Everyone is talking about buy a new TV for their PS5 or Xbox Series X, and of course HDR will make your games look better than ever. But in my opinion, surround sound is an equally impressive upgrade whether you’re playing cinematic masterpieces like God of the war or competitive multiplayer games like Overwatch.
I am a huge fan of surround sound in all its forms. In the movies, it can increase the wow factor of events unfolding onscreen, which makes you feel even more immersed in the story. But unlike games, you usually don’t watch a movie from the point of view of the main character. You see the world through the director’s eyes. It makes for fantastic storytelling, but games put you in the main character’s head, in many cases, literally.
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In a game, you don’t watch the story unfold through a camera. You are the story, seeing the world through the character’s point of view at all times, right in the middle of the action. With the proper surround sound setup, every noise occurs exactly as your character hears it – gunshots coming from behind you? You’ll instinctively whip your character to deal with the fury. Enemies sneaking in to flank you? You’ll hear them as they move towards you with more precision than a pair of stereo speakers or “virtual surround” headphones can. And if you’re lucky enough to have a Dolby Atmos system, you’ll even hear helicopters and enemies shooting overhead.
So if you haven’t factored in a sound upgrade for your new PS5 or Xbox Series X, you should give it serious thought. A good multi-speaker setup with a receiver is the way to go, if you have the space – but even a 5.1 or Dolby Atmos soundbar will do, on budget Vizio V series to Atmos compatible Elevate vice or Sonos Arc (provided you have a few Sonos speakers to put behind you for the latter). Check our list of the best soundbars for good choices for all budgets.
Once you’ve got your system set up, here are some games you absolutely must try.
- Shadow of the Tomb Raider (Playstation, Xbox, Pc): The modern tomb Raider The series is incredibly cinematic, so the surround sound gives the game a more cinematic feel than ever before. Your whole setup will be right when you hear rocks falling behind you or the musical score filling your room at tense times. And it supports Dolby Atmos, so if you play on an Xbox or PC with overhead channels, you will get the full effect.
- Gears 5 (Xbox, Pc): Weaponry of war Sold me surround sound like few other games have. In the first mission, you explore an abandoned facility that begins to crumble around you, with bass rumbling around the room and debris falling from everywhere, including above, if you have an Atmos compatible setup. After returning to town, the swarm attacks and you hear them invading from all over your outskirts in an intense action streak that not only wows your ears, but also helps you locate your enemies in battle. Even if you’ve played the countryside before, it’s worth coming back after upgrading your sound system.
- Alien: Isolation (Playstation, Xbox, Pc): Some people think that good surround sound is all about those loud action sequences, but it can be just as effective in near silence. Alien: Isolation uses your rear speakers to create a sense of spaciousness that a stereo setup simply cannot match: as you slide through dark hallways, all you hear very little is the sound of your footsteps, the twinkling of emergency lights and squeaky station echoes all around you – as you anxiously wait for a lurking Xenomorph to ambush you. It’s hard to explain how good the sound design is for this game – you have to experience it yourself.
- Battlefield v (Playstation, Xbox, Pc): Whether or not you are a fan of first person shooters like Call of Duty and Battlefield, there’s no denying that the cacophony of war makes for an excellent surround sound demo. In single player campaigns, surround sound makes you feel like you’re in the middle of the battlefield, with gunshots and bombs assaulting your ears from all sides, with solid drive for your subwoofer as well. In multiplayer, surround sound lets you hear other players behind you before they take a shot, giving you a leg up on your enemies.
- Ori and the will of the wisps (Xbox, Pc): You might think that a 2D side-scrolling platformer can’t do much use for surround sound, but you’d be wrong. A little like Alien: Isolation, it’s all about the ambiance: you will hear the echoes of the forest, the trickle of water or the tweet of the birds all around your 5.1, 7.1 or Dolby Atmos system while your front speakers play the beautiful band -Sound of the game. This is a more subtle improvement than some of the games above, but it still draws you more into the tuning than a typical stereo setup.