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NaturalPoint TrackIR 5 - NaturalPoint TrackIR 5
It's in racing games that it's initially most appealing. With Logitech G25 steering wheel in hand and Race 07 on the screen, at first the TrackIR feels like a distraction - just another thing to stop me getting my Seat around Monza in one piece. After a few practice laps, however, something changed, and I started using the virtual cockpit view to peer towards the next corner or even improve the view as I spin the car into it - a bit like I might in a real car. It also adds to the excitement of pushing through the pack once race day comes; there's nothing like flicking your head left to peer at a rival as you pass, even if there's only a fraction of a second to spare as you speed your way into the next turn.
DIRT is a little more challenging, if only because the view through the windscreen with the helmet cam (the only view TrackIR suports) is already quite restrictive. Again, though, TrackIR adds an extra sense of immersion to the game. Checking left and right and trying and peer around oncoming corners is pretty cool and surprisingly useful, as is being able to look out nervously at the occasional steep drop off to your left. It also makes you wish the game put more effort into animating your co-driver. When I turn right and take a look as we're ploughing towards a steep, tree-lined bank at 60mph, I really expect to see a little emotion on the guy's face.
Of course, TrackIR was originally designed with flight simulators in mind, and a quick run on X-Plane gave me some indication why. Not only is it very easy to glance down and check the instruments, just as you would in a real plane, but it also makes it easier to check the views out from all the cockpit windows without having to mess around with the coolie hat or hotkeys. It's also easy to see why TrackIR might give you an edge in combat flight sims, where all-round awareness can be a factor on who survives a dogfight, and who ends up spinning in a smoking mess towards the ground.
Future Pinball isn't quite such a showcase for TrackIR, but the hardware does add something when you play a table. Just as in real pinball, you need to flick your gaze rapidly between the flippers at the bottom of the table and the various targets, switches and hotspots nearer the top and while this sometimes proved a challenge for the tracking mechanisms, producing a small amount of lag, there was again something more lifelike about the experience. It won't change your life, but it's cool nonetheless.