Microsoft Xbox 360
- Sexy Design, Incredible power, Music streaming and integration, Great controller
- Some unsupported file formats, No HD-DVD drive, no non-MSC support, average launch line up.
The Xbox 360 is an incredible piece of hardware with very little great software to choose from. In the end, the potential for future brilliance far outweighs its immediate appeal.
Price$ 499.00 (AUD)
We spent hours on end playing quite a few of the launch titles for the Xbox 360. They were fun to play with improved graphics but most were largely disappointing. The stand out titles like Call of Duty 2 and Project Gotham Racing 3 looked fairly good, but they weren't of the caliber you would expect from this system. Many games however, have sacrificed features just to become a launch title, especially many of the EA sports titles which seemed to abandon their depth in favour of a quick release. Developers aren't to be blamed though as they have done the best they could with the time afforded them but this disappointment in launch titles may hamper the Xbox 360 as the next-gen console of choice by gamers thinking about waiting for the PS3. We have high hopes for Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter and also look forward to Gears of War and Prey - all of which look to be quite incredible. It is difficult to rate the graphics of this console when we know the graphics will only get better over time. Hopefully, this evolution in the games will also extend to game play so we won't have to endure 20 more first person shooter clones before it arrives. Innovative game play and superior graphics are needed if Microsoft wants to secure their share of the market.
Microsoft has also announced that many of the original Xbox titles will be backward compatible via software emulation. The hardware in the Xbox 360 is so radically different from the original box that hardware emulation was not possible. While there are plans for many older titles to be compatible with the new console, the list is current rather small with little over 300 titles currently supported. Thankfully, many of the more popular Xbox Live games are still supported, as are most of the bigger releases from Ubisoft and EA. The only problem with the backwards compatibility is that you need to have a hard drive to enjoy it. The same can be said for the Xbox Live Arcade and for save games, even though both can be enjoyed in limited capacity via a memory card.
The accessories for the Xbox 360 are numerous but the ones that should be mentioned are the Wireless adapter, the Xbox Live Headset, the charge and play kit and the face plates.
To allow wireless internet and media streaming to the 360 a wireless adapter needs to be purchase separately. This clips on to the back of the unit very easily and plugs into the Ethernet port. The charge and Play kit was mentioned earlier. It allows you to connect the wireless controller to the USB port when the power gets low and trickle charges the batteries in the controller.
The Xbox Live headset has been redesigned and is now an over-the-head style headset, still only mono but it no longer has the volume and mute buttons controllable from a dongle. These controls are now in line and work very well. Unfortunately, unlike the American package, Australians WILL NOT receive the headset when they purchase an Xbox 360 Premium pack. Considering the multitude of Xbox Live features and how it is a huge part of what the console can do, it seems ridiculous to not include the headset in the package. Microsoft claims that they have decided to give Australians a different remote control in the package instead but from what we can tell, this is not true. The package available in this country is the same as the American one without the headset. This is very unfortunate and only shows the lack of respect that Microsoft corporate has for their Australian consumers. Considering we are the most successful market for Xbox per capita, not including the headset in the package and delaying the Australian launch by four months is an insult to this market and quite a travesty.
Finally, the face plates are interchangeable plates that sit on the front of the console, designed to make it customisable. The original plate can be snapped off with new ones easily snapped on. This is a great idea as developers have now started to jump on the bandwagon, offering face plates that are themed to their games as an incentive for pre-orders.
Xbox 360 will be available in two packages. The Xbox 360 Premium Pack will contain the Xbox 360 console, 20GB hard drive, a wireless controller, High Definition cables and a media remote. The Core unit will have a wired controller, no hard drive, no remote and standard definition cables. The Core unit will retail at $150 less than the premium package. If you are looking to play old Xbox titles on the 360 you will need a premium package. In fact, why anyone would even buy the core package, we can't quite understand, as once you buy the core and a memory card you have only saved a very small sum of money and have sacrificed features to do so. The console also suffered without the hard drive with a drop in game performance, especially with respect to load times.
The Xbox 360 is the greatest games console ever made, to date, with a terribly dull line up of launch titles. As the games get better, this console will kick into high gear and provided it can secure its market share before the launch of the PS3, it will be a real contender in the coming console wars. In the end we were disappointed with the lack of support for non-MSC Mp3 players but found the console a joy to play. We were tempted to give this console a 5 star rating but felt that it has its few flaws and abysmal launch game line up slightly mark it down. As it stands, it is an innovative machine and one that will no doubt consume our lives come March 23.
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