Xbox 360 Impressions

After a week long agony of missed deliveries, bad weather and plane delays the Xbox 360 arrived at my house today. It was a long, hard journey but I knew sacrifices would be necessary when we launched Gamers With Jobs, it's the least I can do for my loyal readers.

IMAGE(http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/files/images/xbox360.thumbnail.jpg)

I'll be adding impressions of the games over the weekend and leading up to launch but I figured a good starting place would be the hardware itself and a brief bit about the Windows Media Center capabilities.

*UPDATED* Some additional notes at the bottom of the article.

The Console

The first thing I noticed is that new console smell of fresh technology as I cracked open the box. It's the closest I think I can come to recapturing the wonder and excitement I felt as a kid when I would rip into a present I just knew contained a Super Nintendo. My nasal passages full of delicious scents likely to cause cancer, I pulled all the peripherals out of the box and stood over the array piled on my coffee table. Truly, this is what being a gamer is all about. The first thing you notice is that the external power supply is large enough to merit it's own separate review section. It's massive, so big in fact that I can picture some folks having a bit of trouble shoving it into their already tangled and cramped entertainment center rear areas. It's not insurmountable, just a bit fiddly if you're as disorganized as I am when it comes to the nexus of cables back there.

The actual console is a far cry from the large, black and American design of the original Xbox. It's slim and white, it's also pretty quiet but I can only imagine that has something to do with the console's lack of a manly internal power supply. Instead, the black monster resides outside, like the ghost of what was mocking the feminine new system's lack of balls. It's ok Xbox 360, I think you're ADORABLE! Hee!

The front of the system sports two slots for memory cards, the DVD tray, a button that lights up indicating how many controllers are actively connected it and two USB ports hidden away behind a swinging panel. It's nice and clean in design, it looks downright classy when stood next to my aging PS2.

IMAGE(http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/files/images/IMG_0387.thumbnail.jpg)

The Controller

It's like holding God's loofa after he's finished scrubbing down with it in the shower. That's a good thing! It's beautifully molded with a good weight that's not too heavy and not too light or cheap feeling. I especially like the touch of the smooth bottom edge where my middle fingers rest, it's a nice attention to detail. The removal of the dreaded black and white buttons in favor of two extra triggers on the top is a huge improvement as well. Throw in the fact that it's wireless (corded is still an option) and you can turn the console on remotely with it and you've got a winner. Great controller.

The Remote

Included with the premium system (and available separately) is the DVD remote which also doubles as a nice peripheral to interface with the dash board. It fits nicely in your palm and has nice big buttons to navigate the menus available to you. With a single button press you can bring up the Media Center interface and access all your music, images and recorded TV. Of course, it also doubles as a channel changer and DVD remote for the usual navigations, what else could you want? Huh?! That's what I thought.

The Dashboard

You've never had a better experience with a console dashboard. I dare say it's possibly the single best thing about my Xbox 360 experience so far. With an easy to navigate tabbed folder system, you can access every function you may need quickly and without much difficulty at all. The opening page shows options to view your friends list, messages, the Xbox Live Marketplace and of course, to play the game currently in your drive. In the messaging section you can choose to contact a fellow Xbox 360 owner for a live one-on-one voice chat, goodbye long distance charges!

A quick flip to the right brings up a games list, from here you can look at your various game achievements, the games you've been playing and the ability to play and download new Xbox Live Arcade games. You can also get to demos and trailers you've downloaded here too.

Another flip to the right brings up the Media Center interface. From here you can access your music list, pictures, videos or launch the full Media Center interface. I plugged my Canon digital camera into one of the front USB slots and I could immediately access the images contained on it from here, pretty slick and easy enough to do for most people.

One last flip to the right brings up the options screen, here you can set everything from your screen preferences, audio, language, parental controls, network settings and the computers you may have connected to the Xbox. The menus are all very easy to surf around in and don't leave you wanting for much at all.

Media Center

Perhaps the centerpiece of the whole dashboard experience is the Media Center, presumably where one can access the images, music and videos on a Media Center friendly PC. The images and music thing works great, I installed the Media Center enabler on my desktop PC and within about five minutes I was on the 360 and scrolling through my music lists and the photos I took while stalking Pyro. The videos thing is where I encountered my first real disappointment. Here I was hoping I could just as easily access the videos on my computer and play them on the TV. It was not meant to be.

If you don't have the Windows XP Media Center Edition OS installed on your PC, you will not be able to stream videos from it. Period. Throw that daydream out the window. If you DO have Media Center you'll be pretty limited as to WHAT you can access. The primary function is to stream the TV shows you've recorded from your cable box to your Media Center PC. Want to play that AVI file you downloaded? Too bad, the 360 won't play that format. You're limited to MPEG's and WMV files mainly so think long and hard before you spend too much money to have the ultimate in porn streaming technology. I reserve the right to be wrong though, I need to do more testing with my laptop, which has the Media Center OS on it.

IMAGE(http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/files/images/IMG_0388.thumbnail.jpg)

That limitation aside, I'm very pleased with the console design, the controller, the dashboard and most of the Media Center functions. It's all very slick, user friendly and packed with more features and information than you might ever need.

I'll be back later with some actual game impressions (Live Arcade games included) once I've spent more time with them. Stay tuned!

*UPDATE*

I wanted to add a couple notes to this space after a few more days with the system. One, this sucker can get LOUD. When the fan kicks on I'd say you need to have your sound up to a moderate level to drown it out. It's not a deal breaker by any stretch, but it caught me off guard when I first heard it after an extended session of Madden.

Connecting my Ipod to the USB port in the front worked like a charm, I could even stream music off it to act as background while I played Project Gotham Racing 3. Very cool!

I've had some luck with streaming certain video types through Windows XP Media Center Edition (again, you can't do video with regular Windows XP) although the file type support (MPEG and WMV) is still limited. Going to a wired network connection rather than wireless makes a big difference.

Game impressions start here!

- Certis

Comments

Okay Certis, the question that will be on everyone's mind:

Pretend you paid full retail for it.... is it worth it? Feel free to change your answer as you use it more, and keep the impressions rolling!

Thanks for taking the hit for the team! Not everyone is as selfless as you... thanks!

The blessed one wrote:

After a week long agony of missed deliveries, bad weather and plane delays the Xbox 360 arrived at my house today.

Don't talk to me about agony, golden boy. While you're twiddling your thumbs on that lovely controller this weekend, basking in the glow of next-gen realism and effortless interconnectivity, I'll be agonizing over the fact that there is no 360 waiting for me. This is the case despite the fact that I made my $50 preorder downpayment, I'll have Kameo and Condemed sitting on my coffee table on launch day, and I am generally a good person.

It's nice to hear your impressions are positive, though. I guess. *sigh* Tell us about Mutant Storm and Robotron, when you get a chance.

Also, that is one wicked-looking sword above your television. Yikes!

Alright, I'm coming with Fletcher and The Warriors and we're taking baseball bats to your front door.

On a lighter note, would you tell us how the IPod and PSP connectivity work as well? Is it as easy as they claim it will be?

My nasal passages full of delicious scents likely to cause cancer, I pulled all the peripherals out of the box and stood over the array piled on my coffee table. Truly, this is what being a gamer is all about.

I had to double check to make sure it was Certis and not Elysium who wrote this. Classic prose. Looking forward to your future impressions.

Rezzy wrote:

Okay Certis, the question that will be on everyone's mind:

Just how much better is Madden over the last generation?

Thanks for taking the hit for the team! Not everyone is as selfless as you... thanks!

Fixed.

If you don't have the Windows XP Media Center Edition OS installed on your PC, you will not be able to stream videos from it. Period. Throw that daydream out the window. If you DO have Media Center you'll be pretty limited as to WHAT you can access. The primary function is to stream the TV shows you've recorded from your cable box to your Media Center PC. Want to play that AVI file you downloaded? Too bad, the 360 won't play that format. You're limited to MPEG's and WMV files mainly so think long and hard before you spend too much money to have the ultimate in porn streaming technology. I reserve the right to be wrong though, I need to do more testing with my laptop, which has the Media Center OS on it.

Thats pretty odd.. thats a HUGE step backwards from the existing Media Extender Technology and even the fairly limited Xbox Media Extender add-on..

weird.

Of course, it also doubles as a channel changer and DVD remote for the usual navigations, what else could you want? Huh?! That's what I thought.

How about something every other remote in the world has except the Xbox original - does it have a power button this time?

does it have a power button this time?

YES!

you can turn the console on remotely with it

It is utterly, life-destroyingly depressing how excited I am about that feature. Reaching down to push a button is quite simply too much work for me, now.

Gotta add that the remote that comes with the $400 system is not the same remote you buy extra. The included remote has a few less buttons, but I'm not sure on the complete functionality comparision.

Forgive me for going slightly off topic here, but if I am not mistaken, is that not an Elven sword from Lord of the Rings sitting above your TV?

this is the one you get free with Premium
IMAGE(http://images.anandtech.com/reviews/tradeshows/2005/E3/day1/xbox360/remote.jpg)

this is the one you have to pay for
IMAGE(http://img112.echo.cx/img112/696/x360remote6xs.png)

Sooo... you get a number pad with the separate one.

Dr._J wrote:

Forgive me for going slightly off topic here, but if I am not mistaken, is that not an Elven sword from Lord of the Rings sitting above your TV?

Yes, yes it is. No geek love nest is complete without a few replica movie weapons laying around. We've got Hadhafang, the sword in the picture, and also the limited edition of Anduril, which I gave Shawn for Christmas the year before we got married.

It looks like the one you can purchase seperately can be programmed to work with the TV also. It doesn't appear to be a true universal remote, though.

Thanks for the review on the hardware! I've been endlessly curious, despite not having any money to make such a purchase for a while.

I got a chance to play some Madden on the 360 with Certis today. We did 2 games 4 minute quarters. Even though Certis was still able to kick my ass pretty easily, I enjoyed the two games we played.

This version of the game has very few features. Two of the most notable missing features are the ability to challenge a call, and no commentating other than the stadium announcer. While I like the fact that I don't have to listen to Madden say the same things over and over again, I am unsure about not being able to challenge a call. Of course challenging a call on a video game can be argued as being silly. I mean what could the system have missed the first time around? Does this mean that in the versions where you can challenge, that the system would throw in some random bad calls just to see if you are paying attention?

There are a few more things I could mention but I am sure Certis will do that for us all soon enough.

edit: for poorly constructed sentences.

Thanks for the write-up. I couldn't wait to see how people comment on the giant power brick as it was certainly the first thing I noticed when I unpacked the test kit I had loaned to me for work.

Now, here's my dillemma, I really, really want to play PGR3 and I do want an X360, but despite the fact that a small part of me wants to feel the excitement of the whole "launch day" craze, a very big part of me is completely and utterly embarrassed to go and stand in line all night long waiting for the stores to open at 6am. I talked with store managers today at two separate places that will open at 6am and 8am respectively and both expect line to form before 10pm the night before. Is it just me, or is that completely pathetic?

Gaald wrote:

Of course challenging a call on a video game can be argued as being silly. I mean what could the system have missed something the first time around? Does this mean in the version you could challenge did the system just randomly throw in a few bad calls just to see if you were paying attention?

That's the reason I was never a fan of the "challenging call" feature in games in the first place.

It's supposed to be more "realistic", but the fact is that video game simulations of football just aren't sophisticated enough yet for that kind of "detail". Animation systems are still too rigid and stiff, and the whole thing is artificial.

Now, when animation systems are more realistic with tumbling bodies falling into those shades of gray between "down" and "not down", and you model referees and their line of sight (so that you can determine if a player's body was in the way of a ref's vision of the ballcarrier's knee or something), then I will be on board with the idea of refs "missing" calls.

Until then, it's just randomized nonsense.

Man I got to stop writing stuff when I am half asleep, it's bad enough when I am fully awake.

Certis - might I make a request? I request you turn off your "Live status" so that when the rest of us look at our friends lists on Xbox Live, we don't have to see depressing sh*t like "Certis - Now Playing: Kameo" like I see right now.

RandomlyGenerated wrote:

Now, here's my dillemma, I really, really want to play PGR3 and I do want an X360, but despite the fact that a small part of me wants to feel the excitement of the whole "launch day" craze, a very big part of me is completely and utterly embarrassed to go and stand in line all night long waiting for the stores to open at 6am. I talked with store managers today at two separate places that will open at 6am and 8am respectively and both expect line to form before 10pm the night before. Is it just me, or is that completely pathetic?

Buy it, play it for a week, then sell it on ebay for $300 more than you paid for it.

*Legion* wrote:

Certis - might I make a request? I request you turn off your "Live status" so that when the rest of us look at our friends lists on Xbox Live, we don't have to see depressing sh*t like "Certis - Now Playing: Kameo" like I see right now. :(

Hey, this is neat...Certis, we're watching you! It's must be 1:30 a.m. your time and I see you're still in fairy princess land, and that at present, you're busy clearing the forest temple. This offers me a small measure of vicarious enjoyment.

One cool think I've also noticed, when I compare our profiles on xbox.com the two "secret" achievements you've just recently obtained in Kameo are blocked out, so I can't see what they are. Shneaky.

Hey, this is neat...Certis, we're watching you! It's must be 1:30 a.m. your time and I see you're still in fairy princess land, and that at present, you're busy clearing the forest temple. This offers me a small measure of vicarious enjoyment.

One cool think I've also noticed, when I compare our profiles on xbox.com the two "secret" achievements you've just recently obtained in Kameo are blocked out, so I can't see what they are. Shneaky.

I feel so... exposed! It's 12:42 AM right now, but Kameo is pretty awesome so I may manage 1:30AM yet!

Certis - might I make a request? I request you turn off your "Live status" so that when the rest of us look at our friends lists on Xbox Live, we don't have to see depressing sh*t like "Certis - Now Playing: Kameo" like I see right now. :(

Avert your eyes, I'm going back to Madden soon

Certis wrote:

Avert your eyes, I'm going back to Madden soon :hump:

Hah, that got a literal "LOL" out of me. You bastard.

Wow!!! Went down to grand forks today, and played the call of duty demo on Xbox 360 at Target...I mean...Wow...glad I have to pay a fortune for kids Christmas gifts, or I'd be trying to find a way to buy one now...Very impressive!

How do Halo and Halo 2 look on the 360? Any really big improvement?

Two of the most notable missing features are the ability to challenge a call

so its like going back to when Football was really good?

Wow!!! Went down to grand forks today, and played the call of duty demo on Xbox 360 at Target...I mean...Wow...glad I have to pay a fortune for kids Christmas gifts, or I'd be trying to find a way to buy one now...Very impressive!

I agree.. the Target by me had an excellent Kiosk setup for the Xbox 360 with a high quality LCD and COD2 running in HD... with excellent booming sound..

There was quite a crowd gathered around and most people were amazed at the quality..

I think the biggest difference between the Xbox360 and most peoples PC's is the fact that the Xbox 360 is so optimized for the hardware that the frame rate stays EXTREMELY consistent...it gives the illusion of a far better play experience.

hoochie wrote:
Dr._J wrote:

Forgive me for going slightly off topic here, but if I am not mistaken, is that not an Elven sword from Lord of the Rings sitting above your TV?

Yes, yes it is. No geek love nest is complete without a few replica movie weapons laying around. We've got Hadhafang, the sword in the picture, and also the limited edition of Anduril, which I gave Shawn for Christmas the year before we got married.

Very nice. I picked up Narsil (my favourite), Aargorn's original sword, and Legolas' daggers from Lord of The Rings to add to my collection.

I believe the most interesting thing about the 360 is its interface (including LIVE) and player-matching capabilities.

Beyond that, I don't understand what all the fuss is about. I can't see the point in getting one until the line up of games is stronger.