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The Quixotic Engineer

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Xbox 360 Adventure

I've finally taken the plunge into next-gen! I had been considering picking up one of the three new consoles for some time, but I figured it was only sensible to finish my 6-hour exam marathon on Wednesday first (or I'd never get any studying done). With that behind me, I had a choice between the "lots of power, no games" PS3, the "cool idea, how about some decent games?" Wii and the "breaks after 2 months" Xbox 360. It was a tough call, and I'll curse myself if I get the dreaded red ring, but I went with an Xbox 360 Elite in the end.

The difference that really struck me between this machine and my last-gen consoles is how well it has integrated online capabilities. I don't know if Xbox Live on the first Xbox was as good as this, but I'm very impressed at how it's all available up front. From the moment you turn it on (which you now do from your couch with a wireless controller), you're immediately logged on to your Xbox profile, and that one profile handles your whole account both online and offline. You can press the guide button at any time, even in game, and it will pull up the Xbox dashboard.

Since I'm being a bit abstract about why this is so great, here's a concrete example: the first game I played today was Crackdown. The moment the game began, it immediately prompted me to download updates to the game, which took less than 30 seconds. Getting to the menu screen for the first time, there was an option at the bottom to download additional content from Xbox Live (which included a Harpoon gun with some great physics, I'm told). Starting a new campaign, I had the option of playing alone, with an invited friend or with a randomly paired stranger from Xbox Live. I chose to play alone, but if I wanted to invite someone else mid-game it would be as simple as pressing the guide button, scrolling through my friend's list and clicking "invite to game".

Lets contrast that with my last-gen experience with an online console game: FFXI on the Playstation 2. An update to the Playonline Viewer would turn off your PS2 once it finished updating, since for whatever reason it couldn't prompt a software reset. Friends list and messages were all used by FFXI alone (i.e. completely separate from my SOCOM buddy list), and the system didn't even work that well once you were actually in-game. Simply put, everything was very poorly integrated.

This has been a little more of a rant than I usually care to indulge in, so I'll wrap it up here for now. Feel free to throw me an Xbox friend invite, I'd love to put this 1 month of free Gold membership to good use. Now if you excuse me, my Bioshock demo has finished downloading (impressions to follow shortly).



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