MW2: How good are those Night Vision Goggles after all?
Have you ever heard about Call Of Duty : Modern Warfare 2? Of course you do. All three versions of the game occupy the Top 3 of current hottest games on N4G. Hype, controversy, critical acclaim, Bobby Kotick's long teeth, price hikes, online experience, console comparisons, PC letdown, suspicious DLCs,... Every day has its Modern Warfare 2 article, you cannot escape.
But Activision also made noise when was announced in July the Call Of Duty : Modern Warfare 2 Prestige Edition, including the collector edition of the game and fully functional night vision goggles. Weeks after this announcement were published photos of a chinese employee and those famous NVGs. Many were dubious, "Made in China" usually doesn't mean quality, and the price of the Prestige Edition (150$) was sort of suspicious as well. As a comparison, the lowest price you can have for 1st generation NVGs is around 300$, while 4th generation goggles cost between 6,000 and 10,000$. Considering the collector edition of the game cost 80$, that would mean those NVGs cost for the gamer 70$, four time less than the worst NVGs available.
So, how good are they?
I sacrificed my right leg in order to answer that question. I'm the kind of pigeon gamer, if there is a collector edition of a game I want, I'll certainly buy it. Fable 2, Gears of War 2, inFamous, Devil May Cry 4, Killzone 2, Uncharted 2, Sacred 2, Bioshock, Batman Arkham Asylum, Metal Gear Solid 4,... Simply because I believe developers that pass so much time on developing a game deserve to have my money (and also because I had many games for free, like LittleBigPlanet, Pure, FarCry 2, Fallout 3 or a Legendary edition of Halo 3, so I compensate giving them more money).
Anyway, disregard my banker's remonstrances, I preordered two copies of the Prestige Edition (one for me, one for eBay) and as soon as I was home, I tried them. Let's begin with the polish. Despite we clearly see it's a simple plastic toy, the thing is pretty detailed. The strips for the head are very solid and you even have some flabby plastic around the goggles to not be hurt by sharp corners when wearing them.
The device needs 5 LR6 batteries and to be honest I didn't checked the longevity of the whole thing. The goggles themselves are pretty light but the battery that you put on the back of your head is kinda heavy but not disturbing. Concerning the buttons, you of course have a on/off button, but also a button to display or not the lights on the front of the goggles (you know, those green spots people where mocking about with Sam Fisher), a ring to adjust the focus and a button to chose between green & black or black & white display when watching through the goggles.
So, do we see in the dark with those NVGs? Yes, absolutely. I've tried them in several conditions: full ambient light, 50% ambient light, 20% ambient light and in the complete dark, and in all those conditions, the goggles work perfectly. Don't expect to be able to watch a functioning screen, because you will be blinded, but you can watch in the dark without any problem, and in the light if you don't look at light origins (lamps, bulbs, screens, etc...).
I couldn't manage to take a pic of what we see through the NVGs so I made a simulation. This picture is what you would see in normal conditions, with normal ambient light and without goggles:
And this is how it looks like through the goggles and in the total darkness:
(yes, including the black borders and yes this is a part of my room)
Does that mean you are ready to invade the night and crawl silently everywhere with your goggles?
No. There are two "problems" with those goggles. I wont say those are problems, but that's certainly the difference between a toy and a professional material. First, you don't see directly through the goggles. You actually look at a small screen in the center that displays night vision environment. Because this small screen is at around 5 cm / 2 inches of your nose, you totally lose your sense of orientation. You don't walk in all confidence, you no longer have the same perceptions of distances so you slowly walk groping (I don't know if that's the word, Google Translation says it's ok with groping but according to my experience, groping is sexually oriented. Anyway, I hope you understood what I mean).
The second "problem" is that you certainly see in the dark, but not at a far range. I'd say in a total darkness, you can see up to 10 meters / 30 feet. With ambient light, you can see up to 30 meters / 90 feet. And in that case, you will have to set the focus correctly in order to see anything at a middle range, otherwise everything will look blurry.
In conclusion, those Night Vision Goggles are indeed fully functional. You can see in the total darkness without any problem, but you certainly wont be much confident of your equilibrium and your distance perceptions. The range is also limited, but honestly, for such price, it's already incredible to reach such quality.