Review by ShadowGuardian9

Reviewed: 11/20/07

Yes, the name is pretty weird, but...

Microsoft made a bold move entering the video game arena. Sure, they had Windows on the Dreamcast, but with Sony and Nintendo dominating the gaming landscape, it was quite a stand putting up the dukes against two of the most powerful gaming companies around. Microsoft, against all odds, gave the two big gaming names a run for their money. The original Xbox was a beast. It was statistically the most powerful game system at the time and had enough new aspects to draw it into millions of homes. The only of the big three to possess a memory drive along with the acclaimed Xbox Live online setup, the Xbox proved to be a worthy adversary to the Sony Playstation 2 and Nintendo Gamecube. Plus, it had Halo. Fast forward to 2005. A new creation is in development, Microsoft’s next bundle of joy, the Xbox 360 is released to the public, only to be brought with shortages and technical problems. But it is 2007 now, has Microsoft nailed gaming now?

At first glance, the Xbox 360 is most definitely better looking than its behemoth brother. Seriously, the original Xbox was big, heavy, and all-around bulky. The slick black and green coloring was nice, but it still manages to be rather unwieldy. The 360 is a healthy and robust improvement. The concave appearance does make it look a great deal and the color is an interesting choice. It still is pretty heavy and it has a tendency to take up a bit of space, but considering the fact that it can be used standing up or on its side, there is enough cosmetic versatility in the Xbox 360 to contend with.

Another incredible improvement from the original Xbox is the controller. It takes a lot of its trappings from the Xbox Controller S, along with the Playstation 2. It still has the A, B, X, and Y buttons on the right side and the D-Pad on the left. The two analog sticks are on opposite sides, along with the two analog triggers. The Black and White buttons (widely considered to be obscure button choices for the original Xbox) are now replaced with two shoulder buttons, the left and right Bumpers as they are called. This makes controlling certain games much easier, as the Black and White buttons felt too small and unwieldy to make a serious difference in gameplay. The Start and Back buttons are assigned to the center on opposite sides of the Xbox 360 Home button. The large Home button lets you bring up the dashboard or even turn off the controller or console. It can be slightly obstructing considering its large size, but it is an essential part of the Xbox 360’s design.

A major part of the Xbox 360’s design is the Dashboard. The Dashboard is essentially the main menu of the console. From it, players can manage their Xbox 360 profile whether online or off. The Dashboard also lets player keep track of game history, downloads, and basically whatever you do on the 360. Sounds kind of much, huh? Well, yeah, but once you see it, you’ll get it. There’s just so much to do on the Dashboard. The Dashboard offers personal profile management, setting defaults for controls (I personally prefer inverted FPS controls), and playlists that can be played wherever in-game. Tinkering with all the options in the Dashboard is plenty fun on its own, but once you see the games, well, it flat-out rocks.

Microsoft made the online experience a key element of the original Xbox and the 360 is no different. Getting Xbox Live is a must when purchasing the 360. Xbox Live lets players download trailers, demos, videos and other goodies, and for a monthly fee, play online against or with friends and rivals. The Xbox Live Marketplace lets players use Microsoft Points (the currency purchasable in stores or online) to buy games and movies ranging from new and old. Pack in communication and chat and you get a community that is full of fun. The Xbox was a huge step in the online community and the Xbox 360 makes the interesting progressions expected while still making it easy to access and fun. Grab your controller and get ready for an online experience unlike any other.

But what about the games? Well, nearly every Xbox 360 game has some kind of online capabilities. Whether it is downloadable content or online versus matches, the games take strong advantage of the online capabilities of the system. The controls work with the games well and the community is plenty fun. The packages of the 360 come with some form of memory storage, whether it is hard disk or memory unit, and it can be pretty demanding with memory space. Backwards-compatibility is particularly demanding, but requires a hard disk unit to work. The backwards-compatibility isn’t flawless, though; there are the occasional glitches. But, considering you get full backwards-compatibility, Xbox Live and all, it’s a modest price to pay. The Xbox 360 is still compatible with CDs and DVDs, and with a special drive, HD-DVDs. It can hold a pretty solid amount of data even with the lesser 20 gigabyte hard drive, but you may find yourself playing for limitations when saving critical games. Keep that warranty too, because Microsoft has notoriously stated their policies on refurbishing your system. It’s become somewhat infamous, actually, but if you take good care of your system, you shouldn’t see any problems. It just takes some patience and good handling.

The graphics and sound of the Xbox 360 are incredible. Even without an HDTV many games manage to beat out their Xbox counter-parts hands-down. But if you got your hands on an HDTV, prepare for some flat-out awesome graphics. Pack it with some stellar sound design and the 360 is a powerful console with presentation firmly in tow. While some of these aspects come second to gameplay, you can’t help but check out what this thing is capable of portraying. It’s amazing.

+ Interface is plentiful with cool features
+ Really nice graphics
+ Controller takes excellent factors from past control setups
+ Diverse and extensive library
+ Online experience is second to none

- Still pretty pricey
- It’s best to buy a warranty
- Games can require a lot of memory
- Not much for offline gamers

Although it’s taken a while for Microsoft to nail this console, the Xbox 360 can easily be declared a gamer’s system. The statistical power of the 360 is definitely well done, as you’ll see some incredible graphics and hear some incredible sound while playing through the tremendous library. You can quite literally find enough fun in the actual hardware to last even if you own no games. It’s just that cool. The interface offers so much in games, movies, and music, that customizing your own personal playlist is fun on its own. The games themselves are plentiful and diverse; there’s always a new and exciting game to see on the system. It’s pricey, memory-consuming, and a warranty is highly recommended, but the 360 is a fun, solid gamer’s system. Although it doesn’t stray too far from the Xbox’s formula, there are enough new aspects in the Xbox 360 hardware to warrant a purchase. While Nintendo and Sony are making marks in the new ways to play, Microsoft took traditional gaming to a bold new level, and that’s far from a bad thing.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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

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