|Microsoft Xbox 360|
|Home Theater Accessories Game Systems|
|Written by Jeremy R. Kipnis|
|Thursday, 01 December 2005|
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First and most egregious in this day and age, the lack of an HDMI output is simply ridiculous. How can a new, cutting-edge HDTV system not give users access to the most common digital video/audio interface? And why must gamers contend with less then the best digital connection after spending nearly $500 on hardware? How are companies like Motorola and Scientific Atlanta able to make cable DVRs that offer superior picture quality to users at $10 a month and with an HDMI output as standard?
The rubber thumb grips, particularly the right thumb stick, have NESW extrusions, which, to my sensitive thumbs, become needlessly fatiguing after a few hours of play. The controllers are so close to offering a perfect fit that I can hardly imagine Microsoft would not fine-tune the existing results to create a perfect in-house product for their loyal public.
Possible carpal tunnel syndrome due to a clamped hand around a controller over many hours should have been reviewed before this new release went public. My research indicates that a soft gel-like contour or body, in place of the hard plastic exterior, would result in a tremendous increase in player focus and longevity over many hours of play.
The lack of total backward compatibility for all games is disturbing, since Xbox 360 must have been built upon the users who already play online with Xbox Live. Who needs to have two identical systems (one new and one old) online and pay for a two simultaneous yearly subscriptions?
The impending release in early May of Sony’s Playstation 3, featuring Blu-ray and 1080p playback capability, almost pushes Xbox 360 into obscurity before it is ever released. Considering Sony’s 78 percent world market share of personal video game sales, it is a wonder that Microsoft continues to carve out any market share at all, particularly against longtime game veteran Nintendo. Once Blu-ray HDTV discs become available, I fear that the 360 will not be upgradeable.
Microsoft has added to and enhanced its original Xbox platform into a cutting-edge tour de force of technology and software engineering. Now, with all 360 games coming out in HD resolutions of 720p or 1080i, wireless controllers as standard (in the deluxe package, anyway), easy to use Dashboard GUI and online Xbox Live support for all 360 games, plus with the addition of a Windows Media Extender, the ability for the 360 to act as an HD A/V media server to other PCs, iPods and standalone media servers, etc., the 360 platform has far more capability to come out as a standalone console and at a far lower price for what is essentially a three-core IBM PC.
It is unfortunate that, while the new games offer much better picture and sound quality, particularly on higher definition and large playback systems, the game play is not all that much better than with the original Xbox or, for that matter, Playstation 2. A generally lackluster sense of improved game play vs. the previous iterations of the same programs prevents most games from being more than just hyped visual and sonic versions of the earlier iterations of the same titles. This sometimes appears more like a movie or TV version of the game that one plays in between replays while watching on the couch. It does not always feature games that engage as much as the earlier versions of the same titles did without such visual bells and whistles.
All things considered, though, if you can tolerate the lack of an HDMI output, huge external power supply and possible incompatibility with certain older Xbox games, I must say that this new Xbox 360 game platform offers a most enjoyable and striking opportunity to play games with the quality of the best gaming PCs and the reliability and consistency that only a console can offer. This and an established online community certainly appear to offer a bright future for the Xbox 360 – that is, until the Sony Playstation 3 debuts.