Yes, that was a thing.
Collector’s Editions have come a long way. Actually no, they haven’t, they all fucking garbage these days. Pretty much none of them are worth the horrific price they demand. They typically include plastic tat that nobody will want hanging around, and nobody will want to buy. They’re less ‘collectable’ and more about extracting as much money as possible for a game that usually has 6 hours of gameplay. And yet I used to buy them, so I guess I can’t really laugh too much, can I?
Of all the collector’s editions I’ve purchased, I think Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was the standout. I must’ve bought it for the Xbox 360 all those years ago – I honestly can’t remember, but I never had a PC disc for it, so that must’ve been it – and for whatever reason I decided to get the Collector’s Edition. And it came with a set of “night vision goggles”.
And we’re going to laugh at them now.
What is it?
A plastic, oversized set of ‘night vision goggles’. Roughly styled on the NVGs seen in-game, this actually has nothing to do with what most people would consider ‘night vision’ as seen in use by military and public safety agencies. Those devices rely on light amplification tubes to basically pull light out of seemingly nowhere. Such devices are tightly controlled, save for Generation 1 devices which aren’t hard to get hold of, and are… well, pretty awful, to be honest. I’ve got one such device – it sits in a draw, forgotten, because it’s a little bit shit (to be blunt).
Rather, these use infrared light combined with a camera – the same as pretty much all consumer home security devices use. How does it work? It’s fairly simple. There’s a ring of infrared lights around the camera set into the centre of the device. The camera lacks an IR filter, so it’ll pick up all that light. The camera is connected to a screen set into the headset, with a set of lenses to give both your eyes something to look at with less strain… in theory. Basically, it’s an outdoor security camera and a tiny LCD screen shoved into a plastic housing. Sorry to ruin the excitement. There’s no light amplification or anything like that – it’s basically like having a flashlight attached to a camera, except the flashlight is infrared, which human vision doesn’t pick up… unless you look directly at the LEDs, which glow a dim red.
There are a number of controls on the device – one that changes the LED brightness (useful if there’s a lot of ambient light), one that applies a green filter over the screen (so you can pretend it’s like real night vision), and a few controls to match your pupil distances and focus the screen. But that’s about it, really. It takes something like five AA batteries, which are fed into a battery pack that sits behind your head. The entire assembly isn’t exactly light, but it’s not too uncomfortable.
Was it any good?
Well… kinda? Look, if you were expecting military grade NVGs, you were going to be disappointed – that’s pretty obvious. But here’s the thing – they technically do work… the same as your outdoor security camera does actually work. Do they let you see in the dark without visible light? Yeah, they do – at least until somebody sees the glowing ring of red LEDs around the camera, and any light leaking from the LCD screen assembly. You absolutely can see in the dark with these.
The IR LEDs are quite bright and, at maximum setting, throw light a fair distance. The camera is fairly sensitive in low light conditions too – so with the combined IR LEDs you actually do get a fair bit of low light vision with them. From that perspective, they absolutely do work. If you were in the dark, and you strapped them on, you could theoretically stalk around like you were playing MW2. It’s ultimately a toy, but it works fairly well for a toy. The exact same concept is applied to security cameras and some slightly more advanced ‘night vision’ scopes that rely on a massive IR light to do the same job. In fact, my Gen 1 NV scope also has an IR light on it, specifically to help augment it (but it’s still pretty shit).
In all honest, this kinda works better than my Gen 1 scope – and it’s a shitload cheaper than one of them, too. If I wanted to stalk my backyard or house at night, I could do it with these. It works, the end.
There are some important caveats though. Firstly, those IR LEDs are obvious – there’s a glowing red ring of lights emerging from the darkness which anybody will see when you’re facing them. While they may not see the beam of infrared light they produce, they’ll see the LEDs themselves. This is markedly different from a true night vision scope, which doesn’t have to rely on active lighting to get a good image. But again, this is a toy, what do you expect?
Secondly, and more pressingly, your sense of depth perception flies out the window. It’s somewhat disorienting, especially because the screen is some distance away from your eyes. You’ll be fiddling with the controls for a bit until you stop seeing a double image, and then that image appears far away in the assembly. You will bump into things and forget where you are. The field of view is quite narrow, too – so you can’t see too much at once. This makes for a disorienting experience until you get used to it.
Finally, the assembly isn’t super comfortable. The battery pack is heavy, and the plastic assembly is large and chunky, for no real reason except to make it look cool. It’s not super practical – but again, it’s a toy.
Was it worth it?
No. No way! None of the collector’s editions I’ve ever owned have been worth it. All of the physical inclusions have long since been forgotten. Hell I forgot I even had the collector’s edition of Bioshock with the Big Daddy statue (that looked like absolute shit). And I certainly forgot about this thing, because it sat in my parent’s home, in my old wardrobe, completely forgotten.
But with that said, this was probably the best of the collector’s editions I’ve ever owned – because it actually works. It’s a novelty, it’s still a toy at the end of the day, but it does actually do what it says on the tin. If you wanted to see in the dark, with some caveats, then it’ll actually let you do that. You’ll look like a complete tool while doing it, but you can do it. And that’s… well, that’s okay, I guess. Good job, I guess.