I showed up a couple of years late to the party that has been the Xbox 360. Thanks to my cheapness and the joys of region encoding, I held off getting Microsoft’s newest system while I was in Japan, vowing to grab one mere minutes upon my return to the United States. Over the past two years I have had bouts of jealousy, smug satisfaction, and concern as I watched the trials and tribulations of the Xbox 360 owner. From red rings of death to the release of Halo 3, I have quietly observed from the sidelines and bided my time. Well, that time has come. Holding true to my promise, I picked up a 360 Elite two days after landing in the US and since then I have been sampling the many facets of the console. If you have noticed a pronounced lack of material from me over the last few weeks it has been thanks to the dark grey box standing beside my television, siphoning away precious hours of my life. Now, from the confines of my parents’ basement, I bring you my thoughts on all that is the Xbox 360.
Graphically, I think the system does well. Sure, it is not a PS3 (but at least there are good games to play on the system). I mentioned above I have a 360 Elite and I am sure that there is someone somewhere calling me a smug bastard but I had my reasons for choosing that specific flavor of 360. One of those reasons was the native HDMI connector built into the box. My system is hooked into a 52” Mitsubishi LCD and I have fiddled around with the other various video connections. HDMI is noticeably the best looking of all of the jacks and plugs that I have tried. The video is crisp, the ghosting is pretty much zilch, and the colors are vivid. Of course the graphical quality of the games comes into play but overall, I think the system does well when you take into consideration all of the other bells and whistles that the system sports.
I am not going to say a ton about the sound quality because I think it sounds good on the surround system I have it on. Sound is playing second fiddle to graphics on all of the next gen systems and I don’t think there is a discernible difference in the 360 that makes it stand out from either of the other consoles.
The one feature of the 360 that I love more than cornflakes is Xbox Live. Never in the history of man has it been so easy to blow money. I can turn my system on, see that there is a booster pack available for my beloved Lumines Live game, press a couple of buttons on my controller, and magically flush $25 down the virtual toilet. I love all of the Live Arcade offerings and plan on getting more. I figured that this would be the case and that was my other reason for grabbing the Elite – I knew I would need the hard drive space.
My one gripe about Live is the initial setup of the service. Without having that little keyboard that can connect to the controllers, you have to hunt through an onscreen keyboard for the letters and numbers you need to fill out the extensive setup forms. It was annoying, quite frankly. Other than that, I love all you can do with the service. From Halo 3 to Culdcept Saga, if a game is multiplayer, it is a blast. I also dig how new content can be grabbed from Live in a matter of seconds. Speaking of which, if you have Lumines Live, pick up the Tokyo Mix pack for the game, it’s well worth it.
Okay, I lied. I have one more collection of gripes about Xbox Live online play but it isn’t Microsoft’s fault. If you are going to play a game online and you insist and using the headset, breath through your God damned nose. Breath quietly and if you cannot do so, mute your mic when you have to inhale or exhale. If I could form a vigilante group to round up all of the obnoxious mouth-breathers on Halo 3 and make them “go away” I would. Secondly, if you feel the need to sing during online play, mute the damned mic… unless you are playing Rock Band. Last I checked there was not an achievement on Halo 3 that can be unlocked by singing so do not do it. Please.
Lastly, encourage your ten year old brothers and sisters not to utilize the headset. I am so sick of hearing little kids whining on Live that I could headbutt bunnies. Actually, you should encourage your younger siblings not to play on Xbox Live at all; I don’t like getting my ass handed to me by an eight year old and it happens about twice a day. I would also say something about the commonality of racial slurs found in online gaming but that has also been covered on this site. It is ubiquitous in online play and that is just sad.
One last thing I would like to mention has to do with the 360’s media playback capabilities. The Xbox 360 can play most Divx encoded files. Before purchasing the system, I had heard that with the most recent dashboard update it was possible to play back most videos downloaded off the internet…legally of course. Most of my friends were not aware the 360 could do this and were surprised when I popped a data disc I had burnt into the tray and queued up my favorite eps of Little House on the Prairie. Yes, I love that show and yes, I will pimp slap you if you belittle it in any way. Anywho, the Xbox 360 makes for a good Divx player and has been able to playback about 90% of the videos I have tried on it. It does have problems with some of the older video codecs but for the most part it is a great leap from having to watch media on my computer.
If you own an Xbox 360 and want a friend to beat the crap out of on Live, look for Muffin Buffalo and give me a shout or drop me a line. Yes, Muffin Buffalo is indeed my name on Xbox Live. Why would I choose such a ridiculous name you ask? Simple, let us pretend you are playing Halo 3 and out of nowhere some guy runs up and smacks you with the butt of his shotgun. If his name was Jackson the Destroyer or KillaXxX187, you would not be phased. But when a dude named Muffin Buffalo kills you in a humiliating fashion in front of your posse of friends, they are going to laugh at you and tease you. You’re welcome.
There you have it, I have returned from the gaming void and you can expect to hear more from me now that I have been able to pry myself from the grasp of my Xbox 360. It is a very well rounded system and I am hard pressed to find a reason people should not buy one. The quality issues are getting better with the newer revisions of the console and the selection of games is growing by the day. The Xbox 360 may not be the best console forever, but for now, it will do.