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Are you going to buy an Xbox One X This Holiday Season?

Yes
No
Maybe
Hope to Receive it as a Gift


Game Profile
INFO BOX
PLATFORM:
Xbox 360
PUBLISHER:
Microsoft
DEVELOPER:
Rare
GENRE: First Person Shooter
PLAYERS:   1-32
RELEASE DATE:
November 22, 2005
ESRB RATING:
Mature
IN THE SERIES
Perfect Dark

Perfect Dark

Perfect Dark

RELATED GAMES
Call of Duty 2
Perfect Dark Zero
Project Gotham Racing 3
 Written by Vadim Leonov  on November 29, 2005

Specials: Microsoft isn't trying to establish itself as a player in the video game market. It wants to dominate the industry. Sony and Nintendo, good luck keeping up.


It's hard to believe that four years have passed since Microsoft introduced the original Xbox in 2001, but now the Xbox 360 has arrived. The next generation of consoles is upon us, and Microsoft has jumped the gate by launching its newest console months before the Sony PlayStation 3 or the Nintendo Revolution will hit the market. There has been some controversy, fueled by the media, over the malfunction of some units, but these claims appear to be isolated. Fortunately, my friend and I managed to pick-up a ?premium' Xbox 360 package that he pre-ordered well in advance from our local Best Buy, and we've encountered no problems whatsoever with this console. Without further adieu, let's welcome the Xbox 360.

The Package

When you hold the package in your hands, you know you're holding something special and revolutionary. Once you open the box, the first thing you notice is the corpus of the console itself. With the ?premium' package, you'll notice the sleek 20-gigabyte hard drive attached to the console. Dig deeper into the package and you'll find one wireless controller with two AA batteries, a small Media remote control (for a limited time I hear), an Ethernet cable, a component HD AV cable, an Xbox Live headset, the power supply, and several instruction manuals. I must note that there are two different Xbox 360 systems: the Xbox 360, also known as the premium, and the Xbox 360 Core. The Core is $299.99, while the ?premium' is $399.99. The difference is that the Core comes with a wired controller instead of a wireless controller. Also, it lacks the remote control as well as the headset and the Ethernet cable, and the AV cable does not support HD. Furthermore, the Core package does not include the hard drive, which is sold separately for $99.99. To save your data, Core users will be forced to either buy a hard drive or pay $39.99 for a 64 megabyte memory card. Right away, you can see that the premium package is what most consumers will opt to purchase.

The Console

The Xbox 360 is a beast waiting to unleash its raw strength. At a price tag of $399.99, many people will have to consider whether the price of admission is worthwhile. But don't forget that Microsoft is providing you with a package that benefits the buyer. Microsoft is losing approximately $75 per console, which tells you something about the power that this machine is packing. First of all, the Xbox 360 central processing unit consists of three separate cores, each one running at 3.2 GHz. For a comparison with the current generation systems, the original Xbox ran on a single 0.73 GHz processor, while the PS2 runs on a weak 0.29 GHz processor. You want more proof of the power that the 360 possesses? How about the 500 MHz ATI processor (in comparison with the 233 MHz on the Xbox) or 512 megabytes of ram (8 times as much as the original)? Analysts speculate that most of the 360 games that are out right now take advantage of just one of the three core processors. Essentially, the Xbox 360 is comparable with many top of the line PCs in terms of raw power.

However, the Xbox 360 attempts to revolutionize video games with more than just raw power. The folks at Microsoft have decided to enhance the visuals of each Xbox 360 game by supporting high definition television sets. Although games will look stunning on standard definition sets, those lucky enough to have a HDTV and a set of HD AV component cables will be treated to unparalleled visuals. If you thought Halo 2 on a HDTV looked good, I'd like to see your reaction when you see Project Gotham Racing 3 or Call of Duty 2 on the 360. The console will run the games in the best resolution that yourtelevision offers. Although there appears to be a lot of emphasis on HDTV, Xbox 360 games will look terrific on any set because of the new technology.

With this technology, the polygon performance is up to 500 million triangles per second (as opposed to 125 million triangles per second on the original Xbox) and the pixel fill rate has been quadrupled to 16 gigasamples per second. Basically, this means that the 360 can process more graphically to
create more realistic environments and produce more detailed graphics. For example, when I playing Madden NFL 06 I could tell the difference between the 360 version and the normal version. With the 360, the veins on the players' hands were visible, the grass swayed with the wind, the shadows changed position throughout the game and grass stains were visible after a particularly nasty hit. With more powerful technology, it is simply up to
the developers to decide how detailed they want their games to be. They are no longer limited by the technology.

However, visuals are just one part of the experience. Another part is the audio, yet another aspect that the Xbox 360 takes to the next level. The system supports everything from stereo to 5.1 Digital Surround Sound, and Microsoft boasts that the audio quality is on par with DVDs. With 320 independent compression channels, you'll be able to hear more gunshots, insects flying by, leaves rustling and the crowd applauding from every imaginable direction.

One of the few gripes that I have with the system is the fact that games use Xbox DVD technology. This limits storage space on each DVD disk to 8.5 gigabytes, which is by all means plenty of storage. Nonetheless, it is fairly certain that within the next year or two DVDs will be replaced by newer technology, in the form of either HD-DVD or Blu-ray disks. The PlayStation is apparently embracing the Blu-ray technology, the advantage of which is that each side of the disk holds 25 gigabytes of data. Yet by releasing the 360 in 2005, Microsoft had no other choice because Blu-ray technology is still months away.

The Design

It's surprising that Microsoft designed the Xbox 360, because it honestly looks like something developed by Apple. There's no doubt that the iPod design had an influence on the hardware developers, as Microsoft has shed the black paint and embraced the sleek white with a silver/gray trim look. It appears to be more pleasing aesthetically than the predecessor, perhaps because the rough edges has been replaced with more curves. The console can be stored in a horizontal or vertical position, depending on your personal tastes. For those that want concrete measurements, the system is roughly 12 inches wide, 3 inches tall and 10 inches deep, so it's a bit smaller than the original. The detachable hard drive obviously makes it a bit wider when attached. However, the 360 is still a behemoth weight-wise, weighing in at almost 9 pounds.

On the front of the unit you'll find the metallic gray optical drive, along with an infrared receiver for wireless controller and remote recognition, two memory card slots, a connect button for wireless controllers, two hidden USB ports and the power button. The USB ports are for wired controllers and other peripheral devices. The power button is surrounded by a very interesting LED that is broken up into four parts. At times the lights will flash, with different colors indicating different messages. As for the back of the console, you'll find a wide assortment of jacks, connectors and a third USB port.

The Controller

The Xbox 360 supports four wireless controllers and three wired controllers (since there are 3 USB ports). I'm a big fan of Microsoft's decision to include a wireless controller with the ?premium' package, as I've been a fan of them ever since the WaveBird was introduced for the GameCube. The wired and wireless controllers are not much different ergonomically, although the wired version is obviously a bit smaller. Both of them are very similar to the Controller S that comes with the original Xbox. The shape, size and layout are very similar, although the 360 controller feels lighter. However, the button arrangement has been altered a bit, and the controllers are now a sleek white color that matches the console. The two analog sticks, the directional pad, the two triggers and A, B, X, Y buttons have pretty much been left intact. The Start and Pause buttons have been moved to the middle of the controller, one on each side of the Xbox logo. Also, the small black and white buttons that always seemed out of place have been replaced by two shoulder buttons. Another interesting addition is that the logo in the middle of the controller now serves a purpose, now known as the Xbox Guide button. Most players will be happy to know that it can turn the console on and off, as well as interact with the Dashboard. A ring of light surrounds the Xbox Guide button, and flashes when you receive messages, game invites, and simply helps you to figure out which controller you are as well. The controllers are very comfortable to hold, and I've seen people with both large and small hands embrace them. The wireless controllers run off two AA batteries, with battery life promised to be around 25 hours. The range on the controllers is 30 feet, which is more than enough for me. It's very nice not having to untangle cords and not having to plug the controller in and out.

Xbox Live and the Dashboard

The Dashboard is the new user interface, and it's here to replace those dark green/black screens that Xbox users are used to. The Dashboard is broken up into four sections ? Xbox Live, Games, Media and System. In the Xbox Live section you can edit your gamertag, which is your username for Xbox Live. You can check out your name, your motto, your reputation, your GamerScore, and your GamerZone. You can also check out messages from your friends, contact your friends or visit the Marketplace while you're here. The Systems portion of the Dashboard allows you to customize your system settings, such as parental controls, console settings and network configuration. The Media section allows your Xbox 360 to interact will all sorts of peripheral devices, including digital cameras and iPods. In the Games section, you can check out what games you've played, your saves, your downloads, your achievements and GamerScores. The DashBoard can be personalized in many ways, such as by downloading new background themes or downloading a custom Gamer picture. However, all of these cost a little cash.

Speaking of cash, that's what Xbox Live is all about. All Xbox 360 owners will receive an Xbox Live Silver account and a one-month trial of the Gold version. With Silver, you can join clans, chat with friends, receive messages, and download material from the Marketplace and Arcade. The Arcade is a place for you to download all sorts of old school games such as Bejeweled and Joust. Some of these games are free, others cost a few bucks. This is definitely a good addition for those that enjoy playing simple yet addicting games from time to time. The Marketplace is also a terrific addition, and it's basically a place where you can download trailers, demos, themes, and game extras. Some of these, like demos and trailers are free, while other items are not. This section will be popular with developers, as I can definitely see a future market opening up with developers offering extra levels, new characters and new items for a few bucks to extend the gaming experience. But Xbox Live is all about facing off against players from all around the world, challenging friends and foes in your favorite games, and this can only be done with a Gold membership. At a price tag of $50 per year, this is a must have. This feature will become even more popular as developers add new multiplayer features to games, such as the option of playing co-op with a friend via Xbox Live. Gold accounts also have more comprehensive options, and a video chat feature will be up and running next year.

To confuse you even more, there's also an Xbox Guide that you can pull up at any time by pressing the Xbox Guide button on your controller or remote. This Xbox Guide menu allows you to check your messages, send notifications, accept game invites, start chats, change your music, and access much more.

Pictures, Music and Movies

This is the part of the console that turns your Xbox 360 into a legitimate home entertainment system. As with the original console, you can listen to CDs and rip songs to your hard drive. With the 360, you can create custom playlists to listen to while playing your games and the music is accompanied by various visualizers. What sets the 360 apart is the ability to connect your MP3 player, including iPods, to the 360 via USB cables. This allows you to listen to music straight off your MP3 player. And by downloading Windows Media Connect, you can even stream music and view pictures from your Windows XP based PC. This is the type of connectivity that will set Microsoft apart from its competition. As for pictures, you can connect your digital camera, memory card device and other device to manage and view pictures. You can create slideshows with music and then share them. The Xbox 360 also functions as a DVD player (you don't have to buy the DVD kit separately as was the case with the original Xbox), and the breadth of options and picture quality rival most DVD players. Going through all of the options is a cinch with either the controller or any of the remote controls, and you can even receive game invites while you are watching a DVD, listening to music or looking at pictures. This option can be disabled if you don't want to be distracted, but it's definitely a nice option to have. And those that have a Windows XP Media Center Edition PC can even stream videos from their PC. All in all, the Xbox 360 can do virtually everything. I wouldn't be surprised if Internet Explorer and a separately sold keyboard became available soon.

The Games

After hearing about all of those features, it's no wonder that some might forget that the Xbox 360 is a video game console. This system was meant for playing games, and that's one thing that it does extremely well. The launch line-up includes Amped 3, Call of Duty 2, Condemned: Criminal Origins, FIFA Soccer 06: Road to 2006 FIFA World Cup, Gun, Kameo: Elements of Power, Madden NFL 06, NBA 2K6, NBA Live 06, Need for Speed Most Wanted, NHL 2K6, Perfect Dark Zero, Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie, Project Gotham Racing 3, Quake 4, Ridge Racer 6, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06 and Tony Hawk's American Wasteland. That is a very solid launch line-up with a nice blend of first and third party titles. Sports fans, racing fans, action games, shooter fans and RPG fans should all be pleased. Thus far, Perfect Dark Zero, Project Gotham Racing 3 and Call of Duty 2 have been receiving the most acclaim. I've had a chance to try out Call of Duty 2 and the King Kong game, on top of our purchase of Madden NFL 06 and Perfect Dark Zero.

Some have been complaining that the difference between Xbox 360 and Xbox games isn't mind-blowing. But it must be taken into account that these are just the first batch of games that are not fully taking advantage of the system's power whatsoever. A year from now, developers will better understand how to harness the power of this console, and that is when the results will be absolutely amazing. However, even now you can tell the difference. Madden NFL 06 and Call of Duty 2 look so much better on the 360 in comparison with even the PC versions. And the future looks very bright as well. Within the next six months you can expect Dead or Alive 4 (available in December), Top Spin 2, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Burnout Revenge, Battlefield 2: Modern Combat and Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell 4. And if you look further into the future, The Godfather, Resident Evil 5, Jade Empire 2, Ninja Gaiden 2 and of course Halo 3 are just some games that I am looking forward to. It is rumored that Halo 3 will be coming out around the same time that PlayStation 3 will surface, and I'm sure that Halo 3 will blow any PS3 game out of the water. With developers like Rockstar no longer making Sony exclusives, the future of Xbox gaming looks bright.

But Xbox 360 games are not the only games that the 360 supports. Microsoft recently released a list of 200 original Xbox games that you will be able to play on the 360. These include many top titles such as Half-Life 2, Halo, Halo 2, Jade Empire, Need For Speed Underground 2, and both Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic I and II. However, this list has some questionable games as well, not to mention that upwards of 400 games are not backwards compatible. This includes the entire Splinter Cell series, ESPN NFL 2K5, and even new titles such as Star Wars Battlefront II. There were several key differences between the original Xbox and 360, forcing Microsoft to scramble for solutions to allow Xbox owners to play their old games on the 360. They settled on an emulation approach, requiring the download of a small file for every game before it can be played on the 360 (the only catch is that you must have a hard drive if you wish to play your original Xbox games). Microsoft is working on adding more titles to the backwards compatible list in the future. This is great news for owners of the current Xbox, as the older games look even better on the 360. My only quirk is the fact that as of now, you can't transfer your game saves, so you're forced to start your Madden franchise all over again.

Accessories

Microsoft is enticing Xbox 360 buyers with a wide range of accessories, and third party accessories are sure to follow. At the moment, buying a few extra controllers is probably at the top of your priority list, as you can't use original Xbox controllers with the 360. Wireless controllers will cost you $49.99 a pop, while the wired controllers are $39.99. Faceplates are being marketed as the must-have accessory, and at $19.99 per faceplate, I'm sure some consumers will bite. These are basically snap-on covers for your 360 that come in different styles. If you have a Core system, picking up a hard drive for $99.99 or a memory card for $39.99 are a must if you want to save your games. A Play & Charge kit for $19.99 could be a sound investment, as it is basically a rechargeable battery pack with cables that allow you to recharge your controller while you play. The Universal Remote for $29.99 is sure to be a popular item when the Remote Control is no longer included with the ?premium' systems. Another interesting item is the Wireless Networking Adapter, retailing for $99.99, which allows you to communicate with your PC or play via Xbox Live without cables connecting the 360 and your PC.

Overall, the Xbox 360 is more than I ever expected it to be. I was afraid that they would rush this console simply to beat out the competition and get it out in time for the holiday season. But Microsoft has put out a terrific product that takes video games to the next level. It is obvious that Microsoft is trying to appeal to the mainstream with the 360, that they are trying to establish video games as an integral part of household entertainment. The nearly flawless integration of multiple multimedia features along with the next generation of video gaming translates into a very enticing package. The question comes down to when? There are hardcore gamers that will rush out and get this system right away, three million of them actually, as those are the expected sales within the first 90 days. But casual gamers should consider whether they can afford to shell out roughly $600 dollars (a premium system, with 2 games and 2 extra controllers) right away. Waiting a year for a price drop, competition from Sony and seeing the potential the 360 has come to life might be a wise decision. Four years ago Microsoft set out on a mission to establish themselves in the video game market, and they succeeded. Now it's time for Round 2.



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