Initial Xbox 360 Impressions

Occasionally, we change things up around these parts and talk games. I wasn't originally planning on getting an Xbox 360, but an opportunity presented itself so I picked it up. As far as I can tell, I'm not really the typical customer of this machine. I have a GameCube and PS2 but never saw a need to get an original Xbox.

I've read various things that suggest that the 360 isn't that big of an advancement beyond the original Xbox, or that you need an HD TV to see any different. As far as I'm concerned, that's flat wrong. This is an impressive piece of hardware.

I picked up four games with the system: Project Gotham 3, Fight Night 3, Perfect Dark Zero and Kameo. I'm a pretty big fan of racing games and Gotham is exactly the type of game I like. It's more than a simple one-off arcade racer, but it doesn't descend into the gear head insanity that is Gran Turismo. Gotham is shockingly gorgeous and a lot of fun to play.

Boxing games aren't really my thing, but Fight Night 3 does a great job of what it sets out to do. Again, the visuals are absolutely jaw-dropping and my roommate seems to approve of the controls. From a presentation perspective, I love how the game moves all of the superfluous bars and meters out of the way and presents the player with a cinematic view of the action.

I just started playing Perfect Dark Zero. While I typically like this type of game, it's so far been an exercise in frustration. Maybe not having a mouse to work with is part of the problem, but I feel like I'm never directing my attention to the place that the game wants me to.

I sort of stumbled through the intro level and now I somehow keep breaking cover in the second level. I have to assume the game designers believe they're making it clear to me what I should be trying to accomplish, but I just feel dumped in the middle of the level with vague hints and none of the flexibility of real life. I can't jump in the water to evade anyone, for example.

I guess I'll keep at the game for a bit longer, but at this point I really wish I had Metroid Prime 3 in front of me instead. It's a similar type of game, but Metroid just feels much, much more polished and imaginative. Maybe Halo 3 will pan out well. I haven't taken Kameo for a spin yet so I'll have to report back on that one.

The bottom line is that contrary to some negative press, this system appears to have real potential. I still suspect I'll end up a bigger fan of PS3 or Revolution in the long run because the Japanese game design ethic just seems so much more solid. But for now, the 360 is the only game in town, and there are at least a few good titles for it.

Update: I left out two rather important points in the original post. First, it's important to point out that this thing is loud. That is it might actually overpower the TV's lower volume setting. Not quite at a dual G5, but miles away from a Mac mini.

I actually called Microsoft to make sure there wasn't something wrong with mine. They tell me unless there are some lights indicating a problem, that the fan noise is normal. Since this is an entertainment device the noise is an inconvenience for me, not a deal breaker. If I had to have it on all day while working, I'd probably toss the thing out the window.

The second point is that the industrial design is much more understated than the original Xbox. Comparisons to the Apple/iPod design sensibility are unavoidable. Just further evidence that Microsoft wants to be Apple so bad.
Design Element
Initial Xbox 360 Impressions
Posted Feb 28, 2006 — 6 comments below


Ben — Feb 28, 06 853

Thanks, that's a great little review. Being in Australia I've not seen the new xbox, and so I cannot comment. But I've found that a lot of the general internet media (being reviews or eMagazines) appear to be putting down the 360, yet listening personal level the reviews have put the 360 in a great light.

I've listened to Dvorak hype it up (but can we believe anything he says?), Alex on the diggnation podcast appears to love the 360, and now you Scott appear smitten.

There seems to be a lot of negative press about the 360 floating around, why does this exist? Is it because of the fan noise? The power brick? Who started this negative trend?

Again, not seeing it I cannot comment, but I find it hard that Microsoft would offer a new iteration of their console line without upping the quality of game/graphic/sound. And like any console ever released in the past, it appears that from a technical/programmatic point-of-view the true range of the product will not be seen for a year or two.

Thanks for the review, I will pass it on to a mate of mine. He's got one of these babies on pre-order and will probably like to be comforted with his preorder decision.

Scott Stevenson — Feb 28, 06 854 Scotty the Leopard

Alex on the diggnation podcast appears to love the 360, and now you Scott appear smitten.

Smitten is probably a bit strong, but I'm certainly impressed. Gotham 3 is a great game, but I'm missing my Zeldas, Metroids, Marios and so on. Maybe Halo 3 would make me feel better.

There seems to be a lot of negative press about the 360 floating around, why does this exist?

I'm not totally sure. Some early units had issues and some people were unimpressed with the games. I guess that there's not one blanket statement that can be made. Fight Night 3 is a post-launch title so perhaps it's more indicative of what can be done with the system.

I find it hard that Microsoft would offer a new iteration of their console line without upping the quality of game/graphic/sound.

It might depend on the game. For example, Perfect Dark strikes me as a game that looks nice, but isn't uniformly a huge leap from Xbox 1 games.

Michael Brundage — Mar 01, 06 888

[p]I work on Xbox backwards compatibility, so I'm glad to read that you're enjoying the console and figured I would de-lurk.[/p]

[p]It's probably not the fan noise that you're hearing, but the 12x DVD drive. The outer edge of a DVD disc spinning at 12x is travelling at over 100mph, making for some decent noise. You can verify this by ejecting the disc -- if the noise continues then it's the fans, but if it stops it was the DVD disc. Movies and original Xbox games spin a little slower and will thus play more quietly. Personally, I don't notice the noise coming from my console (in the stereo cabinet across the room), but obviously YMMV.[/p]

[p]You might want to check out the demos on Xbox Live Marketplace -- NFS:MW and Condemned (which is pretty cool and scary) and some others might appeal to you.[/p]

[p]Personally, I didn't like PDZ at all (I've heard the multiplayer is great, but it lost me before I got there) and I'm not into racing games. But I'm loving the Xbox Live Arcade games -- many of them (Marble Blast Ultra, Hexic, Geometry Wars and Zuma) are really, really fun. Other than Arcade, the only full games I've really gotten into have been Call of Duty 2 and Amped 3 (which isn't for everyone, but I like it). Obviously it's a personal choice -- some people are really excited about Oblivion -- but I'm eagerly awaiting Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter and Gears of War (and sure, Halo 3). Until then, it's mostly Arcade and original Xbox games for me :-)[/p]

There seems to be a lot of negative press about the 360 floating around, why does this exist?

I'm not totally sure.

[p]Don't even get me started -- the gaming press have changed me from "not believing everything I read online" to not believing anything I read online.[/p]
[p]It seems like every week there's a new rumor, that gets repeated by five more "news" organizations, each time changing slightly until it reaches a frenzied crescendo completely divorced from reality. For example, a podcast on by our marketing director in which he said we would be taking vacation (this was before Christmas) and probably aiming for another update in the Spring snowballed into the team taking vacation "throughout January" and "Microsoft halts work on backwards compatibility." Both of which are nonsense, but surprisingly many people will believe it just because it was printed as news. Or take the articles claiming Microsoft sold only 600K consoles in the US, soon followed by our quarterly report completely refuting that and now some articles claiming that in fact we'll beat our own sales projections for June. Apparently they can't make up their mind whether we're vastly under or over projected sales numbers.[/p]
[p]Just my personal opinion, but I think the gaming press is a mess. I find the best sources of accurate information are just word of mouth from people's personal experiences, such as blog entries like this one. Everything else is biased heavily by agendas and spin. Of course, not even all blogs can be believed -- you know that there will be fake ones praising (or railing against) some products, but hopefully most of them are honest and real. [/p]

Michael Brundage — Mar 01, 06 889

Apparently [p][/p] aren't a set of UBB tags :-) Silly me.

Ray Muirhead — Mar 29, 06 994

Thanks for the informative impressions - I'm also an Australian and am looking to buy an XBox and this has been really helpful.

Hey, are any of you interested in Oblivion? It seems like it would make it worth getting an XBox just by itself :).

Scott Stevenson — Mar 29, 06 995 Scotty the Leopard

Hey, are any of you interested in Oblivion

I've been looking at it and it seems like something I can really get into. I'm a bit hesitant to buy it because I feel like I might not get anything else done. :) That happened when I first got Diablo, and would probably happen with World of Warcraft.


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