Monday, September 29, 2008

Xbox 360

I've written before about how I really like the Wii, but in last six months or so, the experience has not improved at all. And now pretty much all the games for it that have any interest for me have come out. For these, and a few other reasons, I got a XBox 360 a couple of months back.

I love this thing!

When the Wii came out, I felt that its weaker graphics capabilities didn't really hurt it, because even the last generation of consoles had graphics "good enough" to deliver quality games. And this is still true - the higher quality graphics of the 360/PS3/Gaming Computers, don't deliver any revolutionary game play, the way that the PS1 generation's implementation of 3D did.

However, what I failed to take in to account was how much more enjoyable the "same old gameplay" can be when it looks F-ing great.

And the 360 games look F-ing great.

Certainly the 360 cannot touch a great PC's visual capabilities , but you can't beat the price. As a long time PC game player, I know that the console FPS or RTS experience is far worse on the console. The bottom line is that now days I don't spend enough time playing games to make it worth the price for the top quality PC hardware needed to game on it.

Plus I'm on Ubuntu now, which really doesn't work for games.

I love FPS's and it was an adjustment to play Call Of Duty 2 on the console. I played it on the PC a few years back, and it was better on the computer. But it was still fun on the console. Multi player with the controller instead of the keyboard mouse would drive me nuts, but since I never do that anymore, that isn't an issue. Similarly, I can't imagine that an RTS on the console would be any good, but really I don't play them anymore, so no issue there.

Another cool thing about the 360 is Xbox Live Arcade. While doesn't have the nostalgic-retro-love factor that the Wii's virtual console does, I think it is actually much better. It does not have even close to the number of old games on it, but the "original" games on it are much better, and there are a ton of them. Braid, for instance, is a fantastic game, currently only available on XBLA. And, I'm pretty much addicted to the version of Ticket To Ride they have on there. They actually have several board games on there, such as Carcassone, and Catan. So if you want a retro fix, the Wii is for you, but if you want to play a game with a real person who isn't in your living room? 360.

Pretty much the whole experience of using the Xbox 360 is better than on the Wii - everything feels more polished, prettier, and more complete. While the interface is more convoluted than on the Wii, it does much more, and does it better. Online Multiplayer, for example, on the 360 is just smooth and works great. On the Wii it is uniformly crappy; laggy, no voice chat, pretty much a pain to deal with on the few games that actually support it. And while unlike the Wii, 360 online mutliplayer costs money, it is worth it - because it just works, and works well. And who ever thought they would be saying that about a Microsoft product? On XBLA almost every game supports online multiplayer, which coupled with their small price tags, make them a great value.

One of the things I've always wanted from the Wii is for it to be more than it is. I've complained that there is not enough storage, that it can't play audio or movies, that there aren't enough games. Well the Xbox 360 answers everyone of those issues. I've got a 120gb hard drive on mine - and don't really even need it. One of the reasons you want disk space is for non game related content. Well, I can stream most any media from my computer (thanks twonky!). Yes the 360 plays mp3, DVD (no Blu-Ray though), DIVX. and very soon it will also play Netflix "watch instantly" movies. They also have an ITunes like movie/TV store/rental system. It also can run this all in HD. It really is a media hub. the only thing it doesn't do is record TV - and there is no way I would ever expect a video game console to support that.

For $200, you can now get the 360 arcade version, which has no hard disk, so you can't really download anything. This is the unit that I have. I ended up getting a free 120GB hard disk (long story), so essentially my machine is now the same as the Elite model. The only difference is the Elite is black, and I am missing a couple of cables, which I can pick up should I ever need them. You can buy an add on hard disk for $150, (perhaps a used one for much cheaper?) or get an 360 that includes a 60gb drive for $300. If you already have a Wii, at these prices, this is a no-brainer - totally worth it. If you were choosing between the two? that is a little tougher. And even though I compare the two here, this blog was not supposed to be a 360 is better than the Wii rant.

You see, the Wii is still a lot of fun. It also has a web browser, which the 360 does not. The 360 can stream media, and will soon stream netflix, So if you need those things, 360 may make sense. It really comes down to the games. Obviously, there are games for each system (as well as the PS3) that you can't get on the other. In the end, deciding which of those you want would tell you which system to get. That is assuming you can even find a Wii to buy...

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