For a while there, it felt like they were trying to stop me!
Tue, 9 May 2006
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It is funny, at times, how life works. F*#king hilarious, really. On a daily basis, I severely split both my sides, slap my knees into a mass of bruises and shed a medium sized ocean's worth of tears, due to the sheer hilarity of it all. Honestly though, the Lord (or Karma, or whatever it is you choose to invest some faith into), can indeed work in some oddly amusing ways. One such example is how I came to get my Xbox 360, far later than I'd hoped and expected to (if you've not already, you can read the reasons behind that in the little bitch session I posted earlier). Well, that delay may actually have helped somewhat in bringing about this highly positive Xbox 360 review of mine.
If I'd have gotten my 360 on time, I'd probably have rushed the hardware review a bit, just to get it up quickly. But, since it was already late, I took plenty of time to play around with the system and all of is snazzy features. I also had a few of the better games to play on it, titles that'd be unavailable to me if I'd gotten the console earlier. Plus, waiting, by nature, builds one's level of anticipation. The combination of pleasure and relief at finally having my own Xbox 360 just made me enjoy it all the more.
The best way to purchase the Xbox 360 is the bundle that comes with all the goodies packed in. You can get a less expensive option, but you'll probably wind up needing the other stuff anyway before too long. It makes more sense to get it all at once, if you can. With the "premium" bundle, you get the console, the hard drive, a wireless control pad, the media remote control, a month's subscription to Xbox Live (the "silver" service), Ethernet cable and the component HD AV Cable (to hook it up to either standard or high definition TVs).
I also grabbed the "Play & Charge Kit" for the control pad. This enables you to charge up the control pad while it is plugged into the Xbox 360 (the "old fashioned way"), so you can keep playing while it does so. The amount of time you get to play wirelessly between charges is very good too. I love finally having a wireless pad as a standard. It sounds like a small thing (and probably is) but not having to worry about yet another cable to get tangled up, or trip over in a drunken stupor, really makes a big difference to my enjoyment of the system.
Unlike the last Xbox launch, the control pad this time is very elegantly designed too. For a wireless job, the weight of it is pretty good - not the lightest pad ever, but you certainly don't need to be Popeye to play for long periods while holding it. I've had no bother whatsoever with the button layout. The analogue sticks, triggers etc. all feel very natural and responsive. The Dual Shock is still the best all around control pad for now, but one thing the 360 tops it with is the digital D-Pad. It is still not great, but definitely better than the PS2's (or the horrible one on PSP. God, that thing sucks for fighting games). It still has the rumble feature too, even when used wirelessly. Thanks Nintendo, for creating things like rumbling and wireless control pads. I'm sure it pleases Ninty to no end that other companies have been able to steal their ideas and sell them to far more people.
|If you find these pics exciting, you probably need to get out more |
The Media Remote is what you'll be using for DVDs, CDs, or just mucking about with any of the non-gaming features in general. Again, I'm glad that comes with the system now - instead of being sold separately, as it was with the original Xbox. It is also far more aesthetically pleasing than the rather tacky looking first Xbox DVD remote (but that one did glow in the dark, so it wasn't all bad!). If you're anything like me (and if you are, you must be pretty cool) you're unlikely to be jumping for joy over a remote, but this one is a slick looking device all the same. It is also, once again, very functional and easy to use.
At the same time PCs are getting both simpler to use and more "necessary" (or, at least, harder to avoid!) for the average person, consoles are getting more and more like PCs - as far as having various functions and features available, to go along with playing videogames. The 360 is more like a PC than any console before it, but it is done in a very easy to use way and the functions are all actually helpful, rather than just tacked on little bonus features that you'll likely never use. It is very easy to hook up to your computer, straight out of the box. The 360 also has the now standard USB ports, so you can pretty well do anything with it that you could with a PC.
The menus on 360's Dashboard are extremely basic to use, you won't be left scratching your head trying to figure out how to do anything... unless you are a complete moron. Setting up the system to whatever way you prefer/require for sound, picture display and so on is a total breeze. You can also quickly go onto Xbox Live and have some multi-player fun, download demos, trailers and more, should that take your fancy. "User friendly" is the popular term used to describe this kind of deal and that basically sums it up.
The Xbox 360 even looks like a PC, albeit a very sleek one, especially when you stand it vertically. I prefer the vertical option, purely because it takes up less space that way. I reckon the 360 is much more pleasing to the eye than the chunky black box that was/is the big M's first home console.
Microsoft may now own the world, but at least that translates to a high level of compatibility with a wide variety of gizmos for us gamers. To make the most of the XP hook ups, you need to set it up online and install Windows Media Centre onto your PC. But that is really quick and basic to do, even for a guy like me who struggles with anything that leans towards requiring any technical skill. Using your computer and 360 in tandem, for transferring music, video, pictures or anything else you feel like, is a wonderful thing. Instead of taking the focus of the system away from playing games, these other functions can actually enhance it. Custom soundtracks, downloadable extra content and so forth, it is now much more straightforward and simple to do than ever.
When you play a music CD on 360 you can watch the built-in funky light show on the screen, that is generated to match the sound. It looks like a rave light show, mixed with a kaleidoscope and some sort of LSD induced trip (or, so I'd imagine). They've been doing this kind of thing since the original PlayStation, I know, but this is the coolest looking one I've seen so far. The other day, I had my friend watching a different display when I put some music on. It was a slide-show of semi-naked hot chicks, a bunch of celebs I'd collected off the internet. I transferred them from my PC to my 360 and they looked a treat on my TV, going from one sexy pic to the next while the music was going. Hardly an important or necessary function, but a fun little bonus all the same.
Something else I did, just for the hell of it, was to hook my PSP up to the 360 USB port. I took a song I'd put on my PSP via my PC and transferred it from the PSP onto the 360! I had no good reason for doing it that way, but it was pretty funny to me that I could, given the products are from rival companies. Theoretically, they could include extra content for games using the PSP/360 hook up, the same way some titles have that now with PSP/PS2. I doubt we'll be seeing much of that though, as I reckon Sony wouldn't be all that happy with the concept. But, hey, it could be done. I'd be far from shocked if people find some other (not so legal) ways to make use of that PSP/360 connection too. It'll be interesting to see what comes about from the game hackers and homebrew types.
So, let me think, what else can you do with it? Oh yeah, watch movies. Again, hardly a new feature, but still quite a handy one. Thankfully, you can watch DVDs on 360 straight from the box, unlike the first Xbox. What's more, the quality of picture and sound seems to be better now too. I tried the same movie on Xbox, PS2, my Sony DVD player and then 360, just to compare the quality. It might be my imagination, or wishful thinking, but I would swear that the movie looked better playing on 360 than it did on the others. The sound was very nice too, since I hooked up some speakers to my TV. I don't have the greatest sound set up in the world (I can't afford better) but it works well enough.
The Xbox Live set up has been already spoken of extensively in many places, by many people. So, I won't bother adding much to what's been said before. Suffice it to say, it is good. Adding friends to your list, playing against others online, acquiring "gamer points" to show off how much of a geek you are - all this and more is both simple and fun to do. I honestly haven't had much time to make the most of it all yet, but, from the little while I've managed to spend checking it out, I was suitably impressed. Except for one thing; the classic arcade games you can download from "Live Market Place" are not free. They really should be.
Of course, by far the most important thing to gamers is that the Xbox 360 is a videogame system and playing games on it is the main concern. The launch line-up was not what could be described as amazing. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't awful either, just underwhelming. Many of the first batch of titles are nearly exactly the same as their original Xbox versions, with only fairly minor graphical upgrades. There are some amazing looking titles on the way though, as developers have more time to take advantage of the hardware.
I'll be reviewing several 360 games here at Buttonhole very soon, so I'll leave it until then to tell which of them I like most and why. There are a couple of them that I am extremely taken with, so I don't think you couldn't fairly say there are no excellent titles available yet.
|You should try looking at things from all angles |
Getting my Xbox 360 was a debacle. The ads and launch in general were not handled very skilfully (to put it politely). And the launch line-up of games didn't blow most people away. But, none of that matters to me now. I have my 360 and I love what I can do with it. I have a bunch of games for it and I love some of those too. So, no more complaints from me, old Sammy is one happy 360 owner!
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