Tuesday, January 6, 2009

XBOX 360 -- Initial Thoughts

Every year I buy myself one 'big' Christmas present. Ever since I first started working its been a tradition of mine. A couple of years ago I snorted a bag of cocaine and voted for George Bush, last year I bought a PS3... and this year I said fuck it and bought myself a 360. I'd like to share my initial thoughts with the system to, well... whoever gives a shit. So here goes.

I've been wanting to pick up a 360 for quite a while now. Its not that I don't love my PS3, lord knows I'd be lost without it. The 360 has a really good foothold this generation on all the good games. If you want to play (arguably) the best game of the year, in Gears of War 2, you're going to need a 360, not to mention a whole back catalog of other award winning games, like Halo 3 and (the better) port of Fallout 3. I've always been intrigued with the X-Box Live services, as its universally hailed as being the best the business has to offer, and with games like Duke Nukem 3D getting released over it... whats not to like about the 360?

The Red Ring of Death has been the systems major fault, with an insanely high percentage of the systems suffering from it. However Microsoft has a nice policy regarding the RROD and have been working slowly but surly to fix the problem. I've picked up the latest version of the 360 the 'Jasper' model, which sports a new 65-nanometer graphics chip on top of a re-designed motherbord which uses less power, 150-watts compared to the older ones, which run at 175. All in all the new Jasper Model's run much cooler and should help to eliminate the Red Ring all together.

I picked up the middle of the line 360, since I have my PS3 I couldn't see spending the cash for the Elite package... yet the Arcade bundle seemed like it wouldn't quite fulfill all my gaming needs. The Holiday pack I picked up retails for $299.99 and comes complete with one wireless controller, a 60gb hard-drive, headset, ethernet cable, and a Standard/HD component cable, though the system is HDMI ready. You also get two free games, Lego Indiana Jones and Kung Fu Panda. I have no real interest in the latter of the two, but its free so why bitch?

I really enjoy the controller. At first the placement of the analog sticks seemed completely out of wack, but once you get in game... its quite a comfortable layout. One that is strikingly reminiscent of the Sega Dreamcast controllers of old. I've held the two side by side and with the exception of an extra analog stick on the 360, and the DC lacking the L2 and R2 shoulder pads... they'd pretty much pass as brothers. The only real complaint I have is the lack of a rechargeable battery pack. I know the WiiMote loved to chew through double A batteries, I hope the 360 doesn't do the same thing.

Hooking the system up was a snap, I opted for the HD cables to get the best possible picture, and easily got it hooked through my surround sound. I'm at a slight disadvantage, I'd love to hook it up through my TV's HDMI port but that one is reserved for my PS3... and since that's my main DVD/Blu-Ray player its NOT going to be unhooked anytime soon. Some sort of component selector would be nice, but anything that will reduce picture quality... even in the slightest, is out OF the picture (pun intended).

It is interesting to note that the overall "feel" of the system is that of one that was designed as a video game machine first... and everything else second. The plastic casing feels cheaper, the logos not as shiny, and its overall not as sleek looking as the PS3. The Playstation just feels like an advanced computer. Even just sitting there, off, it looks like something that belongs 10 years in the future. I don't get that vibe out of the 360. Not that there is anything wrong with that, it just reminds me of the video game systems of old... the Dreamcast specifically, with hints of the original PSX sprinkled in.

I enjoyed the 360's Dash Board, much more so than.... whatever the PS3's BIOS screen is called. Though I do enjoy the way I can set backgrounds on the PS3. What I'm not a fan of is the lack of a built in wireless router. I have to have one, as I live upstairs and my internet box is all the way downstairs. So unfortunately... all that stuff I'd like to try on X-Box Live is going to have to wait until I can find one for cheap. Minus points for this one.

Games I've played thus far:
-- Lego Indiana Jones: Very fluid movements, some nice bright backgrounds. Easy to control. Looks like a fun game.
-- Perfect Dark Zero: Loved the N64 game... don't give a shit what the reviews said, played about 10 minutes of it and I loved it.
-- Gears of War 2: What can be said that hasn't already?
-- Baja Edge of Control: Seemed like your average off-road racing game... not to special

So how does it compare to the PS3? Hard to say. Currently I've got my PS3 running the best possible set up, through an HDMI cable to my 1080i HDTV, and utilizing the optical audio port for the 5.1 audio. The 360 on the other hand just gets the HD component cables (green, blue, red) to put out the 1080i signal, and has to make due with the standard red and white component cables for the 5.1 sound. Until I get them hooked up in an identical fashion, its tough to put one in front of the other.

Overall it appears to be a very solid system. This if the first time that I've had a chance to own the two big competing systems while they're still going head to head. It's really fun to know that now it doesn't matter if a game is a PS exclusive or an X-Box exclusive ... I'll have access to it regardless.

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