Andrew's Stuff

Xbox 360 "Review"

Posted at Mon, 12 Dec 2005, 15:19:20

Someone asked on the forum for someone with an Xbox 360 to post their opinions of it. I obliged. Since it's a fairly substantial post I'm duplicating it here. Enjoy.

It's very easy to use, in my opinion. Most things in the GUI (the Dashboard, specifically) are very easy to find and the options are pretty self-explanatory. You can even manually specify a MAC address, which was required for me to get it to access the Internet in my room at all.

Compatibility with MP3 players etc depends on the device. If it can be recognised by Windows as a removable storage device or a hard drive then it's likely to be recognised by the 360. I plugged a USB hard drive into mine and it played the MP3s on it happily. The Windows Media Connect thing is very cool, too, and lets me stream music straight from my PC to my 360 across the network. Both were very easy to set up - just select a/some folder(s) to share in Media Connect, start the server then turn the 360 on. The 360 will detect the PC's Connect service, Connect will ask your permission for the 360 to access it for security reasons, you select to always allow it and then in future you just turn the 360 on and it immediately has access to your music. It also played a DVD+RW full of MP3s I gave it, though unfortunately it refused to copy them to the hard drive - just as it wouldn't copy the music from my PC onto the 360's HDD. A real shame as I won't have access to my desktop PC when I go home for a couple of weeks over Christmas so I'll have to copy the music to my MP3 player (which currently stores all tracks in Sony's ATRAC3plus format instead of MP3 for battery life reasons) to use them.

The media remote is very cool, though. I don't even have to use a controller to control my music playing - I can turn the console on and off with the remote, which is a good thing considering the console doesn't detect my TFT monitor the first time it's powered on for some reason - it flashes three red LEDs on the Ring of Light and I have to turn it off then back on again for it to detect it. Bizarre but at least it's reliable to fix.

Speaking of my TFT, the VGA cable is pretty darn cool. I was a bit worried before I got it, as 720p is a resolution of 1280x720. As anyone who owns a LCD screen knows, if you run a LCD in anything but native resolution (1280x1024, not 720, in my case) it looks ugly as it tries to expand everything to fill the screen. Luckily the 360 caters for this and lets you select a wide range of resolutions - including 1280x1024. In PDZ at least that leaves me with a letterbox effect, where there are black bars above and below the picture, but I much prefer that and a crystal clear picture to a stretched picture with the same level of deatail taking up the entire screen. If only my sound card accepted an optical input so I could get full 5.1 surround sound from the 360 as well.

If there are a couple of gripes I have with the software it's that it will start up a game the moment you put the disc in, even if you're in the middle of doing something on the Dashboard, and that it will start the game when you first turn it on if there's a game disc in the drive. I often turn it on just to listen to music or to play a Xbox Live Arcade game (I've purchased the full version of Bejeweled 2 on the Xbox Live Marketplace for about £6 - 800 Microsoft Points and 1000 cost me £8.50), so having it start loading Perfect Dark Zero instead is a little annoying to say the least. That and its inability to copy music straight to the hard drive, and not having the volume control for the music accessible from the Music Player. It's in the Xbox Guide's mini-music player, but not in the full Music Player.

Also any playing music stops when you enter or leave a game, be it a game disc or an Arcade game. This is bizarre for a console with such raw power. It can happily play music during the dashboard and during games, but can't continue to do so while switching between the two modes. It isn't much of a problem for me as I just select to play all music on my PC, but if you had a huge playlist that you had spent ages collating that could be very annoying indeed.

Wireless controllers? They're perfect in my opinion. Microsoft claim that the battery lasts 30 to 40 hours and I certainly agree with that. I was using mine all day and the battery indicator (another very cool feature - no more guessing the battery life) on the Xbox Guide dropped to 3 out of 4 bars. Besides, even if the battery DOES die you can just plug in a Play & Charge Kit (well worth the £14 or so I spent on each of mine) and continue playing while the controller is charging. You don't even have to plug the other end into the 360 - any spare USB port will do fine! I can't make any comments about the range, yet, since I've yet to use mine outside of my bedroom, so I can say that the range is at least 2 metres, but that's not surprising ;) They are very responsive, though - I've not noticed any lack of responsiveness from them while playing Perfect Dark Zero - a first person shooter, so definitely a game you need responsiveness for. Having a rumble feature in addition to being wireless is very cool - something I really miss with my GameCube's Wavebird wireless controller. Having the headset plug straight into the wireless controller is pretty cool, too. Also it's very convenient for lazy people like myself to be able to turn the console on from the controller - just press the Guide button in the centre of the controller, wait a few seconds and the console will turn on and the controller will connect to the console and you'll be ready to play. I found adding new controllers to be a little fiddly, but once they're connected to a specific console they'll stay that way semi-permanently - until you press the connect button again - so you don't have to keep re-adding them or anything.

I can't say too much about gameplay as I don't own any games bar PDZ yet. I have downloaded the demos of Kameo and Need For Speed: Most Wanted. I've heard that Kameo is pretty short, but it definitely looks like a very good quality game, and the graphics are very impressive. I imagine the gameplay is pretty good, too, though I haven't played more than the demo (which just consists of the training level). Need For Speed: Most Wanted is Most Definitely on my to-buy list, though - I can't get enough of it. I wish that they'd re-release NFS Underground 2 for 360 with high-def graphics as that was very cool on PC but mine just couldn't handle it at full graphics at 1280x1024, which the 360 can easily.

The graphics of PDZ are very very good. Just check out some of IGN's screenshots and you'll see that for yourself. The problem with console FPSs was always that the resolution was too low to easily see enemies at a distance. This has been totally eliminated with the revolution that is high definition pictures. Now we get twice the resolution (four times as many pixels on the screen) so it's much easier to see stuff. The guns also look highly realistic - the RCP-90, in particular (my favourite gun :p).

The Xbox Live Marketplace is a very cool feature, too. You can download demos of a lot of games and then pay a small fee (£5-£10, typically) to download the full versions of the games. I did this with Bejeweled 2 as it is a very good and addictive game, no matter how old it might be. Even the graphics on that are pretty impressive (and high-def, of course).

Another very cool thing is that you can receive invites to games whatever you're doing on the console, be it playing a game, watching a video/DVD or just sitting on the dashboard. You can also send text and voice messages to friends, and set up VoIP conversations with friends - possibly multi-party VoIP conversations, I'm unsure (I only have 1 friend on Xbox Live currently so I can't test :().

Oh, and high-def visualisations for playing music. Heh.. ;)

If you have any specific questions post them as comments and I'll try to answer them, but this is all I can think of off the top of my head.

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Archived Comments

Wow by Joe at Dec 12, 2005 3:38:58 PM

sounds cool, can't wait :D

PS3 Will Be Bettar by Peter at Dec 12, 2005 9:05:39 PM


Re: PS3 Will Be Bettar by Lord d'Eath at Dec 13, 2005 10:25:35 PM

We'll see.
</Annoying Tesco granny woman from the adverts a few years ago>

Re: Re: PS3 Will Be Bettar by Di at Oct 1, 2006 10:52:39 PM

Prunella Scales :P Tesco is more annoying than the tesco granny hehe

Re: PS3 Will Be Bettar by Joe at Dec 14, 2005 3:27:06 PM