
to view. The Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium Fatal1ty Champion Series
package comes with one internal PCI-E card and one external,
drive-mounted sound dock. Although PCI-E slots
aren’t terribly utilized in most barebones computer set ups,
this card does drop into that slot so you’ll need to insure
that you have a decent amount of space available to wedge it in there.
My computer is more
crowded than Target on Black Friday, so actually getting the
device in was a
bit of a challenge. Once it was plugged, however, I was surprised to
see a nicely illuminated “X-Fi” on the side.
Conan's beautiful soundtrack boomed out of my new X-Fi wired speakers.
The external, drive-mounted sound dock required a bit more finesse to
actually install than the sound card. In order for the sound dock to
operate correctly, it needed to be attached to the sound card via a
pair of “digital” and “analog”
cables, which basically turned into “suck” and
“ass” in my mind. Those two cables were extremely
hard to plug in, and even with my post-collegiate football muscles [ style="font-style: italic;">which
aren’t much these days—Ed.] I had to
actually push those cables into their slots. I can’t imagine
if one of those things had slipped out of my hands; I
would’ve been digging an early grave for my graphics card.
When everything was installed and mounted, I fired up my computer,
installed the drivers with minimal finagling, and restarted my machine.
Almost as soon as the Windows boot-up noise hit my ears, I was in
audiorgasmic heaven. My onboard 5.1 sound paled in comparison to what I
was hearing from the Sound Blaster. Gathering my wits, I decided to
take a deeper look at what the X-Fi could give me in my gaming
Since Creative seems to have some sort of working deal with every video
game manufacturer on the planet, a number of your MMOGs will have an
option for Creative EAX sound If you’re unfamiliar
with EAX, it stands for href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_audio_extensions"
target="_blank">Environmental Audio eXtensions and
allows the environment within your games to sound better, clearer, and
– as I talked about in my opening paragraph – more
immersive. Although most sound cards support EAX 1 or 2, the hardware
required for any further EAX iterations must come solely from Creative.
Some companies – like ASUS – have devised ways
around that dilemma, but onboard sound solutions simply won’t
have the sort of life and detail that a higher quality sound card
– especially one as robust as the Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium
Fatal1ty Champion Series. It’s like comparing someone to a
target="_blank">vampire; the vampire may do
it’s best to emulate human
qualities, but it is still nothing more than a cold, dead corpse.
As I expected, the sound quality – especially in the newer
games like target="_blank">Age of Conan and href="http://warhammer.tentonhammer.com/" target="_blank">Warhammer
Online: Age of Reckoning
– was absolutely fantastic. I particularly enjoyed the
difference that enabling EAX made in WAR; I went from hearing only a
few ambient noises to looking around, trying to find where all those
damn bugs were coming from. Even href="http://wow.tentonhammer.com/" target="_blank">World
or Warcraft was significantly
improved with the X-Fi card, and my Death Knight couldn’t
sound any more ominous with his fancy new voice.
older game like World of Warcraft utilizes the Creative technologies.
Notably, I’ve never been a big proponent of any
“extras” that are included in a hardware gaming
package. Free games are nice, extra screws are cool, but I
don’t need any fancy gadgets or do-dads to come with it. With
the Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium Fatal1ty Champion Series, Creative
proved me wrong. As a gamer, I always thought it was incredibly
cumbersome and time consuming to need to plug my headset into the back
of my computer. With the drive-mounted sound dock, I can plug my
headset into a front port AND control the volume of my microphone.
Couple that with buttons to turn on “Game Mode” and
a few other gaming adjustments, and I was in sound heaven.
Weighing in at $199.99 on Creative’s official product
website, the Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium Fatal1ty Champion Series
isn’t a cheap card, but it certainly doesn’t break
the bank either. A cheaper version does exist in the form of the
Professional series at $149.99, but that card doesn’t come
with the drive-mounted sound dock. If you’re already willing
to shell out $150 dollars for a sound card, why not pony up the extra
$50 to have a bit of comfort in your gaming life?
All in all, I had a really hard time finding any true faults with this
sound card set-up. Except for the wiring difficulties, everything was
as smooth and painless on the installation, which is exactly the way I
like it. Concerning the overall sound quality, I was as happy as the
lucky guys who were first in line to grab their copy of Wrath of the
Lich King. Kudos to Creative for making a tremendous sound card that
appeals in many areas other than simply the quality of its audio.