My engagement present arrived, an XBox 360 system (the one with a controller and hard drive), S-Video Cable and Project Gotham Racing 3. Yes, I’m a lucky man and when the box arrived, a very excited one.
Now though, after being an owner for a good five days, I have to say I’m incredibly underwhelmed, and it’s not down to the fact that I don’t yet have an HD TV.
I was holding out to get a PS3, but that didn’t happen with the European release date slipping. So I looked to the XBox.
Straight away it irked me that I had to buy the hard drive and controller additionally, I mean the price of the box is quite hefty as it is, and they’re telling me to buy all the “extra” bits separately – these extra bits being the ones that you really need to get a decent system up and running. Sure you can do without them, but you don’t get the same experience.
So, that aside, I had a great first night setting up the system and playing some PGR3. That didn’t last too long though as I soon got totally hooked on that Hex game that comes free with the system. I played that for nigh on three hours, whereas PGR3 only managed to get about thirty minutes!
Tonight I just opened up PGR3 again and played a little more, that’s after five days of ownership. You see in that time I’ve been downloading demos from the marketplace and playing them, most of them are deleted already because they’re either extremely easy to finish or pretty poor.
PGR3 just isn’t doing it for me as much as PGR2 did. I loved the depth of that game, although it was a pick up and play for five minutes, it still required you to start with a simple car and track and build up, completing one set of cars to progress onto the next. Yet with PGR3 there seems to be none of that, straight away I’ve opened with an Atom, an extremely lightweight and incredibly fast car with stats almost maxed out, why do I need to build up anything else?
I’m at the point I was when I’d completed the whole of PGR2, just going back in to race when I wanted a quick fix, it feels like the whole game has been opened up for me.
The other thing that kills a fair bit of the enjoyment is that you can’t play your own music while driving. I’ve transferred all my cool driving tunes to the 360 and renamed them, to no avail.
There’s also the fact it just will not connect to the PC whatever I try. Oh, and talking of connections, plugging in my Sony NW-A3000 results in a big fat nothing.
Then there was the night I spent going through all my XBox games and seeing which worked with the 360 – that was interesting to say the least, not because most of them don’t work, but because of the ones that do.
The early Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six games work perfectly, but the later ones don’t. Then there’s the oddity of older games working more than the newer, for instance SSX Tricky.
However I think the real problem is that the genre defining games just aren’t in existence yet for the XBox 360. Sure you could argue that PGR3 is, but not in comparison to the genre defining games on the PS2.
Right now the 360 is relying on two things to keep it going, the HD output and the ease of using the online gameplay, apart from that I’m really not that impressed, I’ll be back to GTA: San Andreas on the PS2 when I have the time to game.
I wrote those paragraphs a little while ago, and since then I’ve managed to get a shot of Ghost Recon Advanced Warrior. Now that has proven to be a great game, and has provided hours of entertainment. It’s well balanced, extremely realistic, just hard enough, and the graphics are great.
Yet now that game is done the noisy box has become a DVD player and the Hex game. I’ve ordered Splinter Cell: Double Agent, which will keep me occupied until it’s finished, and then? Well then it’ll be time for the PS3 no doubt.
So overall some of the games are good, a couple are excellent, and on an HD TV I’m sure they look amazing, but looking good is not the winning formula. Gameplay and operational features are.
It’s now been a few months since I started with the 360 and it’s fair to say that I’ve seen a number of improvements since then.
A recent update to the 360 software made the connection to the PC much easier, and as soon as the system had rebooted I could see my PC folders and play music and video directly. Of course the upgrade to Windows Media Player 10 may also have helped as it now carries the burden of the sharing and not the hapless Windows Media Connect software.
Connecting isn’t everything though. I’ve only been able to play one of my videos despite having a fair collection. Music is similar with a fair selection not showing up on the system.
To be fair there’s a similar problem trying to play my music and video through Media Player and I have to resort to SonicStage and videolan.
I’ve also bought two games, one preowned and the other imported, because the UK prices are frankly obscene.
Splinter Cell: Double Agent and Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfare. Both of which are superb to play and are very immersive experiences. I’ve loved these franchises since they began, so no surprise there. Oh, and Rainbow Six: Las Vegas is on preorder.
Demos are perhaps the best part of this system, just download a free demo, play it and see if you like the game. This idea is certainly going to ensure that the more rubbish games are quickly killed.
So I’m more positive but still not converted. As a user experience I think the usability and playability factor that Sony has always brought to the table will shine through – no I’m not a Sony fanboy, but I do understand usability and effective and engaging gameplay, and Sony just about always delivers on those fronts.