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To xbox360 or to not xbox360?
By Sean Ryan
I finally gave into the "evils" of Microsoft and invested in their Next Generation console. Why. the delay in ps3 coupled with the delay in Ghost Recon on PC. The more reviews I read, the more it convinced me that 360 was made up of excellent hardware that was finally being used. So I blew up my credit card, pissed off my wife and invested in more computer hardware that I may not need. But hell I work at it, so keeping up to date with all technology is my job (or so I keep telling myself).
First impressions: As you install the 360 the first thing that hits you, is the physical weight of the machine. Small but weights much the same as a concrete block.
The desktop and configuration of the systems immediately shows you there is so much more to this machine than simple game play. It feels like a simplified computer (but in a good way). No messing about with patches and upgrades. You logon to Xbox live and it tells you when you need to upgrade. Easy to navigate, ability to jump in an out of games easily.
Loading times are also very impressive. I expected to be starring at the screen during my first run of war fighter and was very pleasantly surprised.
Xbox live is the ace in Microsoft's deck. Their killer app for the machine. Think of it as their internet in the internet. It is free to just use. But you have to upgrade to gold (and pay) to play games online and get hold of some downloads. But ALL games will have an online mode. Meaning you will get more value and a different experience. Microsoft have also insisted on achievement sin all the games.
The more you achieve the better you rating and points (rating can also be improved by visits, friend, helping, messages etc). Basically they want you to play and get involved and will reward you for such. Nice ideas. Getting people to play more of what they paid for - rather than the modern obsession of owning more and not actually using, is a good one.(as these games aren't cheap - 75 euro for war fighter!!!).
This page will be updated, the more I get to actually use the system. (oh to have free time).
I will be sticking simple no B.S. reviews here, of the games that interest me on the 360 platform. The physical build is impressive, although the size of the power supply is staggering. Simple little things impress: The size of the wireless controller: perfect. The 360 button on the controller, brings you back to the "desktop", as well as powering on/off the machine (a simple feature I know, but works).
The more I mess around with this machine, the more I like it. It seems that playing a game now that does effect you score rating or unlock achievements is less of a, well achievement.
I have downloaded a lot of demos such as fight night 3 and Battlefield modern combat (very impressive, with no lag in sight).
Updates: A few weeks of usage
I signed up for xbox live gold: 60.00 for 12 months unlimited use. The amount of media and the ability to download clips and demos, means you really need this to make full use of the machine.
Also from what I can tell, people are playing games to just build up their game score: offline play (even single player) is just the same these days if you don't improve your rating as a result.
Very clever option. Actually, it is quite amazing how much time you actually spend browsing, downloading and playing with items in Xbox live.
Extending the experience: Media Centre
I built a Windows Media Centre 2005 (repaired an old fried motherboard). And tested the interface between this the 360. Amazed to see you get the full Media centre console on the 360 when you have a machine to connect to (across you network). You can only stream video in WMV format at present. But you can find an app on the web that will allow you to convert divx to wmv on the fly.
Tested streaming video, images and music from one side of the house to the other. Easy to config and use and impressive interface/image quality.
Basically transform you 360 into much more that a gaming machine. You can do music and images only connecting to extender on an XP machine. But to make full use you need windows media centre 2005.
Combining the power of the 360, with Xbox live and the media centre options; Sony really have their work cut out for them. As there is so much more to Microsoft's machine than playing games.
In all, a great "home entertainment system". Great for gaming, online play is easy and solid, god support for music, images and other media (particularly is you own a media centre PC). Only downside: just don't be surprised when you are using your gaming console for a lot more than just games.
What I would have liked to see:
The biggest omission is the ability to browse web pages. Granted, doing such with a controller or remote with an on screen keyboard would have been a pain. But considering the experience is dependant on you already owning a PC (to get full potential), why not have the option of a 360 browser and the ability to sync your favourites sites from your PC? That way you don't have to type your www.mywebsite.com just browse a list and update as you wish.
The limitation of media extender to just music and images is a sadly lacking. They should provide some way of copying video to and from the 360.
The ability to benchmark your machine to insure it is running 3 cores etc etc. A simple benchmark app would do the trick.
Support for more formats like Divx, mpeg4 etc. I Know Microsoft is saving money by not including these codecs. But imagine using a PC that would only play WMV movies?
The image quality on a standard TV is good, but to make full use you really need a High Definition television. the 360 has become the "killer app" for high def tv's; meaning more high def tv's are being sold now, purely to use with the 360. Think 32 "" + screen on your PC and you get an idea of the difference it will make (and you can also plug your pc into one).
The movie player is very impressive player all brands of DVD's without a hitch. Easy to manage interface and excellent image/sound (this is also a progressive scan unit for improved image quality). Only pity, no multi region support.
Did you want to download different Xbox live content? Go to system and change you locale to American and log out/on to Xbox live and away you go (you also need an email address with mail address in that location) . Different demos and trailers.
Xbox Live arcade:
A strange addiction indeed. The ability to play older arcade games that use little or none of the power of the worlds most powerful console. But, it works. Allowing you to play exact arcade emulations such as joust, gauntlet etc adds another dimension to your 360. My four year just loves playing Marble Blast on live.
I have tried many multiplayer games on the PC platform and mixed enjoyment has been had. Get a good server and all is well. but often or not you waste time looking and waiting for a "none lagging" game. So far I have only tried (briefly) advanced warfighter online. A quick half hour game using a headset with some blokes from the UK. Was it any good. Amazing! Great game, very little lag, no time wasting just simple game selection and a couple of minutes wait and away you go. Voice over IP works well: no silly button presses, just talk.
Although a strange experience allowing everyone hear you shout at yourself when you get killed (usually swear words in disgust). But will have to try it again as this single game ranked as one of the best gaming experiences I have had on any platform.....
Give us a browser and means to copy Favourite bookmarks from PC to the 360.
Ability to stream and play Divx (and other supported codecs).
Some way of playing multi region DVD's: but why of why does this even still exist?
MORE Xbox Live content: trailers, tv programs, shorts etc etc. The announcements of future possible releases are exciting: but need to start happening soon, to be imbedded and in place before Ps3 and the Sony machine gets into motion. Perhaps a nice partnership with apple and quick time would do the trick.
Well how do I feel about the 360 six weeks after purchase? To be honest, very, very impressed. Excellent build quality, fantastic interface. Wealth of multimedia and gaming options. Xbox live is great. Software updates that show they actually listen to the users (all those features that you wanted in or removed appeared in the June update. But what about the games: what it was built for?
Online play with the head set is excellent. Easy to jump in and out of "friend" games. Achievements and game score is a master stroke. Gaming without these feature feels a little pointless now. I have played games such as Advanced Warfighter, Table Tennis, Battlefield 2, Top spin 2, Dead or alive 4 and to be fair, have had some of THE best gaming experiences I have had on any system (and I have been playing since the days of zx-81: yes I'm and old fart).
The future releases also look VERY bright. Gears of War, Dead Rising and Lost World to name a few, all look amazing. Incredible to see how quickly developers and getting these type of results considering how new this system is. Perhaps it is testament to how good a platform it is to develop for. Also Xbox live anywhere looks very interesting indeed (allow 360 and pc users to play and use Xbox live together: as well as mobile device options).
Without Xbox live the 360 is an amazing piece of kit. Combined with the Xbox live option it is indeed the killer app of the next generation consoles.
To borrow their own catch phrase. Jump in, you'll have a ball and hats off to those you developed this machine. I for one am glad you did. THE single most impressive piece of hardware I have EVER purchased.
Wrote a full review with images at:
Database manager with Bsc in computing, who writes screenplays and studying Msc.
Movie, games and screenplay work @ http://www.seansshack.com
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