NaturalPoint TrackIR 4:PRO

by Matthew Harris on March 30, 2006 in Peripherals

There are ways of gaming that we’re all familar with. Today we’re taking a look at a way of getting ‘into’ the game in a new way, using your head. Literally.

Further thoughts & Conclusion

I spoke to Warren E.B. Blyth last night on the phone about TrackIR and it’s support for FPS titles which are my preference and found out that they made a mod for Half-Life 2 as a tech demo and you can view videos of that mod here. In the video you can see that the TrackIR allows you to look around the game using your head movements while using the mouse for aiming your weapon. Imagine the freedom in playing a death match where you can point your weapon in the direction that you believe the threat will come from then look over your shoulder to make certain nobody’s sneaking up on you!

That’s awesome! Warren told me that while he was a the GDC last week he met with the guy that made the CS mod for the original Half-Life and he requested the SDK for the TrackIR so that he could port support for the TrackIR into CS. Warren also told me that Valve is interested in the TrackIR although they don’t have the time to port it but they suggested that Warren contact a mod team about porting it into HL2 and after reviewing it Valve would add the support. That’s very exciting news!

In the earlier images of the product I’m sure that you noticed that I had a neon light behind the tracking module. During testing I had it on to see if the light from it reflecting on the clip caused issue. I also had the TV on behind me to see if it cause problems and neither one caused so much as a blip to the process. The tracking was smooth and precise throughout the entire time.

If you’re curious to see game play with the TrackIR, seeing static screenshots won’t do much to show you how it benefits you, NaturalPoint has both videos that they’ve made to showcase their product and videos made by users showing it in real world use so that you know they’re not just part of a press kit. Sadly yours truly doesn’t have the software needed to get real time gaming videos so I can’t share my experiences with you but I can tell you that it is cooler than playing without it.

I’m not a big flight sim fan so to me the hours of flying are boring and trying to land is just a joke, I did manage to set down in a farmers field at one point, oddly enough I think I know the guy (Well, know of anyway’s) since I was flying out of and into an airport I used to strip planes at. That ’tis a tale for another time though. The point is that on a highly realistic game such as FS’04 adding another notch of realism easily justifies the rather steep price of $179.95 (MSRP). I know that for people that easily spend thousands of dollars building multiple monitor flight simulators with slaved PCs driving upwards of 6-10 monitors for the hyper realistic flight experience the amount of the TrackIR will be a drop in the bucket and easily worth the investment.

Once the support for FPS players comes into being for the uber popular games you’d be a fool to not buy one. Especially if you play competitively since having your head no longer tied to where you’re aiming gives you a huge advantage. If you haven’t downloaded and watched the video I linked to you owe it to yourself to see it, the potential is purely awesome.

Here comes the part of the review I’m not looking forward to, the score. Sadly as awesome as the TrackIR is it’s a niche product right now, if you’re within this niche it is beyond value but if you’re on the outside looking in you’re going to be looking at the money you’d lay out on the TrackIR and wondering if it would be better spent on a cooling upgrade or some new ram or put towards any score of other upgrades. At least right now.

That said don’t think that the score I’m giving it is a knock against the TrackIR and it’s functionality, it’s not. It’s because of the very narrow support at this time. If you’re a flying sim fan or a driving sim fan you’re looking at a must have item but if you’re into FPS or TPS there’s not much love for you at the present time but that is likely to change.

For now I’m giving the TrackIR a 7/10 but it would be getting 2 points higher if its game support was more widespread. Once it’s no longer a simulator niche product I’ll go back and re-evaluate it in an all new review with a new score for fairness to everyone.