New toy

I finally gave in to peer pressure and bought myself an XBox 360. Behold the glory of my GamerCard(tm):


So, anyway, what’s it like? Very impressive, actually. I got Project Gotham Racing 3 with it, which is much the same as PGR2, except slightly prettier, but that’s no big surprise; I haven’t had a chance to look at Rockstar’s Table Tennis or Amped 3 yet, which are also littering up my game pile. So, the games are basically just prettied up versions of last gen games – no real surprise there – but that’s not what impressed me. There’s two big deals for me:

First, XBox Live is really very, very good indeed. Being able to download demos and movies of games from the console dashboard is a neat trick. The friends list (complete with little alerts that tell you when people come online) is great, the in-game achievements lends an extra level of interest to games that might otherwise less engaging games: all the stuff that PGR2 did so right with XBox Live has been carried over into XBox Live itself and integrated into the service. In addition, the ability to buy small arcade-style games over-the-air is cute, too, especially when these games are as compulsive as Geometry Wars.

The other big deal for me is Media Center Extender – I built myself a new PC a couple of months back, initially basically just to play World of Warcraft at more than 3fps, but because Windows Media Center Edition was only a few quid more than XP Home, I got that and a TV card a couple of weeks later, and I’ve been raving about it to everyone who knows me ever since. The one big problem I’ve had, though, has been getting stuff off the PC so I can watch it on my telly – a 19″ CRT is nice enough but my bedroom lacks a sofa and a nice widescreen telly is much better for watching TV anyway. I tried burning stuff to DVD (shelling out for Adobe Premiere Elements so I could edit the video and everything), but it just took far too long and didn’t deal at all well with the corrupted video that inevitably results from just dumping the received DVB-T stream to disc.

So, the fact that my XBox 360 can just stream stuff straight over the network from my PC, and provides full Media Center functionality right there in my living room is nothing short of magical: all that fancy pausing live TV and timeshifting stuff is now a practical thing to do from my living room – plus I can bore people with slideshows of my photos from the comfort of my sofa, play them music without having to plug my iPod into the hifi, and all the rest.

Okay, the thing’s far from perfect: it’s noisy, and load times are pretty awful for DVD-based games (there’s a hard disc, but it’s not used for caching data like it was on the original XBox, which is a shame). Plus, PGR3 has a tendency to hang inexplicably if there’s a network problem whilst trying to upload scores. But these are relatively minor problems compared to the general awesomeness of the rest of the system.

Right, next on the list: HD-TV…

2 Responses to “New toy”

  1. Sarah says:

    The only thing we use our (software modded) XBox for now is media centre, it really is awesome.

  2. SharkyUK says:

    Welcome to 360… it was only a matter of time… 😉

    I’m still working through PGR3 (seems a little easier than PGR2) and GRAW. Having been a very much ‘run-and-gun’ kind of gameplayer I’ve been surprised how much fun GRAW actually is.