New Xbox Experience uncloaked

Here are five things every gamer should know about the new Xbox 360 update.Here are five things every gamer should know about the new Xbox 360 update.

  • It's really just a menu update

    While Microsoft calls the new update an "entirely new experience," it's really just a streamlined menu system with a better online store and the addition of streaming movies. Depending on what games you play, your "Xbox Experience," so to speak, will not change much. But the menu is an improvement, and long-time 360 owners can still access the "Blade" menu by pressing the guide button at any time, in-game even.
  • It will help you discover new games

    My favourite feature of the update is the revamped "Game Marketplace," which organizes all Xbox games — including retail, Arcade titles, and Xbox Originals — by box art and lets players sort by alphabetical order, new arrivals, genre, and a new "most popular" category. That last one is a great new way to see what others are playing, as well as find new games you may have missed. What's more, games have their own dedicated "detail pages" now, which include screenshots, descriptions, and all add-on content in a single location.
  • Xbox Avatars look better than Miis

    I groaned when Microsoft decided to borrow from Nintendo with the announcement of Avatars in July. But after creating my own, they've grown on me, and their use ads a bit of warmth to what was formerly a pretty cold experience. In a lot of ways, I think Avatars are better than Miis. They look cooler, there are more customization options to choose from, and the background music is delightful. I doubt they'll be as popular as Miis, however, as you cannot email your Avatar creations to others. But they are a nice touch.
  • Streaming Netflix rentals are near perfect

    The biggest update to the new interface is easily the addition of streaming Netflix movies from computer to your Xbox. You'll have to be a paying subscriber of both Xbox Live Gold and Netflix to enjoy unlimited streams, but man is it nice watching movies from PC or Mac to your console. The system isn't perfect; sometimes it took the optimizer up to four times to decide what video quality to use with my broadband connection (a little annoying). But overall, I'm sold on the idea, and the integration between Netflix and 360 is stunning.
  • Live Party shows promise for online multiplayer

    The second most impressive feature is the new "Live Party" system, which lets you voice chat with up to eight Xbox Live friends while playing games, watching movies, or gawking at a photos. I was unable to preview this, unfortunately, and doubt how often I'll want to watch movies or view sideshows with a headset on. But it could end up being a slick new way to play multiple online games with your BFFs over the weekend, so wait for it.
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