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March 07, 2006

360 - First Impressions

I dont mean to be negative, but right now i fail to be compeled towards the 360. If nothing else, it's the best VGA box for xbox 1 titles I've ever seen.
Microsoft made a real console this time. The original Xbox is a kludge of PC parts + clunky controller + poopy interface spun in the marketing machine. The 360, by comparison, shows such a serious design initiative from the team, so much so that the difference is shocking. The dashboard, the online component, the marketplace, the music collection, the PC connection, the downloadable demos are all handled better on the 360 than they will be on either the Revolution or the PS3. The controller has, in some regards, become my favorite controller of all time in just 2 days. I'm amazed at how much I like it.

The 360 is an excellent piece of hardware with so much thought placed into the interface (something dear to me) that it is difficult not to be impressed. The games though, are games we've already played to death. The Nintendo Revolution will be home to favorite franchises and unique, new, innovative games. I'm not expecting that on the 360, but I'll be very happy if it happens.

It'll be a while before games I really want come out for the 360. We picked up the 360 to cover the types of 3rd party games from this generation that won't work well on the Revolution; titles like Prince of Persia, Xtreme G (and XGRA), Sega Soccer Slam, Resident Evil 4 and others. While 'traditional' cross-platform titles may not work well on the Revolution, they will shine on the 360.

Perfect Dark is total crap. Some of the issues with the sound and level design encountered in the single player mode are downright embarrassing. The development team included transparent blue arrows on the ground that materialize in order to lead players to the next destination. Why? Because the level and mission design is so bad, pointlessly confusing and dark, that it is impossible to tell what one is supposed to do next.

Kameo does have some control issues that are very frustrating until learned. What is most frustrating about them is that they could have been ironed out with testing and polish. The title does have a lot of interesting game mechanics that are downright fun yet the learning curve to get to the point where it is enjoyable will turn off many. The art direction is best described as 'fantastic plastic' a fantasy world made of plastic, which will also turn off a large portion of players. The game will be nice to play through in a week or two, but not one that will be the most memorable of experiences. It could turn into a very nice sequel if provided more attention.

On the flip side, I REALLY like Ridge Racer 6. I like the arcade play, I like the smooth controls, I like the clean gameplay. I could easily while away the hours drifting around and having a blast! It isn't revolutionary, but it is clean, arcade fun.

I would have a difficult time recommending the 360 at this point. Perhaps if you enjoyed playing online, sports, racing, or World War II themed shooters, it would be a great time to pick up a 360. I don't like sports, my tastes in shooters and racing are limited and eclectic. I don't particularly care for dark games. I don't particularly care for playing online with strangers. For the love of all that is holy, there aren't any 360 games thet utilize a grappling hook!

I am looking forward to a few games for the 360, and hope they rock. With the 360's ability to download demos, I also think I'll get a good chance to try games before paying full price for them. I'll buy less but try more; a fair trade off.

Here's a list of games that I'll be keeping my eye on. They are in no particular order.

N3: Ninety-Nine Nights

Star Trek: Legacy

Resident Evil 5

Too Human

Top Spin 2

Tokyo Xtreme Racer

Sonic the Hedgehog


After Burner

Blue Dragon


Gears of War


Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII

Lost Odyssey

Mass Effect


NeoGeo Battle Coliseum

Shadowrun [next-gen]


Unreal Tournament 2007


Overall, I'm happy with the box, the controller, the interface and the online component. The games aren't any better than current games though. PS3 is going to be the same thing, only without an excellent controller, interface and online component. Not only will I bet my hat on that, but I just bet $650 in Xbox hardware/software. I've been around for all of Sony's console launches and seen the vast difference between the reality of the console and promises (lies) made before the launch. I’ve also has the misfortune of attempting to use their various pieces of software and now understand they won’t ever have a service that rivals Live in usability or features. Sony’s attitude towards controller symmetry ensures us that they will forego ergonomics and proper control placement to create a controller that is more beautiful than functional.

For the time being, I'll spend more time on my DS than on the Xbox 360. The DS has a long list of must-have titles already available and a very bright future lineup as well. I'll be playing Metroid Prine: Hunters on the 20th along with some Tetris Online as well.


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