by Scott Lowe
November 18, 2008 - I'm not particularly adventurous when it comes to PC gaming accessories. I'll give anything a try, but in most cases I find myself calling upon a comfortable chair, a no-frills keyboard, and a reasonably responsive mouse with accurate tracking. I can understand and appreciate the need for some to utilize more extensively featured control devices, but I prefer to keep things simple. I've seen my fair share of gaming mice, keyboards, and headsets, but really, the industry standards for these product types have long since been established and the limitations are clear. On the other hand, this isn't to say that there is no room for advancement within the standard issue PC gaming peripheral realm; there is, as we've so clearly seen with the SteelSeries World of Warfcraft MMO Gaming Mouse. If you are looking for thrills beyond the mouse, keyboard, voice communication and audio realm, the particularly intriguing peripheral work is being done by the mad scientists of the world, or in this case, medical practitioners.
I am referring, of course, to the 3rd Space Gaming Vest from TN Games, which was invented by a licensed physician, Dr. Mark Ombrellaro. The 3rd Space Gaming Vest brings a new level of physical immersion to PC gaming through the use of repurposed medical technologies. The vest uses an advanced air compression system and eight pneumatic cells, four on each side, to give players an unparalleled force-feedback experience. In other words, the 3rd Space Vest allows players to physically feel the strikes, shots, and other effects being dealt to them in-game. The eight contact points can deliver up to five pounds of force and can be customized to fire at varying rates and duration. The vest receives its cues from game drivers for a variety of AAA titles, released by TN Games. So far, the 3rd Space Gaming Vest has been adopted for the following titles:
As you can see, TN Games has been quite busy gaining game support for the 3rd Space Gaming Vest. Quality title support, or lack thereof, can make or break an innovative gaming peripheral like the 3rd Space Gaming Vest. Fortunately, TN Games has pretty much all of their bases covered with a firm hold on the FPS market. Support for FPS fan-favorites like Call of Duty 4 and Crysis will certainly attract a sizable amount of attention from intermediate and hardcore gamers, but the support for World of Warcraft and Fable will definitely garner the interest of the MMORPG community.
With all of TN Games' proverbial "ducks in a row" in terms of title support, the real question becomes how does the 3rd Space Gaming Vest perform? Well, a portion of the answer comes from the product itself and the other from your own willingness to try new and unconventional gaming accessories. The product itself performs just as you would imagine, assuming of course that you don't envision gasping for breath as you cradle your stomach in searing pain. The compressors provide a significant jolt, but not to the point of any discomfort or pain. I would most readily compare the sensation to being lightly-to-moderately poked, which is impressive considering that the system relies exclusively on air-compressors. One would think that the inflation and deflation would be somewhat gradual, but in reality the points of contact come and go quite quickly. The swift punch of the compressors is what truly makes this product unique. Unlike vibrating feedback or competing technologies, the 3rd Space Gaming Vest is fast and unrelenting. Each burst falls in perfect sync with in-game effects and gunfire.
One clear cut benefit of owning and using the 3rd Space Vest is for adversarial online play in FPS titles. Instead of relying on a subtle red tinge on one side of your screen, you can actually feel what direction the shots are being fired from. By adding touch to the existing and audible and visual sensory perception in gaming, users will find that they react faster and with better accuracy. While use of the 3rd Space Gaming Vest has not yet been authorized for moderated competitive play by the various gaming leagues, it will certainly give casual competitors a serious edge.
The build of the 3rd Space Gaming Vest itself is quite sound, made from durable 600D polyester and the zippers and straps are all made of the highest quality materials. The product's price of $169.99 sounds expensive at first, but once you get a feel for the vest and the components that come with, you start to wonder how they could afford to sell it at such a low price. With durable mesh and well-stitched zippers, straps, and compartments, the 3rd Space Vest feels as if it could be used in legitimate combat situations. When it first arrived to our offices, I was tempted to wear it at all times like 50 Cent or My Chemical Romance's Gerard Way. The only thing that stopped/stops me from parading around like the badass I am, is the several feet of tubing that connects to the independent compressor. Which brings me to the other crucial aspect of the vest—its setup.
Setting up and installing the vest and its software is effortless. Simply connect the external compressor to its dedicated power supply, the vest to the compressor via the aforementioned tubing, and to your PC via USB. While this sounds like a lot of work, there are a number of ways that the design could have been more complicated. For instance, the vest could have required a dedicated AC cord of its own, in addition to the one required for the air compressor. After setting up the hardware, a simple general driver install for you PC is all that the 3rd Space Gaming Vest requires. Once the initial install is completed, all that you have to do is fire up your favorite supported title and prepare to be physically immersed. There is an automatic update feature within the 3rd Space Vest's driver that ensures that you can play freshly supported titles as the updates become available.
But despite the exceptional quality of the vest's performance and build, the value of the 3rd Space Gaming Vest really comes down to how adventurous of a FPS or WoW gamer you are. As I said, I'm not the type to use something like the 3rd Space Gaming Vest every time I play--but that's just my preference. Everything that the 3rd Space Gaming Vest could do to impress me, it did. There is little I could ask more of the 3rd Space Gaming Vest, and for the audience that is interested in immersive force feedback gaming, there is nothing currently on the market that can beat it.
|out of 10|
Quick, immersive, and unrelenting bursts of force.
We'd wear it as a tactical vest if we could.
|8.8||Ease of Use
Make a few connections, install the driver, and you are all set.
Seemingly steep, but ultimately reasonable for the quality of the build and performance.
Not exactly couch-potato caliber, but when you are getting bursts of force in your abdomen, who's going to be slouching?
(out of 10 / not an average)