Denki News

July 11, 2006

Xbox 360 First Impressions

Filed under: Video Games — icruise @ 1:36 pm

My Xbox 360 arrived a few days ago and while I haven’t really done everything that it’s capable of, I have put it through its paces. The only game I have at the moment is the nameless game that I will be translating, but I did download a bunch of demos from Xbox Live (more on that in a minute) so I think I have gotten a taste of what the system can do. (More after the jump.)

First things first. The system looks pretty good physically, but I was a little shocked at the size of the power and video connectors. I had heard complaints about the submarine sandwich-sized power brick, but I didn’t realize that the power connector itself was also so beefy. Here is a picture of me trying to plug it in:

Okay, so maybe it’s not quite that big. Actually, it’s about par for the course for a PC power supply, but something about its design makes it look huge. Same goes for the video connector.

And the system is pretty darn noisy — especially the DVD drive. Like the original Xbox, this is a computer more than it is a console. When I first tried to use the DVD drive, it wouldn’t open. There are clear plastic sheets covering the chrome parts of the console, and as it turns out, the one on the drive door had shifted somehow, sealing it shut. I was able to remove it with a little work (there was some adhesive left behind) and now it works fine, but it’s not the best first impression to give.

The wireless controller is very nice. It’s not too heavy and not too light, and the shape of it feels good in your hand. I love being able to turn the system on and off using just the controller. My only real complaint is that they only give you non-rechargeable alkaline batteries for it. If you want rechargeable batteries, you have to pay another $20 or so for something like the Play & Charge Kit. Of course, you can also use your own rechargeable batteries, but not including a rechargeable battery with the system just makes it seem like Microsoft is nickel-and-diming you. Still, it is nice that the give you both a wireless controller and a remote control.

I tried out Xbox Live and I’m pretty impressed so far. I haven’t actually played any online games yet (and frankly, that’s not really my thing anyway) but I do like being able to download game demos and videos directly to the hard disk. I was impressed that I was able to queue up a large demo download and then go and play an Xbox 360 game while it downloaded in the background. Very nice. I’ve only downloaded free things so far, and I don’t really plan to do anything more at the moment. This business about buying “Microsoft Points” just seems silly. Why not just display the prices in actual money? Because it reminds people just how much they are spending for a useless theme or background? Why does this remind me of Itchy and Scratch money?

I also downloaded the optional software for iPod support, which allows you to play the music on your iPod (including AAC files, but not those from the iTMS) through your Xbox 360. If you have your iPod set to store full-sized copies of your iPhoto photos, you can also view them in a slideshow on your TV. This was actually pretty nice, although I’m not sure that I would ever really want to do this.

What about the games? The demos that I tried were pretty good, but nothing really jumped out at me as being a must-have. The graphics are good — definitely a cut above what we’ve seen on consoles before, but it’s nothing that hasn’t been done on high-end gaming PCs. However, the fact that it’s being done on a $400 console is pretty impressive. You could easily pay ten times that much for a computer gaming setup that wouldn’t really be that much better. I’m looking forward to taking the system home and hooking it up to my HDTV. I did hook it up to an HDTV here briefly, but it was on the small side and I didn’t have much time to really test it out (plus I don’t have the component cable yet).

In short, I think the system shows a lot of promise, but as with most system launches I’m sure that it will be a while before we see games that really take advantage of its power. Still, the games that we have now are noticeably superior (in terms of graphics anyway) to anything that’s been done on a console before. It’s true that I wouldn’t have bought an Xbox 360 this early if I didn’t have this translation job for it, but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before some truly impressive games start to appear.

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