Gamecom 788 + Alien Isolation = ?
So I’ve been given the task of testing and reviewing the Plantronics Gamecom 788, an update to the previous Gamecom 780.
Now I’ll get to the usual review style shortly, build quality, sound quality, value etc. First, however, I would like you to relive my first experience with the Gamecom 788.Gaming headsets are designed for that purpose, me telling you all the technical details is useful, but you want to know how it feels to play using this headset.
For me a good gaming headset helps you get immersed in the world in which you are playing, be that Warcraft, Call Of Duty or even Pokemon. Good sound helps you cut out the world and truly feel part of the game.
My first thought was, what’s the best game to test out an immersive technology? Thankfully our friends at Sega were kind enough to have published the spine-chilling sensation that is Alien: Isolation.
For those of you unaware, this game puts you in the original movie universe and features an all too smart Alien, and all too realistic settings.
So it was game time, lights were off, doors were closed, and cat firmly established in the feeding position in another room (I was well aware that there could be a bit of an issue were she to jump up at an opportune moment causing me to re-invent the Fosbury Flop)
A quick visit to the Plantronics website and I was downloading the 7.1 surround software and ready to go with no problems (I was expecting a lot of faffing around to get it to work but all was well).
Now I’m fortunate to live in a small village just outside of Glasgow, the upside of this is that when you turn off the lights, it’s actually dark, so all that was in my field of vision was the monitor, I couldn’t see anything else.
The game started and the recognisable ambience of the Alien soundtrack was softly caressing my ears, perhaps lulling me into a false sense of security.
Instead of jumping into the storyline game I decided to try one of the shorter DLC levels (Last Survivor) as this would put me right in the action.
Immediately I am inside the infamous Nostromo, panicked crew are in my ears and I hear a heart-wrenching scream as one of the characters meet a rather painful demise, the others are shouting in my ears telling me to hurry up.
I run around and I can feel the ship surround me, I hear the hissing of steam escaping, my footsteps on the metal floor, the rumble of the engine and panicked breathing of Ripley. This is as close to VR as you can get without a dedicated VR headset. I hear nothing from the outside world, I am Ripley, I am in the Nostromo, and I am running for my life.
As the level progresses, and I first see the Alien, I run as fast as I can down a corridor and jump into a locker. Without realising initially, due to the immersion brought by the phenomenal audio piped into my skull, I hold my breath. I hear the Alien sniffing and stalking, she knows where I ran, slowly she comes into my periphery, the haunting sound of hissing and breathing continues, getting ever louder..…still, I hold my breath….don’t move….I see her slowly slithering past the locker I am in, she knocks something over and I find my hand covering my mouth so she doesn't hear me, yes that is how immersed I am in the world thanks to the Gamecom 788, I can hear everything.
A few minutes pass and I’m certain I heard a door open further down the corridor, I take my chance and leave the confines of my steel sanctuary. As I walk to the intersection of corridors I stop, close my eyes, and listen.
Everything is quiet, I find myself lost in the world with the sounds of the engine hum, the pipes rattling and steam vents hiss. I open my eyes and quickly run towards the door I’m meant to go towards. The door opens, I’m instantly greeted by the all-too familiar face of the Alien, I know it’s futile but I turn and run. I can hear the noise as she screeches, knowing she has found her quarry, the noise coming from behind me chills my spine, with reckless abandon she is knocking over barrels, breaking pipes, then……….it all goes silent. A horrific sound of a puncture comes from behind, I look down and can see something that wasn’t there, her tail coming through me from behind. As the screen goes dark I hear her breathing, almost certain that there is an element of joy in the sound.
That was my experience with the Gamecom 788. I’ve played the game many times, and yes it is scary each time, but the fidelity of the headset brought me into the world more than I though possible. VR may be the next big thing, but for the best possible immersion today, you can’t go further than a great headset.
Now to the nitty-gritty of reviewing this headset.
The Gamecom 788 is by far the best audio you can get for the money, at only £58.99, you will find it unlikely to beat it’s quality at that price. In all honesty it ranks up there with headsets in the low-to-mid £100’s.
Similar to the previous generation, the Gamecom 780, the 788 incorporates the latest Dolby 7.1 technology. While not true 7.1 in that there are not 8 sources of audio, it does create an all immersive soundscape when activated (by the Dolby button on the headset).
Movies and music are thoroughly enhanced by this mode, sound has much more bass to it, you feel more immersed in what you are watching, or listening to. The downside to this is the higher end of the sound spectrum is cut off, so hi-hats are a little less sharp, as are higher ranged vocals, a minor trade-off in my opinion.
Now it’s all fair and well talking about how it is for music and movies, but this is a gaming headset.
For gaming I’d recommend disabling the Dolby feature, due to the way it works positional audio is mixed and you can’t quite tell where it’s coming from precisely.
With Dolby disabled the audio positioning in games is phenomenal. I could hear precisely where steam was venting or a door was opening when playing Alien: Isolation. The deep sounds are unbelievably rich and explosions gloriously full up the sound space.
For the price I was expecting them to feel plasticky, light and fragile. I was gladly proven wrong. With a boxing quality that Apple would be proud of, the headset felt solid. The ear cups where comfortable and created a nice seal around the ears to minimise outside distractions.
The button placement for mute, volume and Dolby are neatly positioned on the outside of the left-cup and easy to handle without any fuss.
The headset is easily adjustable and the rotation of the cups makes it quite handy for storing them in a drawer.
Other Neat bits and Overview
Something it doesn’t say on the box, but I thought I’d test anyway, was PS4 compatibility. I was surprised, and overjoyed, when I plugged them into the console and immediately they worked. The only drawback being a lack of 7.1 mode. This, as mentioned, is fine, as games are better when the Dolby mode is disabled on the headset.
All in all the Gamecom 788 is a phenomenal bit of kit. Even when you take out the fact they are under £60. I would happily pay double that for a headset of this quality.
Surround Software for Dolby Headphone Technologies
Dolby Surround switch
Drivers - 40mm
Freq. Response - 20Hz - 20kHz
Mic. Freq. Response - 100Hz - 8kHz
Cable Length - 2m
Interface - USB
Compatibility - Windows / Mac
Warranty - 1-year limited
So to get your hands on a Plantronics Gamecom 788 for just £58.99, then click here.