Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Microsoft Xbox 360 Wireless Gaming Receiver
- Instantly recognised by Xbox ported games and others, easy installation in both XP and Vista, easy set up
- Nothing of note
Despite our initial scepticism, the Microsoft Xbox 360 Wireless Gaming Receiver offers a more flexible gaming experience for Xbox and PC players alike. There are only a few very minor issues and overall, we found it to be a very handy device to have on hand when gaming is your recreation of choice.
Price$ 19.95 (AUD)
Initially there was a degree of scepticism over the usefulness of Microsoft's Xbox Wireless Gaming Receiver. PC gaming is the domain of the mouse and keyboard or joystick, not a controller - or is it?
The convergence of console and PC titles, with both being ported to the other, (increasingly so from the console to the PC) means there's a growing need for an Xbox 360 style controller to be made for PCs. Lets not forget the latest move by Microsoft, which has introduced Xbox Live to Windows Vista, giving gamers the opportunity to play cross-platform online competitions in games such as ShadowRun.
Instead of buying a new Xbox style controller for your PC, the Wireless Gaming Receiver lets you take an official Xbox 360 controller (whether you have an Xbox 360 or buy a controller separately) and pair it to the PC, via the USB receiver. There are plenty of games where a controller might have been useful, particularly racing or flying games, or console style sports games such as Ice Hockey. But these days you're often faced with a PC game built for Xbox 360, with an Xbox HUD and menu systems, for which you're better off using an official Xbox wireless controller than any other input device.
Games ported from Xbox include Marvel Ultimate Alliance, Lost Planet: Extreme Condition, Spiderman 3, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Halo 2, but there are also PC titles such as Microsoft Flight Sim X, which works perfectly well with a joystick, but has been specifically designed with an Xbox 360 controller in mind.
There are a number of reasons to consider this device. Even the next-gen graphics of the Xbox 360 can't hold up to the potential of PC graphics. Despite the hardware built into the Xbox 360 in lieu of the DirectX 10 application programming interface (API), the latest graphics cards for PC still push more impressive graphics with more potential features than the Xbox 360 can. There is no-way, for instance, that you're likely to see anything on Xbox 360 that looks as pretty as Crytek's Crysis is expected to be on PC.
There are a few ways in which this device can be of benefit. On our test PC, Spiderman 3 looked stunning, but was terrible to play on the keyboard. Alternatively, Lost Planet: Extreme Condition offered a more accurate target using the mouse, but serves as an excellent example of how a PC title can make an Xbox 360 game look much better (Lost Planet: Extreme Condition is a DirectX 9 game with some DirectX 10 tweaks and other effects added to the PC version). Now fans of the Xbox titles can play their favourite games with all the graphical perks of a PC, while using the familiar Xbox controller (a PC version of the game must be purchased separately).
If you already have an Xbox 360, but share it with friends or family and only have a small TV, a PC version of a game might offer the option for an effective second console, running on its own hardware, on its own screen, with its own login to Xbox Live using a Windows Vista-based machine. At the time of writing the only games set up to use this feature were ShadowRun and Halo 2, which allow PC gamers to take on their Xbox rivals, but we expect to see more titles catch on in time.
With regards to ShadowRun, the USB Wireless Gaming Receiver will actually affect the game-play. In order to balance the swift, precise movement of the mouse, ShadowRun developers have tweaked the aiming to give players using a mouse a slight handicap. The game can be played on PC using either, and switching modes seemingly adjusts the aiming to match the input device of choice (inputs cannot be switched mid-game as a result).
Installing this device is as simple as it gets. Our review sample shipped with drivers for Windows XP, however Windows Vista automatically searched and found the latest Vista drivers online, and then installed them. Pairing the controller to the receiver is as simple as pairing it to the Xbox 360 console. Simply hold down the one and only button on the receiver and in turn hold down the pairing button on the controller.
The device worked flawlessly in both XP and Vista on our test machine. The only issue we had was that the controller had to be turned on to begin the pairing process, which inadvertently powered on the Xbox 360 console to which it was already paired. The Xbox 360's wireless devices have a solid range on them, which had a negative effect in this instance. Since our test system and console are in separate rooms, the powered-on console may have gone unnoticed for sometime under the right circumstances, leaving it to run hot.
The only in-game issue was in the retail build of Marvel Ultimate Alliance, which failed to correctly identify and match the buttons on the controller to the buttons on screen (when an action was matched to the Y button, you would need to press the X button for it to actually work). However, we expect, based on our experience, that most titles will handle this properly.
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