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A Look at the XBox

by John Peterson

Note: This has nothing to do with ASP or ASP.NET so if that's why you're here you can stop reading now. However, it is the reason that I've gotten nothing done past 5:01pm any day this week and all last weekend.

Introduction

I recently got a new toy. It's got an Intel CPU, a NVIDIA video processor, 64MB of RAM, a hard drive, and built-in ethernet and yet it's not a computer! At least that's what Microsoft keeps saying. Well they may be right, but it's a heck of a lot more of a machine then my first computer was!

My Gaming Background

I grew up on the Atari 2600 & 5200 where if you squinted just right and tilted your head you could kind of pretend the screen looked like something. (Actually, for it's time, the 5200 was quite good and was highly underrated and overlooked, but I digress). I then got a Nintendo which quickly relegated the Atari systems into the closet. The next step saw me move almost all my game playing onto my PC (Doom played no small part in the transition). The games were simply better and could be more complex without the limitations of the console. While I certainly don't play anywhere near as often as I used to, that's where my games have lived until now. The only problem has been compatability (anyone remember trying to play Myst when it first came out?). Getting a game to run often posed more of a challenge then the game itself!

Enter the XBox... a computer / gaming system with the power of a PC and the plug-and-play capabilities of a console!

My Take on XBox

Let me preface this by saying these are my thoughts on the matter. I haven't owned a console in quite a while so I don't want any "XBox sucks... PS2 or GameCube rules" emails coming my way. I'm simply relating what I can and make no claims that the XBox is any better or worse then anything else.

The Good

  • Force feedback controllers with 9 ft cables
  • Dolby Digital and Surround audio
  • HDTV
  • DVD
  • Ethernet (haven't tried yet so it might be lacking... we'll see.)
  • Halo

The Bad

  • Loading and menu transitions are relatively slow
  • Noisy for a console (although very quiet compared to a PC, the fan does make some noise.)

The Greedy

  • Dolby Digital requires an Advanced AV Pack (sold seperately)
  • HDTV requires a High Def AV Pack (sold seperately)
  • DVD Playback requires a DVD Playback Kit (sold seperately)
  • Ethernet requires an XBox System Link Cable (sold seperately - although it sounds like a standard ethernet cross-over cable should do it)
  • One controller (additional controllers sold seperately)

Games

Halo

My first game and one of the reasons I was even looking at the XBox. (It's now being called The Game of the Year! ...and it is!)

I liked Doom... it may not have been the prettiest thing around, but it was fun. When Quake came out I was saying "It's slower, takes a much faster machine, and doesn't play any better... I don't get it." Now with Halo I'm back to "Let's go kill some bad guys," and this time around they look like real bad guys! There are times when upon close inspection things still feel polygon-esqe, but it's not to the point where it's bothersome and within minutes you're so busy trying to complete your mission you never look back.

My favorite things: Melee Attack (sneak up behind the bad guys and knock them out from behind!), the shotgun (it's like Doom all over again!), the magnification capability of the pistol and sniper's rifle, and the Jackals (Covenant soldiers with shields).

The only downside... I beat it on normal in just under a week... maybe a little bit too easy, but then again when I get into a game I get INTO a game!

Project Gotham Racing

The classic racing game with great graphics and an interesting Kudos twist. I'm a little torn on this one... it's fun, but these Kudos can get annoying if you just want to race. That being said, they're not all bad. Overall I give it a thumbs up... I haven't seen a better racing game on the Xbox.

Max Payne

Another great action game... a darker theme and a little more violent then Halo, but this time the people you're killing are BAAAAAD guys! So that makes it okay... right?  ;)

My favorite thing: Slow motion shooting "a-la" The Matrix. You also get a sniper rifle like the one in Halo... way cool.

Silent Hill 2

My first real Xbox disappointment. I haven't played much yet so I'll hold off on a final opinion, but as it stands, I just can't stand the controls.

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell

A little different, but it stands up there with Halo as one of the best games for any platform. It's nice to see a game where you don't have unlimited ammo and you actually need to think about how to sneak up on your enemies and disable them quietly.

My favorite things: The fact that you need to hide bodies in the shadows so guards don't find them. You can use characters as a human shields. Using the lock pick takes a little practice. Sticky cameras that you can shoot using your SC-20K and then use to see around corners or watch for enemies. Holding your breath while lining up a shot in sniper mode. Sam's attitude. Shooting out lights to create shadows for you to hide in and the fact that your enemies sometimes notice that the lights are out! Oh... and lets not forget about the night and thermal vision goggles.

Stay tuned for more games...

Next up: BloodRayne. A sexy redheaded vampire with knives and guns... what else could one ask for?


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