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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Xbox 360's coming - is it for you?

Xbox 360's coming - is it for you?

"THE GIZMO: Xbox 360.

Video game players are eagerly awaiting the arrival Tuesday of Xbox 360, the latest, greatest, next-generation video-game system. Should you be in line at 7 a.m. to scarf one up? Here's some information to help you decide.

Q: What's the fuss about?

A: Xbox 360 is the first video-game system designed from the git-go for the high-definition TV age. It has the computer horsepower to produce high-resolution and highly articulated games formatted for a widescreen HDTV.

Q: So how's it look?

A: Viewed on such a screen, Activision's lead title, "Call for Duty 2," looks and plays an amazingly authentic battle simulation with only a few jagged edges. Even the gunsmoke you crawl through seems super realistic.

Electronic Arts claims to have reprogrammed its hot sports franchises to exploit the super power of 360's three, 3.2 GHz processors and half-a-gigabyte of active memory. Players in "Madden NFL 06" and "NBA Live 06" boast articulated fingers and limbs, plus heads and eyes that move realistically as they track the ball. EA also has pumped up the 5.1 surround sound.

Fantasy game adventures have extra eye-candy appeal, too. Check out the sparkling platform game "Kameo: Elements of Power" (Microsoft/Rare), whose fairy princess superhero morphs into all manner of beasts to ward off other demons. Curiously, you can always see a glimmer of Kameo's real self hovering inside these characters, a nifty effect not seen before in a video game.

Overall, though, the graphic improvements seem evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, on this first set of Xbox 360 games.

Q: Must I have an HD set to enjoy 360?

A: No. This system works (and will show some graphic improvement) with standard-definition TVs, using supplied composite or optional S-Video cables.

Q: What are Xbox 360's other allures?

A: Gamers cite the unmatched online game-play potential that Microsoft's packed in. ("Real people are better adversaries than a computer, 'cause the latter always knows where you're hiding!" one playa shared.)

For no extra charge (nice), 360 buyers will have access to a "Silver" level of Xbox Live online activity to download free game previews, chat with other players and participate in massive, multiplayer games. Move up to "Gold" level (a reasonable $50 a year) to challenge friends and strangers to any online-enabled Xbox game.

A new, personal profiling/ranking system touts your accomplishments for all to see and promises you'll be matched with appropriate adversaries. Also coming is an online marketplace for selling/swapping customized characters, vehicles, etc. (Though without a broadband connection, all this is irrelevant.)" [more]

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