Saturday, December 26, 2009

Aural Elbow Drop.

I own a surround system. In fact, I have since 2004. When the speakers on my "great" television at the time started to die out, I searched frantically for a solution, and lo and behold, my present that year for christmas was a 5.1 surround system of my choosing. Since then I've never looked back.

Sure, I've upgraded my television since then, but sound is the one thing that continues to matter to me. I'm usually the person preaching the contextual value of good graphics, but when the chips are down, I'd take an amazing aural experience over visuals any day. Your eyes can always overcompensate for what you're seeing, but you can't trick your ears.

My favorite example to use is Dead Space...given the choice, which would enrich the experience more; clarity towards already great visuals, or the ability to experience the constant ambient punctuation the game provides, being able to feel the Necromorphs crawling all around you?

With that notion, when I'd finally had enough of my subwoofer not delivering the punch I wanted to, I replaced it. I expected little more than a boost to sounds I was already acquainted with.

I got more than I bargained for.

In a good way.

I was surprised at what I was hearing. I popped in Uncharted 2 and fired up the train sequence. I started hearing things I'd never heard before. Subtleties in the audio made me connect with my surroundings more. I felt more genuine fear at the gunship when it appeared than I had previously. Moreover, it felt like I was there. When everything collapsed and went to hell, my room shook along with the sequence and pulled me in even further.

It was almost surreal, I started replaying things in sequence. Burnout felt more powerful and exciting. DJ Hero turned my room into a club. God of War somehow became even more visceral, deep lows and powerful bass spikes accentuating Kratos' more violent moves.

Even Gears of War 2, a game I've played through countless times with friends simply felt new< thanks to this new thing. In GoW, there is a very constant, very powerful rumbling that spreads itself through the hospital scene that I simply could NOT hear before, despite the fact that I've had surround for years. Old games felt new again.

Especially Dead Space. There aren't even words. I'd already known the game had incredible sound, but now? It was as if Issac was shooting me straight in the eardrum.

It was something that made me with I'd had it much earlier. The audio experience is so rich, so...complete now because of something seemingly so minute an upgrade, that I can only imagine how wonderful Bioshock, or Batman: Arkham Asylum would've sounded my first time through them. No regrets here though.

I'll definitely find out in their sequels.

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