Microsoft XBox 360 and Live Arcade Hands on Preview
by: Nicholas "bapenguin" Puleo, Editor-in-Chief
Yesterday I went to an Xbox 360 preview event in NYC. The event was pure bliss; I got a good 8 hours of hands on time with the Xbox 360. As soon as I walked in the room I couldnít help but smile- in front of me sat 30+ Xbox 360 Systems connected to beautiful 23Ē Samsung LCD HDTVs. I got a chance to see a bunch of first and third party titles.
Kameo: Elements of Power
Project Gotham Racing 3
Perfect Dark 0
Need for Speed: Most Wanted
The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion
Dead or Alive 4
Peter Jacksonís King Kong
Call of Duty 2
Xbox Live Arcade
Iíll talk more about the games in another article, for now let me tell you about the 360.
The system itself is pretty slick, and looks a lot nicer in person than it does in the pictures. The ďinhaleĒ design isnít over exaggerated and very subtle. In fact, the top and bottom of the console is virtually flat, the inhale comes more from the front panel than anything. With the machine on and in a game the system was virtually in-audible. The Ring of light is prominent, and reacts to different things that happen (incoming messages, plugging in another controller, etc). The controller itself is- for a lack of a better word- perfect. Itís light, comfortable and responsive. The rumble motors inside are absolutely amazing. They can make very subtle vibrations (like a car idling). The wireless is tight and responsive. Both the wired and wireless controller felt virtually identical, the battery pack didnít get in the way at all. The process to have the console recognize a wireless controller is fairly simple: press the connect button the controller, then the connect button on the console and itíll sync up. Your controller will light one of four regions to show you the player number, and the ring of light will light up in the locations for which it has a registered player. The wireless controller comes with a AA battery holster (and AA batteries). The play and charge kit utilizes a special battery. When a wireless controller is connected there is a small battery icon showing you the battery level in the dashboard overlay. You can turn the console on and off from the controller, which is a really slick feature.
The system is organized into ďbladesĒ which shift in and out as you go between categories. Thereís an Xbox Live blade, System blade, and Media blade among others. You can bring up a dashboard overlay at anytime by hitting the guide button (the big X in the middle of the controller). In the overlay you have access to messages, gamer card information as well as custom soundtracks. We got a chance to see how exactly the Xbox 360 interacts with portable MP3 players. Microsoft had an iPod Nano on hand that we plugged into the system. While playing an Xbox Live arcade title, we pressed the guide button (the big x in the middle of the controller) and selected the soundtrack option. Under it we had source options (CD, iPod Nano, Hard Drive, Computer, etc). When you pick the iPod Nano (yes it SAYS iPod Nano) it brings up your entire library organized by artist. Pick your song(s) and you are ready to go.
Speaking of Xbox Live arcade, itís nothing short of amazing. I really didnít expect to see what I saw. Can you say Joust in 1080i? Microsoft took the original ROM and upscaled the graphics to 1080i resolution. It looks AMAZING. Thereís an option to turn off the enhanced graphics on the fly if you donít want them and enjoy joust with the original graphic set. Not only that, it will feature co-op play via Live.
All Live arcade titles are in 1080i. Some of the original titles are really sharp looking with bright color and smooth animations with fast and furious action. Thereís a title from Bizarre Creations called Geometry Wars
. Think Tempest meets Asteroids meets Smash TV. Itís a blast to play and looks amazing. I honestly couldnít put the damn game down. Thereís a puzzle game from the creator of Tetris called Hexic HD. This will be included free with the system.
Now hereís where things get taken to the next level. Of the 12 or so titles from Microsoft and various other big name publishers there were two other Live Arcade titles I got to play: ďWik the Lost SoulsĒ (an indy PC title) and a Marble-Madness type title. Microsoft is working with small time publishers and indy development houses to start publishing their games via Live. Over the course of a year Microsoft will slowly be phasing in independent games, and eventually may put in a full fledged system to support independent publishing via Live. All Live arcade titles will support online leaderboards, as well as friend leaderboards (so you can see how only your friends are doing compared to you).
One thing I forgot to mention. Every Live Arcade title has a demo version available. The full version can then be unlocked. If you bring the full version on a memory card to a friends house with your Live ID you can both enjoy it. You can then copy it to a friends console and it reverts back to the demo version.
One thing I wanted to add here I forgot about was Live accounts and transferring Live accounts. The easiest way to transfer a live account will be to have it linked to a Microsoft Passport account. Otherwise there will be a verification process using your credit card to transfer the account. Another thing to note is you can only have one Live account valid at one location at a time. For instance; you go to a friends house and "transfer" your Live account to his local machine. The copy of your Live account on your XBox 360 at home would go invalid. You would then have to re-transfer it again when you got home, and this would then make the copy at your friends house invalid.
One thing Microsoft is really pushing for is the Gamercard. Gamers have a way of tracking their progress with the system by having a rating and overall point system. Each game can have up to 12 achievements. Each of these achievements gives you a little icon in your gamercard. These icons are representative of your achievement and have various levels of points assigned to them. You can then view other peopleís gamer cards
and see their achievements.
Overall I was really impressed with the 360ís interface and design. Microsoft is no stranger to the world of interface design and it shows. Everything is easily accessible, and you are never more than 1 or 2 button presses away from anything. Iím really stoked about Xbox Live Arcade. Microsoft sees huge potential here for tie- ins from 3rd party publishers, as well as sees the potential from independent developers and publishers. Microsoft took an already well designed controller (the S Controller) and made it better, and made it wireless. Now that Iíve gotten my hands on the system, November 22nd canít come soon enough.
Here's a few random shots of the event:
Xbox Arcade Demo
has some Photos up of the event as well.