A month with Xbox 360…

I gave in. I vowed not to do it, but I did. I am now the owner of an Xbox 360 console and I have been for one month now.

I’ve been a proud Wii owner for a year now and having owned just about every console before hand I had said to myself, this it it, I’ll get this because it’s worth buying, it’s something different and it’s cheap, but it will be the last one, the other consoles (360/ps3) are too similar to the generation before, there’s no point owning them. Besides I own so many games for the PS2 and Xbox that I still hadn’t invested enough time in, I had about enough video games to last me a lifetime.

Now I have a 360…and my game collection is growing for that system also.

So why did I do it? I’d resisted for so long but when fellow Blast Processor Dave offered me his 250gb Super Elite console for £75, I felt it was too good of a offer to turn down. I have to say, although it left me broke, I have not regretted the purchase.

How do I justify parting with the cash then? Well, firstly this was more than just an impulse buy, in fact to a certain degree I did it for this very site and my job as a sales assistant at Game. Simply put owning just a Wii had left me out of the loop. For someone who both writes about and sells games, having a distinct lack of knowledge about the majority of video games available was a short coming. That’s not to say I was clueless about the world of the ‘big boy’ consoles (360/ps3), far from it, I do my research but there’s nothing quite like experiencing what you’re talking/writing about directly, especially something like Xbox Live which has become a huge part of the modern ‘connected’ generation of gaming.

The online aspect of games has been perhaps the biggest and most important difference between this system and any other I have owned in the past. Yes, the Wii is online but not in the all encompassing way the 360 is.

I’m talking about, Gamertags, Friends Lists, Voice Chat, The Marketplace and the dreaded Gamerscore, the ultimate boast of gaming prowess. These new elements have turned my perception of what it is to play video games on it’s head. I too have joined the masses in chatting away while playing games in Xbox Live Parties and hunting for that allusive achievement along with friends. Socially speaking, this is a huge leap forward in gaming, at least for me as someone who is new to the scene.

While I have thoroughly enjoyed what Xbox Live has had to offer I am presently only participating in a free trial and my Gold membership is nearly up, the real test now is to see if I’m going to miss it as much as I think I will.

So what else have I experienced since owning a 360 that I can write home about? Well I have say I’m loving the Marketplace, there’s some great games there, ones I’d been longing to play when they weren’t available to me. Gone are the days when I used to pray for something to be released on Wiiware (the Scott Pilgrim game), now I have access to some gaming greats. So far I have downloaded a fair few Arcade games including the aforementioned Scott Pilgrim game, Worms 2 Armageddon, Shank, Limbo, Dead Rising Case Zero and my favourite of the bunch Super Meat Boy, which I’ll go as far as saying is a modern classic.

Other than purchasing games, I’ve also bought a Robot costume for my avatar and a pet alien along with the downloadable Darth Vader character for Soul Calibur 4. I don’t see myself buying any more in the way of Avatar accessories, as I see them to be a huge rip off but the extra game content available is something I see myself investing some more points in. Speaking of points I’ve gone through three 2100 points cards in a month, hopefully not a sign of things to come (I had a list of wanted games before hand which I have almost all already purchased, so I think my point spending should calm down…).

What about the actual off the shelf games? I’d initially intended to get very few of these and focus more on downloadable titles but there’s a fair amount of stuff I was itching to play, namely sequels to my favourite fighting games among others like Bayonetta and Vanquish.

So far I’ve purchased Soul Calibur 4 as well as DOA 4, KOF 12 and Virtua Fighter 5 but have yet to get either Bayonetta or Vanquish (waiting for the price to drop). I’ve also picked up a few great games for very little money at all, Crackdown, Stranglehold, Ninja Gaiden 2, GOW 1 and 2 to name just a few. Most of these games cost be barely anything, with the majority being around the £3 mark. The best bargain however has been Wolfenstein, which I picked up for the bargain basement price of 79p, brand new! (Prices helped slightly by the staff discount I get for working at Game) The most I have paid for a game is £15, which I think is pretty good going. I shall also add the the ability to download demos for free before actually buying a game has been very beneficial and I see it as something that’s going to save me a lot of money in the future, no more duff games!

My major concern with buying a new console though was, would the games be worth bothering with at all? Can the graphics really be that much better than the original Xbox and more importantly has gameplay evolved any since the last generation of consoles? Safe to say the 360 has impressed me on both fronts.

Firstly, graphically my jaw has dropped on occasions, most notably playing the Force Unleashed 2 demo, I was unaware that games actually looked this good nowadays. Textures in these new games are sharp, vibrant and detailed, the lighting in a lot of these new games is particularly impressive. Also I like the way some in-game cameras present the action in a more cinematic fashion, making the whole thing feel a lot more organic and natural. The lines between films and games are becoming increasingly blurred.

I have also noticed that everything is very shiny…sometimes this works and sometimes I think developers see this as a cheap way of getting round the fact that their graphics aren’t quite as good as their competition’s. All in all though I’m impressed.

What about the gameplay? What new innovations have I experienced? Stand out titles for me in this area would be Bayonetta, for it’s fast paced kinetic action (same could be said about Vanquish). On the platforming front, something like Limbo adds some incredibly natural movement to the platform genre that impacts heavily on how the game plays, making for a very enjoyable title. Also the gameplay concepts in the Dead Rising series I feel are revolutionary and unique and I can safely say I’ve not played anything like it before and I don’t think it would have been possible to create anything like it on older hardware (as the Wii’s Chop Till You Drop demonstrates).

So does this mean I’m now a converted Xbox fan boy? Well, no, but I am a very happy 360 owner. I can see I’m going to have a lot of fun with this console but that doesn’t mean my Wii’s going to collecting dust (Goldeneye has seen to that). What I do have now though is a nice alternative with better graphics, a totally new assortment of games and a number of fantastic opportunities for more social gaming.

All that’s left for me to say is I’m looking forward to seeing what else the 360 has in store for me and a big thank you to Dave for giving me the opportunity to experience it all without breaking the bank!


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