Review by andymancan1

"Not a great first console"

PROS: Smooth interface; great controller; graphics are amazing (HD); sleek, nice-looking console

CONS: Can wreck discs too easily; overheating issues; too many accessories; not all Xbox games are backwards compatible

It's time for Andy to change his pace for his 40th review.
This is my first review of an actual console, and it's the newest one, the Xbox 360.

The Xbox 360 premium unit is worth $400, and the core unit (which comes with nothing but the console and a wired controller) is $300. With the PS3 being priced higher- at 599 US DOLLARS- buying a 360 may seem like a bargain- at first. However, it's really not a bargain. There are a lot of accessories – none of which are necessary to operate the console, but most of which will help your experience – that make the price higher than the PS3.

The console's main interface is smooth and easy to navigate. You'll have no problem figuring out how to get to specific things because it's sorted well and color-coded to make your life easier. Setting up Xbox Live, on the other hand, will be one of the most frustrating hours of your life. You also need $100 for the wireless adapter thing, over three times the cost of a similar device for the Wii… and I actually needed this to connect to the internet, despite having a wireless router. (If you have a phone jack nearby, the Premium unit comes with an Ethernet cable.) Plus, you need the subscription, which can become very costly. Cheap bastards cannot afford something like the Xbox 360, especially because of these costly subscriptions. Downloading demos and updates from Xbox Live is easy if you can spend the money to get the connection. However, it does take time, and since the console overheats after extended sessions of play, don't expect to get as much play time after you finish downloading, although it can run for several hours. Make sure that it doesn't touch your DVD player, PS2, or TV so it won't set those on fire. You don't want to wreck your parents' stuff if you still live with them… imagine being grounded for nearly burning the house down.

The controller is very well set up. There are a good amount of buttons- the same amount as the original Xbox- and control the games smoothly. It has been modified from the last-generation Xbox to make it fit in your hands better, which is great. You'll have no trouble pressing any of the buttons because the controller is set up very well. However, you will need to replace the batteries in the wireless controller that comes with the premium unit every few months, as well as any other wireless controllers that you purchase. An alternative is to buy the $20 Play ‘N Charge kit, which makes your wireless controller wired (weird, I know) while it recharges the battery. It plugs into one of the console's USB ports and charges quickly, and, as the name implies, it can even charge while you play. This is good, and one of these units is likely a necessity. Plus, you don't HAVE to have it connected.

The graphics here are definitely next-gen. The premium unit is compatible with HDTVs, but the core unit is not. Some games require Hi-Def to play, all the more reason to buy the premium unit. Most games use the graphics correctly; others do not.
The console itself looks next-gen, too. It can stand on end or lie on its side. It looks sleek in either position. Also, you can waste even more money on faceplates to make it better suit your style, covering just the plain-white front of the console. Of course, you likely can't afford it for paying so much money on everything else, even though it's only worth another Jackson.

But the worst thing about it is that when you even move it half an inch, it makes a “ring of death” on your disk. I switched the console's position while it was running… I can't remember why… and the laser reader came too close to the disk, leaving an indentation on it making it extremely difficult to read. This presented a major problem. I wasted $60 on a game that only lasted three months and I couldn't exchange it because I had bought it before Best Buy started their game replacement plan. That sucked. I went to a disk repair place and I got it fixed after two sessions. And it was Oblivion, too. The console wasn't designed with the gamer in mind. I was frustrated until I could get it repaired, as none of the other consoles I have owned have had this problem. Especially not my slim PS2, which gets dragged pretty easily by moving the controller. This just makes me want to kill something. Of course, I won't. I don't want to get arrested. I'm just mad because my Oblivion disk was ruined… just because of how shoddily they designed this console.

If you get the $400 unit that comes with a hard drive (get that one because a separate hard drive is worth the extra $100 alone and you get bonuses with the premium unit, too), you can play select titles for the original Xbox. Unfortunately, you can't play all of them. It took them long enough to put some of the better Xbox titles on that list, for the original list had more of the WORST Xbox titles than the good stuff. What's also ridiculous is that some of the games on the list are also available for the 360. Why would you want to play the Xbox version, which likely has worse graphics, on the 360? If you wanted to save cash, I could see why. But it's kind of weird to have a list of titles that you can play – and only on the premium unit – with some of them also being on the old Xbox instead of just making every game backwards compatible.

The Xbox 360 likely won't be remembered for its hardware, but for its games. You'll need to spend a lot of money on one of these because they charge a lot for everything else that you likely need. Let's see… $400 for the premium console, $60 for Oblivion, $20 for the Play ‘N Charge Kit, $100 for the Xbox Live wireless adapter, $50 for a year-long subscription to Xbox Live, $50 for a 2-year replacement program, and $20 for a faceplate… that totals $700. Plus tax ($38.50 extra). OUCH. You pay that much money for a console and all of its gadgets and get only one controller and only one game. ONLY ONE GAME. Of course, an Xbox Live Arcade game, called Hexic HD, comes with the premium unit for no charge. The console itself may seem like a good deal for $400, but Microsoft wants to rip you off for the rest of your money. Don't buy one of these if you're a cheap bastard who's short on cash. Only buy it if you want to play some good games. This is really not a good first console. Just bumping it or dragging it with one of those old-fashioned controllers can ruin your disk. The hardware is good, but the price is not. Sure, the console can play DVDs and CDs, but what DVD player doesn't do that? And don't most people have those? Basically, the 360 is good… but not great. Here's a recap:

Affordability: 3/10

OVERALL JUDGEMENT: The cost of so many extra things, an inferior backwards compatibility concept, and the chance of having a disc ruined are what does it in. I don't mean to sound like one of those crocodiles from the Pearls Before Swine comic strip, but I admit I was a bit stupid to buy one when it costs this much without first consulting some reviews. Since I am usually a cheap bastard, I should've saved my money for more important things. Certain hardcore gamers will like the 360 for its games and the Xbox Live Arcade, but first-time gamers should stay away. Some hardcore gamers won't like it, however, because there's not as much to offer as there could've been. Hopefully, the Xbox 720 will be better. A 6 out of 10.

Remember that this is a review of the console's hardware and its capabilities. No Xbox 360 games were counted towards this review. For those, check my review of them.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 09/11/06, Updated 06/26/07

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