Review by Link165

"THIS. IS. SPAR-I mean, next gen......"

Microsoft's Xbox 360 is their second home console, and it was the first one to be released this generation. When it made it's debut on MTV I was absolutely turned off(seriously, how can you say that was a good idea?). But as Sony continued to make mistakes with the Playstation 3 and as good reviews came for the 360, I was drawn more and more to it. I eventually got one and I don't regret it one bit.

DESIGN

The original Xbox was known for it's large ugly design. The 360 improves on this a small bit. Almost all of the console is white, but the front of it can be changed with a faceplate that you can purchase in many entertainment stores. It's about the same length as the Xbox, just maybe a little shorter. While the Xbox was convex, the 360 is concave(it curves inward). On the front of the console is the disk tray(depending on whether you have the core or premium version, it will be white or platinum respectively). This is one of my biggest gripes with the console design. While the Wii and the PS3 have disc slots the 360 still has a tray. Under it are two memory card ports(for the small 64MB memory cards you can buy) and the IR port is to the left. To the right is a white button. If a friend wanted to bring his 360 controller over to play with you'd have to press this white button and the corresponding button on his controller in order to use it.

But the most notable feature is the huge power button, dubbed the "Ring of Light" by Microsoft. A small green power icon is in the center, surrounded by a large green ring. Depending on how many controllers are connected, the quadrants will light up(one quarter for one, half for two, etc). To the right of the power button is a small door that houses two USB ports. These are used if you have a wired controller; you plug it in here.

The top and bottom of the console are essentially the same thing. All white, with a small "Xbox 360" logo in the center. There are vent holes on either end. The left side of the console is gray. This is where the removable hard drive goes if you have one(you will if you buy the premium version, otherwise you have to buy it separately).

The right side is also gray, but there are vents here as well. If you decide to stand your console up vertically(I don't due to lack of space, but almost everyone does), this is the bottom.

On the back there are more vents, and the power and video ports. Now, here is one of the most talked about problems with the 360: the power supply. It is a big gray brick(with a small light on it). Now, unless you can find a place to put this(ie behind a TV) it's going to stick out and look bad. But....I don't have a problem with this. Yes it's big and in the way, but the only other alternative was for Microsoft to put it inside the 360. If that happened, it'd be just as big or bigger then the original Xbox and would be much more prone to overheating.

There is one other problem with the 360: it's hardware. The hardware is an utter piece of crap. The console itself is noticeably loud when playing 360 games(not so much Xbox or DVDs though). It is also very prone to freezing, I often get disk read errors when playing Madden 07 and Gears of War

Despite the fact the 360 hardware is terrible the design is pretty nice.

8/10

CONTROLLER

EASILY one of the best controllers ever made. Most 360 controllers are wireless, but some are wired. Like the 360 itself, the controller is white with a small amount of gray. It's smaller then the Xbox's S controller and is much more comfortable to hold. The left side of the controller has the left thumbstick(gray) and the D-pad(also gray) The right side has the four main face buttons(X, Y, A, and B, and still in the same order they were on the original Xbox and in the same colors as well), and the right thumbstick in gray. The center part of the controller has back on the left, start on the right, and the biggest feature of the controller: the Xbox Guide button, in center. Around the Xbox Guide button is something similar to the ring of light; a circle that, depending on which part is lit up, tells you what player you are.

The Guide button can be accessed at any time(although while playing Xbox games you can only choose shut down and go back to the dashboard). Here you can check messages, how many friends are online, your achievements, and can change personal settings. You can also play any music ripped to your hard drive by coming here. When the console is off, you can hold down the Guide button(or start) for a few seconds to turn the console on. You can also turn it off by going to personal settings.

However, the controller is not without it's flaws. The Dpad on the controller is poorly manufactured and is physically off-centered. Sometimes pressing in a certain direction with it will result in nothing happening. The other problem is the shoulder buttons. The triggers are still there but now there are two more "bumper" buttons joining them. These replace black and white on the original Xbox controller. I know most people praise this change but I prefer more face buttons to more shoulder buttons; I hate having four.

Other then these two things, the 360 controller is EXCELLENT.

9/10

FEATURES

The 360 is endless in terms of features. The dashboard is SUPERB. It's divided into four tabs: Xbox Live, games, media, and system.

System is basically the Control Panel for the 360. You can choose which resolution to play games in(480p, 1080i, etc), manage your hard drive memory, network settings, and more. The media panel allows you to view pictures, video, or listen to music that you can rip to the 360 from a CD. It also can connect to a windows PC in your house if you have the software installed on your computer, which is a pretty cool feature in itself. In addition, all 360 games allow you to play music while playing.

The games tab allows you to play demos or XBL Arcade games you download, your achievements(more on this later), and your played games.

The Xbox Live tab is the coolest one. From here, you can access the Xbox Live Marketplace, check messages, and check your friends.

Xbox Live has been completely retooled for the xbox 360. First off, there are two levels of Xbox Live. Silver lets you do almost everything except play games online. But it's free. Gold you have to pay for but you get to play games online. The biggest feature for the new live is the marketplace. Here, you can download many things to your 360 hard drive. Downloadable content, game demos, XBL arcade games, game videos and trailers, TV shows, themes, you can even rent movies! Unfortunately, most of this stuff isn't free, you have to pay using a system called Microsoft Points. You pay for them using your credit card, and it's more or less a way for Microsoft to disguise the real price of the content.

Unlike the other two consoles, the 360 does not have a web browser. I would have liked to see one, but it's not a huge deal since web browsing on a console is terrible compared to the PC.

There's also a nice deal of customization with the Xbox 360. The console comes preloaded with several different themes that you can use, from titles such as Halo, Gears of War, EA sports games, etc. You can also download even more of them from the Xbox Live Marketplace, but it costs money to get them. When you make a profile you also get to choose an avatar-like picture(again, these come preloaded but you can download more) for your gamercard. You also choose a domain kind of place that describes the kind of gamer you are.

Overall, the Xbox 360 is loaded when it comes to features.

10/10

GRAPHICS

VERY nice. Despite claims that the Playstation 3 is more powerful, I'm a firm believer that the 360 is the most powerful console(besides a PC) you can buy right now. The console can display in 480p, 720p, 1080i, and 1080p resolutions. I use 480p and play on an EDTV, and it looks VERY nice. I only have three games(madden 07, Gears of War, and Battle for Middle Earth II) but they all display the Xbox 360's power quite nicely. Madden 07's player models and stadiums are incredibly lifelike, and Gears of War's models and environments are fantastic. As developers begin to realize the 360's potential and the games move to the HD DVD format they will only get even better. There is also HD content that can be downloaded off of Xbox Live.

10/10

GAMES

Because the Xbox 360 has been out for a long time it already has a large game library. Ask anybody who has a 360 and they will tell you right off the bat Gears of War is the first game you should get. Now, don't get me wrong here; I like Gears, but it is terribly overrated and not a MUST BUY game. It's still a good pickup though. There's also The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion( I don't have it but it is one of the 360's highest rated games), Rainbow 6 Vegas, GRAW 1 and 2, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and Crackdown. And for the future, there's the next installment of the Xbox's biggest franchise, Halo 3. and due to Microsoft's growing third party support, there will be more in the future.

There's also an interesting factor in the games, and that is the achievements. Each game for the Xbox 360 has a certain amount of rewards called achievements. Some of them are very simple(ie enter the minigame mode in Madden 07) while others are very tough. If you accomplish these achievements you'll get gamerscore. Some achievements are worth more gamerscore then others, based on difficulty. There really isn't anything else to gamerscore besides bragging rights(other Live users can see your gamerscore) but it's very satisfying to see the "Achievement Unlocked" message at the bottom of your TV screen.

8/10

PRICE

The Xbox 360 costs $299 for the core bundle(which is a complete waste of money) and $399 for the premium bundle. It's not cheap, but it's cheap compared to a certain other platform on the market.

7/10

Pros:
-refined Xbox Live, Marketplace, etc
-HD support
-one of the best controllers ever
-numerous media features
-achievements and gamerscore
-seemingly endless customization(themes, pictures, etc)
-good games

Cons:
-hardware is terrible(machine isn't durable)
-expensive(and the core package is a waste of money altogether)
-Microsoft enjoys milking people for extra content
-Hard drive is kind of small in storage size

I believe that the Xbox 360, when all is said and done, will be the most successful of the three next-gen consoles. It has a spectacular amount of media features and a great online service in Xbox Live, a great library of games -which the original Xbox didn't have- and powerful graphics to top it off. The next generation of gaming starts and ends right here.

9.4/10(rounded to 9)


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 03/26/07


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