I inexplicably ended up with some Xbox 360 headphones to review for the Guardian games blog. I have no experience in tech reviews. I submitted the following piece, which was ignored and has not been published in the three months since I sent it in, so I’m going to assume that they don’t want it for reasons that will become immediately obvious. But here it is. An experiment in new tech reviewing.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Tritton Warhead headphones is how unrelentingly badass they are. That’s not a technical term. It’s unlikely to be found anywhere in the blurb on the back of the box. But it’s the defining characteristic. If you cut them in half they would read “badass” through the middle like Brighton rock, although you can’t cut them in half, because they would stop you from doing that.
They are black and orange and angular and the headset mic is reassuringly sturdy yet retains an essential flexibility and, overall, they look like the sort of headphones that a combat helicopter pilot from Deus Ex: Human Revolutions would wear on their days off while they play computer games the likes of which we can only IMAGINE.
They look like the sort of headphones that you could upgrade with cutting-edge black-market modifications brought from a shady dealer in the maze-like backstreets of Hengsha. They feel like the sort of headphones you’d pair with a matching caseless smart-pistol packed with guided HEAP rounds, wired to target-match through your bionic eyes. They are headphones that deserve gleaming metallic arms carrying them to your ears.
They are totally wireless, in that the headphone unit itself does not even accept wires in extremis – you cannot tether these things to a computer. Instead, the chunky base unit comes with two batteries – one orange, the other grey – one of which is recharged while the other is in use. These are headphones which, when they run out of power, are not plugged in but reloaded.
The leather ear cups fit so snugly that they can block out the majority of the world outside even when they’re not switched on, muffling your heartbeat and quietly underlining the ongoing fantasy that you’re an augmented half-cyborg with oil for blood and assault kata chips wetwired into your overclocked brain and these headphones are pumping nonstop futurebass into your waiting, desperate augmented ears.
They sound incredible, offering 7.1 surround capability when the Xbox they’re designed for only goes up to 5.1. These things are designed to be used in the future. No – they are FROM the future, transported back in the sort of time machine that uses a spinning gyroscope on a pedestal rather than the sort of time machine that is built into a Delorean.
These headphones can be abused. You could use them to listen to the jaunty music in Rayman Origins, perhaps. Or the warbling J-Pop of Final Fantasy XIII-2. Or the charming bleeps and bloops of Lego Star Wars. But you shouldn’t, because the headphones would take it as an insult. You would be demeaning these headphones by making them play the sound from a game that doesn’t contain at least two kinds of fully-automatic weapon.
If these headphones had a mouth, they would use it to smoke cigarettes and cuss out people who got in their way. If they had a body, they you use it to ride overpowered rice rockets through the shattered streets of Neo-Tokyo and get into fights at school. They are not designed to make music richer. They are not designed to be comfortable to wear. There are other headphones available that can do those things, and these headphones beat them up right in the middle of the street and no-one lifted a finger to stop them.
These headphones are designed to let you know when some dude with a combat knife is sneaking up behind you and allow you spin round and blow him away with a burst of fire from your SMG and they are very good at their job.
These headphones will only work on the Xbox 360. They won’t plug into your PC or your iPod or your TV or anything else. These headphones know that and these headphones don’t give a shit.
They don’t provide the best sound available on the market for music or films, but in a very real way, fuck music and films. The cocktail of equalisers built into the Games setting on the equaliser options make gunshots sing out like vibro-blades coursing through the soft flesh of an unarmoured data courier.
If you have £200 spare and you decide you want to listen to violent games in the absolute best way possible until we develop high bandwith consumer-grade neural uplinks and you can just jam an Xbox output cable into the socket at the base of your neck like you were plugging in a kettle, then these are the things that you should buy.