Review by Lareneg

"This is a Microsoft Console"

Don't let the title of this review fool you. It is not an endorsement of this console. Nor is it a decrying of this console. It is a statement, what I feel is a very accurate statement, on the nature of the Xbox 360. Microsoft put this thing together, and it feels like it every step of the way.

Interface

The first thing I noticed when I booted up my 360 was a pretty neat interface. It was slick, fast, got me the information I wanted pretty quickly without much hassle. I thought to myself, "This is neat. A nice alternative to the PS3's Xross menu thing." I'm not joking when I say that that was my thought process, give or take a couple of words that I've lost with time. Either way, after a day or so of messing around with my 360 offline, I plugged it into an ethernet cable and, with no option to say "no" other than "Well, you don't get to play your games", I downloaded the supposedly revolutionary "New XBL Experience!"

What a load of crap.

I'm sorry, but the new XBL experience feels an awful lot like the PS3's menu system, except where the PS3 goes up-and-down XBL goes across, and vice versa. Oh, yeah, and it's green. And you get to make Miis--sorry, I mean "Avatars"--which really don't serve any purpose at all. The fact that I didn't even have the option to stick with the old system irked me, and my first thought was, "Well, that's what you get when you buy a console from Microsoft."

Almost everything about the interface makes me sort of cringe, chuckle in an ironic way, and say "Y'know, this feels almost like Vista." Let's say I want to put music on my console. I can't copy-and-paste it onto my hard drive from a flash drive. I can listen to it from the flash drive sticking out of my 360, but I can't copy it. I can, however, copy music from a disc. Why can I not copy from a flash drive? I don't really know, but I'm sure the folks at Microsoft have some half-assed answer. A neat feature is included that allows you to sync up your PC with your Xbox 360, but the process that you have to go through is so long and tedious that I just gave up halfway through and went back to playing Tales of Vesperia.

Now, that said, the 360's interface is otherwise nice and smooth, and is great for online play. The ability to play music with the little pop-up menu that you can summon with the guide button is deeply appreciated, and in most regards the interface is great. My only problem with it is that I feel limited in things that I really don't need to feel limited in. Also, it goes without saying that you can expect to have Xbox Live pushed on you in a very real way, so if that's not your cup of tea, well, keep that in mind.

Interface Score: 7/10
While it functions quite well, a pervading sense that you have to do what Microsoft says prevents the interface from being as enjoyable as it could be.


Hardware

Anyone who's seen it knows it: the Xbox 360 is a beautiful machine. It's got really nice curves, an attractive colour scheme (at least, the Pro does; I'm not a big fan of the black Elite), and… well, just about everything on the machine is great looking. There are a couple of flaws, though. For one, the big clunking power brick that's attached to it could probably be used to crush a large rodent or a small cat. It's a really ugly attachment and it does detract from the appearance of the console if you can't find a good place to put it.

In terms of power, well, the Xbox delivers in some ways but falls short in others. The thing can generate some beautiful graphics, there's no doubt about that. But I find that I get lag a lot more in 360 games than I did in PS3 games (I'm talking offline here, not online), particularly when there are too many things on-screen. Of note is when I'm playing Fable II, and so many orbs and enemies are on-screen and the game has slowed down so much that sometimes I wonder if I've cast the slow-time spell. However, the 360 doesn't suffer from this too much, though I've noticed that there are usually decidedly fewer things on-screen in a 360 game than a PS3 game.

Hardware Score: 8/10
Powerful and beautiful, the 360 is a great system, though not one without its flaws.


Controller

Anyone who says that the Xbox 360 isn't a shooter console is lying to you. For proof, look no farther than the controller. The 360 controller, which comes in a wireless and wired model (I prefer the wired, as it's simpler to set up and doesn't involve AA batteries), feels great in your hands. It has a nice, balanced feel, and it seems to fit into my hands quite well. The 360 controller, of course, has two triggers on it, which really do feel great and deliver really well for shooters. Halo 3, Gears of War, Bioshock, Call of Duty 4, and all those big-name shooters feel great and natural with those triggers on the controller. In some games, however, they just feel out of place; in Smackdown vs Raw 2009, for example, I felt that the trigger-based controls were rather gimmicky.

However, that's not enough to stop me from saying that the 360 controller is quite possibly one of the best controllers I've ever used, barring perhaps the many iterations of the Dualshock controller, which I love. The triggers can feel gimmicky in the wrong game from time to time, but most of the time they're a marvellous addition to an otherwise rather run-of-the-mill controller.

Controller Score: 9/10
A great controller that is nicely weighted and has a pair of great triggers. However, it can, perhaps, feel out of place in the wrong kind of game, being so clearly designed for shooters.


Library

Here, of course, we come to the cornerstone of any system's popularity. The Xbox 360 has become, surprisingly enough given the Xbox's performance last generation, the console to beat. Arguably, Nintendo's Wii actually did manage to beat it, but that's neither here nor there. The fact of the matter is that the 360, for a long time, has had the best games of this generation, period. Now, in the past year or so, this has become less of a concrete fact, but the 360's library still stands tall. It offers up a rather impressive helping of shooters, and a few very good RPGs (Oblivion, Lost Odyssey, and Tales of Vesperia come to mind). It also seems to have a good half of the games on the PS3, so a great majority of popular games are available to 360 users as well as PS3 users. I'm reasonably confident that anyone seeking almost any kind of gaming experience could be satisfied with the games available to the 360. Not really much more can be said about this one.

Library Score: 10/10
Just what you want in a console. A great line-up in games, largely featuring shooters, but also offering up surprisingly robust groups of other games.


Final Word

It's not hard to recommend the Xbox 360. It is hard, however, to recommend it without mentioning about a half-dozen provisos. Before picking up the 360, keep in mind that it is, in fact, a console manufactured by Microsoft. There are annoying little rules that you have to follow for no other reason than that Microsoft says so, and you'd best be ready to accept the fact that paying for Xbox Live yearly is additional change out of your pocket. However, as I say, it is a good console, and well worth your money and time.

Final Score (not necessarily an average of scores): 8.0


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 04/27/09

Game Release: Xbox 360 Hardware (US, 11/22/05)


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