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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Xbox 360: Good, but not great

Xbox 360: Good, but not great

"The first of the next gen video game machines hits store shelves next week. Should you get one?

For gaming's most enthusiastic fans, the question of whether to get an Xbox 360 was answered long ago. It would be the first entry in the next generation and a status symbol amongst their friends. But is there a reason for the rest of the world - gaming or otherwise - to rush stores?

The short answer: Not on Day One.

The Xbox 360 goes on sale Tuesday, Nov. 22 and will cost either $299 for a bare bones machine that will not allow you to play existing Xbox games or $399 for a fully loaded, backward compatible system (by far the smarter buy). It's certainly a sleek piece of equipment, with enough technological oomph to make even the most casual gamer raise their eyebrows. And Microsoft continues to extend its lead in the online console marketplace. But when it comes to must-have games, the Xbox 360 falls short. While there are several good - and even very good - titles that will be available at launch, there's nothing truly great.

Admittedly, tastes vary – so you could easily find a game out this month that's a "must have" for you. (We'll have a closer look at the launch games early next week.) But if you're looking for something that's ground breaking and sets the trend for the system (as "Halo" did with the original Xbox), you're not going to find it.

Microsoft and its publishing partners were smart to offer a diverse lineup of games, hoping to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. Ultimately, though, playing it safe like that works against the system. Most of the launch games offer little more than slight graphic advancements than versions found on other systems (including the original Xbox). Only a couple of titles are exclusive to Xbox 360 (that is, they can't be played on any other machine). And none offer any true gameplay advancements. At best, you'll see a couple of interesting tweaks.

Don't misunderstand these criticisms. The Xbox 360 is a truly impressive machine and shows an enormous amount of potential for the years to come. There are titles in development that seem to have the potential to be true blockbusters – and the clever use of a proprietary online marketplace opens up the possibility of innovation. It's just not happening yet.

Microsoft (Research) has hinted that online is the one of the keys to the 360's success – and it seems to be doing everything right on that front. When you first turn on your Xbox 360 and take care of initial set-up (choosing a language, time zone, etc.), you're prompted to either set up or transfer an Xbox Live account. Doing so is an easy, painless process that takes no more than 10 or 15 minutes. (You'll also need to set up an Xbox Live/Microsoft Passport account if you don't have one already).

Once the preliminaries are taken care of, you'll find yourself at the dashboard – the hub of the Xbox 360. From here, you can (among other things) send and receive messages, see which of your friends are online, compare your game collection to that of your friends (and people you meet online) and access both the Xbox Live Marketplace and Xbox Live Arcade.

The Marketplace could turn out to be one of the smartest things about the 360. From there, you'll be able to watch game trailers (usually free) and download game demos. (You'll also be able to purchase pictures, game-specific thematic content to let you customize the look of your dashboard and eventually add-ons for games.)" [more]

Anonymous Anonymous
Wow, nice one. You can quote people.  

Blogger D.Vader
Yeah we a news hub like that ;)  

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