The Holiday season can be quite a stressful time – least of all because picking up correct presents whilst keeping them a surprise in time for Christmas day can be a real pain. We’re hiting that mid-December time now when people are panicking – and it’s especially hard when you’re trying to buy a gift for the gamer that has everything.
Here’s our idea of some gifts that aren’t discs-in-boxes that the gamers in question might not have thought of or managed to pick up in a year so jam packed with major releases.
For the Racing Fan
Racers are an evergreen genre, and always seem to be a much-wanted genre come Christmas time. While Gran Turismo 5 was last year’s must-have racer, a lot of Xbox 360 owners have likely picked up or are receiving Forza 4 this holiday, whilst a steady stream of GT5 downloadable content and other third party releases like Need for Speed: The Run are keeping the genre fresh across the board.
If they’re racing a lot, the perfect gift is a steering wheel. Xbox 360 owners have two key options depending on how much you’re willing to pay – both officially licensed, fully wireless products that will enhance the racing experience.The Official Xbox 360 Wireless Speed Wheel comes from Microsoft and requires no clamps or desk to place it on at all. Designed for use with Forza 4 in particular, the wheel uses wireless motion sensing and accelerometers to measure how you’re tilting it and boasts specially spaced triggers to make it easier for you to feather the accelerator and brake in-game. Coming in at around the price of a game, the wheel is perfect for the casual racing fan and is backwards compatible with all 360 racers.
For the more hardcore racer, the guys at Mad Catz have put out two variations of a full-size steering wheel. Officially licensed by Microsoft, the wheel comes with pedals, a stick shift that can be switched from left to right and more closely resemble a real car wheel.
The wheels clock in at two different price points – the cheaper Xbox 360 Wireless Racing Wheel offering simple vibration technology while the more expensive Force Feedback Racing Wheel offers full force feedback, again resembling a real car more closely in both design and how it feels when in use.With less tightly controlled licensing, the PS3 steering wheel market is a little more tightly packed than the Xbox 360 one, with a lot of cheaper, lower quality wheels on the market. For the casual racer we recommend the Hori Officially Licensed Racing Wheel Controller 3, analogous to the lower-priced Mad Catz wheel, boasting vibration, pedals and an official Sony license.
A higher end PS3 wheel comes in the form of the Logitech Driving Force GT Steering Wheel, the official wheel of Gran Turismo. Even featuring the driving sim’s logo on its body, the wheel features full force feedback and is endorsed by game developers polyphony digital.
For the PC Gamer
PC gamers are tough to buy for because they often build their own stuff and fully control their machine – but high-end external equipment usually comes after the internal building for them, and so is a potential area for gifts – and there’s a particular large market out there for high-end PC gaming mice.
World of Warcraft fans can find an officially licensed SteelSeries World of Warcraft Cataclysm mouse was created. That’s part of a high-end WoW-themed set including a special edition keyboard and a ‘Gaming Surface’ – a really high-end mouse mat that has been built for long-term comfort and a long-term beating.Other officially licensed PC gear comes from Razer, with the Naga MMO mouse offering a high-end mouse with a ton of MMO-centric hotkeys. Strategy game fans would likely much prefer an officially licensed StarCraft 2 Spectre Mouse, its shape and buttons designed to be most effective for RTS play.
Our personal favourite – and the mouse we actually use here – is the Cyborg R.A.T. series from Mad Catz. Coming in a set that ranges in price and features from cheaper than all of the above to twice as expensive, the R.A.T. series not only looks cool but features a plethora of high-end features that means the mouse can be customized to work well with just about any genre of game.
For the Console Shooter Fan
Call of Duty is a big deal, right? Battlefield too. The days when shooters were the sole reserve of the keyboard and mouse are gone, and along with the surge of console shooters there’s been a surge in specialist shooter controllers, designed for the gamers who get competitive and want an edge online.Razer’s Onza controller features programmable buttons, a non-slip rubber grip, adjustable analog sticks and even lights up in a pretty cool way whilst its being used. Razer claim that this is the controller of choice for players of titles like Call of Duty and Halo within the MLG, featuring impressive customization levels in the sticks that has been patented by the company to avoid copy-cats.
If you’re a PS3 owner and you’d rather have a stick layout more similar to the Xbox 360 controller – often considered better for shooters – Gioteck have you covered with the HF2 Bluetooth Controller. This Bluetooth PS3 set literally gives you a more similar layout to the 360 controller on a PS3.
Mad Catz also have the FPS Pro GamePad out for Christmas, a controller available in PS3 and 360 variants that has been custom-designed to be the best possible layout for FPS titles. Also featuring programmable buttons, button backlights and a more ergonomic design, these pads are similar in style to Razer’s Onza – but fall in a little cheaper.
For the Fighter Fan
The fighting game genre has seen a resurgence in the past 5 years, with titles like Street Fighter IV, Marvel vs Capcom 3 and Mortal Kombat reminding people this genre matters – and next year will be bigger still with Street Fighter X Tekken, Soul Calibur 5, Dead or Alive 5 and Tekken Tag Tournament 2 all on the way. There’s never been a better time for fighting fans to transfer to a specialist controller – or better – an arcade stick.For those not comfortable with a transfer to a full stick, Mad Catz has you covered with their series of FightPads – pads with specially-designed d-pads that are born to pull of Hadoukens, Shoryukens and Ultra Como Finishes. They come in a variety of designs and form the ideal stepping stone between a regular controller and a full arcade stick.
With a smaller form factor, a solid build and turbo functions on the buttons, the VX & V3 are a great entry-level stick at a reasonable entry-level price – and if you like Hori designs, they also have a higher-end stick available if you’re willing to pay more.Mad Catz are still considered the kings of the Arcade Stick business, and their officially licensed Street Fighter IV FightSticks are still the go-to stick of choice for a large number of players on the professional Street Fighter circuit, including revered Japanese fighting god Daigo Umehara. A few different designs and styles are out there, though they all perform similarly and are available for both PS3 and 360.
Also featuring turbo and a solid design, the main boast of these sticks is that they use the same buttons, layout and design that are used in the actual Street Fighter IV arcade machines – thus making for an authentic experience. Mad Catz are even now selling awesome-looking custom bags to carry your stick around in – a perfect gift for those who already own one.
The Headset Phenomenon
The gaming headset market has blown up in part thanks to the advent of online gaming – late night sessions bother partners, housemates and parents everywhere – so the headset allows the player to enjoy the sound of the game without keeping everyone else awake.Headsets range greatly in style, price and abilities, so it’s better that we just run down the three major brands you should be choosing from here today. Almost every headset maker features lower-end headsets for around the price of a game and stretch right up to high-end Dolby Digital surround sound headsets for around the price of full console hardware.
Tritton are a division of Mad Catz, featured frequently in this piece, though were until recently a completely separate headset-devoted company. They’ve got a full complement of headsets ranging from the cheap-and-cheerful AX 120s – amplified stereo sound and in-game chat – right up to the AX 720 and AX Pro, headsets featuring full 7.1 surround sound and optical audio inputs. We’ve tested the entire range, and they all work superbly – especially the high-end ones.
Tritton offer headsets for 360, PS3 and PC, but have also just signed a deal with Microsoft to become the sole official Xbox 360 headset provider. The first two officially licensed headsets, the Detonator and the Trigger combine existing Tritton technology with official Microsoft software and have been met with critical acclaim. The top-of-the-range official Warhead 7.1 headset will launch next year.Sony aren’t making licensing deals, and instead offer their own official Wireless Stereo headset making use of technology poached from Sony’s audio division. Fully wireless, the official Sony headset uses some clever software trickery to create virtual surround sound and a rechargeable battery.
Turtle Beach are the other major player in the headset business and like Tritton feature a range of headsets of different styles and feature-sets with a full gambit of prices to match. The lowest-end model is the Ear Force XL1, featuring stereo sound, in-line controls and bass boost, whilst the top-of-the-range headsets offer 5.1 surround sound, full wireless and programmable settings.
That’s about it for our gaming gift ideas for the hardcore gamer for this year – but there’s one more suggestion we have. If they truly have everything, remember the PlayStation Vita is out in February – and a pre-order of Sony’s new handheld gaming machine or even part of one is likely to be something any gamer will appreciate.
Next year will likely be easier for gift buyers – it’s sounding like there’ll be new hardware on the shelves! Whatever you give or get this year, all of us at TGV wish you happy holidays.