XBox 360 Review and Impressions
by: Nicholas "bapenguin" Puleo, Editor-in-Chief
4 years and one week later after the Xbox launch, the Xbox 360 console is launching to North America. There's no need to bore you with tech specs, you've heard about all the bells and whistles that system contains, there's huge potential here. But how does the launch lineup fare? Is the system really going to bring anything new to the table? Are the graphics really better? After playing with the system for the last 4 days I can confidently say, “I've seen the next generation of gaming, and it is online, and it rocks hardcore.”
The console itself is a complete 180 from the previous generation. It's sleek and all white instead of big and black. It can stand horizontally or vertically. There are no visible ports on the front of the console. The powerbrick for this badboy is HUGE. The power requirements for a 3 core system are just astronomical, and after the power cable fiasco of last generation I think Microsoft wanted to be sure nothing would happen. All the cables and connectors on the system are very thick and of good quality.
The new wireless controller is damn near perfect. Even with the battery in it, it is lighter than an S controller. Gone are the white and black buttons, replaced now with shoulder “bumper” buttons. Once you link your controller with your system you never need to do that again as the next time you turn on the console (either via the controller or the console power button) it'll automagically assign you a player position. The new rumble system in the controller is amazing as well. All the vibrations seem to have more detail, and there's a wider range of vibrations that you can feel.
The centerpiece of Microsoft's next console is no doubt it's Dashboard interface coupled with Xbox Live. The dashboard is broken down into 4 blades: Xbox Live, Games, Media, and System. The Live blade gives you access to your friend list, messages and the live Market place. On the Games Blade you'll find quick links to games you've downloaded, Xbox Live Arcade, as well as the ability to launch a title located in the DVD drive. On the Media blade you'll find links to music, pictures, video and Media Center. As long as you have Windows XP you can link up your PC to the 360 and stream things like music and pictures. If you have Media Center you can also stream video. The system blade contains things like settings and security options like Parental controls.
The new version of Xbox Live is completely badass. There's so much to do here now, and there's so many improvements. Lets look at one MS did to the voice communication. You are now capable of hosting 4 private channels of voice chat. Each one of these channels is independent and global. Once you connect to a private voice channel, you can continue talking to this person like you are on the phone. I did everything from start a game, load a game, downloaded themes, and play music all while talking in a voice channel. You also get a 5th channel which is related to the game you are currently playing online. It's very easy to switch in and out of these channels and this really opens up some nice communication possibilities.
The centerpiece of the Xbox 360 is the gamer, and the new Gamercard functionality shows this. Your gamercard keeps track of your progress in everything you do, it provides a place for players to leave feedback about you. You can even see what players are saying about you, and why they did or didn't like playing with you. Every game on Xbox contains 1000 gamer points that can be earned by achieving certain goals in games. THIS IS INCREDIBLY ADDICTING! I constantly found myself brining up the dashboard overlay in games and looking at the possible achievements for the game, and then proceeding to try to unlock them. It's amazing what kind of replay ability this little feature adds. What's great then is you can compare gamer cards with anyone on Xbox live, you can see what achievements they have compared to you, what their score is, etc.
Live Marketplace is Microsoft's Money maker for their system, and I think it's going to work. All transactions on Live Marketplace are done using Microsoft Points. 80 points equals one dollar. It's incredibly easy to buy these points and incredibly easy to spend these points. You can buy anything from themes to gamer pictures to unlock ables for games. Not everything costs money though, there are tons of free trailers to download both in standard and hi-def as well as demos of some big Xbox titles like Need for Speed and Kameo.
I bought and downloaded the Penny-Arcade theme from Marketplace. It costs around $1.75 or 150 points. The whole process is quick and painless, and for beginners they even give you help right after you download your object on how to use it.
Xbox Live Arcade:
Oh billy do I love Xbox Live arcade. Geometry Wars Evolved needs a support group. The game is downright beautiful and a blast to play. Pictures do this game no justice. All Xbox Live arcade titles have trial versions. There are a few coin-op classics up right now, namely Joust and Gauntlet. Both have been redone with hi-res textures and look great on an HD display. Every game supports online scoreboards and leaderboards. Each one of these can be sorted by your friends or globally. This way you can see how you compare to everyone on your friends list as well as how you compare to everyone on Live. Most of the games support multiplayer matchmaking. Joust supports co-op and versus over Live. Very cool for $5. I'm very happy Microsoft decided to stick with the 5 to 10 dollar price point...it really seems “just right” for these kind of titles.
Even though this system comes in 2 varieties, one with a hard drive and one without, we should all just pretend the Core system doesn't exist. The meat and potatoes of this system is in it's online and media functionality, both of which you need a hard drive to get the full benefit of.
Should you drop 400 bucks on this system? While I didn't get to talk about the games yet, if you play consoles on line the answer is a most definite yes. If on line gaming doesn't interest you, you may want to hold of a bit as the titles that are available don't offer much new.
The Good: + Amazing interface and on line functionality.
+ Looks great on an HD display.
+ Xbox Live Arcade
The Bad: - Expensive
- Off line stuff doesn't bring anything new to the table
The Ugly: - SHORTAGE
4 out of 5 EvilEyes