Tuesday, November 29, 2005

XBOX 360

I finally got my XBOX360 last night via UPS from costco.com. It's pure joy. I spent the first few hours just tweaking with it and not playing any games. This thing, while a great game machine, is also so much more. And it has a ton of untapped potential.

I got it hooked up to my Media Center PC and to the PC via Windows Media Connect. So now I can stream home videos, all of my music, and my family pictures onto the TV without transferring them to a laptop or doing some other type of magic. I've tried doing this with Ryan's first communion, Katelyn's baptism, and other family events to put a slide show together for folks at the house afterwards and it's always been a major pain. Now I should be able to do that very easily.

DVD playback is great, as the box supports Dolby Digital and DTS and the picture quality on the HDTV is great. Haven't sat down to watch a full movie yet, so I'll leave final judgement until then, but for now, it all seems to be great and the included media remote provides all necessary functionality. AND you can use the DVD player with the remote too, which is cool...

I also got it hooked up with my Live Gold subscription so I can play games across live. I downloaded some HD movie and game demo trailers at 720p, which look and sound GORGEOUS on the 50" widescreen HDTV. Played around with XBOX Live Arcade and tried out some Hexic HD and Gauntlet. I'll be spending some money on Live Arcade games for sure as there's some GREAT content up there. And from the company meeting after talking with the team responsible for Arcade it sounds like their goal is to have lots of great games keep coming out for it over the life of the console. This is huge for the casual gamer or even for more serious gamers like me because I often want to just spend a few minutes and play something mindless like bejeweled or geometry wars and not get into some complicated story or involved mission type game.

Finally, I popped in Need for Speed: Most Wanted as my first "real" 360 game. It's drop dead gorgeous. The sound and video quality is definitely next generation. And the gameplay is a riot. Racing through the streets dodging police and hearing them coordinate their search for me as I go smashing into other cars and driving cops off the road is just gaming bliss...

Tonight, it's Project Gotham Racing 3 and Kameo: Elements of Power to try out. I'll be picking up Perfect Dark: Zero once it hits the company store, hopefully within the next week or so...

Overall, the hardware is great, the controller is by far the best controller for any video game system ever, the dashboard and living room experience is top notch, and the games so far are great. There's a bit of a dearth of titles I want since I'm not a basketball or football video game fan, but the titles are coming soon and there's plenty to do with it and lots of good games in the meantime.

The only big downside so far is the content download. You have to wait for the demo movie or game to download over the marketplace. Some of the videos are 100-300mb since they're 720p HD and the one full game demo for NBA Live was nearly a gigabyte. While these are downloading, you can't do anything else other than watch the progress bar. I understand why (the console needs to guarantee bandwidth and CPU utilization to the games so that they have a consistent platform to run on without background tasks sucking up network and CPU and memory), but it's still painful to not be able to download a trailer and play Hexic until it's done downloading...

Oh, and for everyone who's asked me: "NO, IT DIDN'T CRASH, MELT, OVERHEAT, OR SET MY HOUSE ON FIRE!" It works great and I've got the ginormous power brick on top of the TV stand behind the TV out of sight but where it can be properly ventilated. It's not buried under cables and a sweatshirt on top of the family room heater vent so that it will burn up...

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