The J Effect, V.1 Feature - The Next Level

The J Effect, V.1

"Things I Learned Today." (or "Knee-deep in the Xbox 360.)

Article by James Cunningham (Email)
October 28th 2005, 08:44AM

So I got to play with an Xbox 360 at my place of employment today, and having access to the keys to pop open the display unit, I couldn't resist taking some time to run mad-scientist experiments. I thought of it as "gaining product knowlege" rather than "wasting a small chunk of company time", and here's what I learned-

1. Despite the lessons taught by Sony and Nintendo, Microsoft decided that making us buy all new video cables was the way to go. True, this only effects you if, like me, you're using s-video, due to the included cable having both component and composite on there, but it's still kind of aggravating. Seeing as the s-video cable is running $30, and no word yet on second-party ones, I have to say I'm disappointed that the perfectly serviceable cable I've got isn't good enough for the new system.

2. Though the kiosk 360 has the hard drive, the included software isn't on it yet. No Hexic, the Live Arcade game that will be included, and no backwards compatibility. Tossing in a random game (Sonic Mega Collection, it just happened to be what I grabbed) got a message asking for a 360-formatted disk, and Halo fared no better.

3. The system is going to sell a lot of hi-def televisions. The games look great in high resolution, even if the playable demo selection is a bit weak. Call of Duty 2, Kameo, and King Kong are the only interactive games, and the rest is video. I'd list them off but, seeing as I can download video online, I didn't bother to pay attention.

4. The included light-synth for music, commonly referred to as Neon, is gorgeous. More than just a light-show, it's also a toy to be played with, designed with multiple users in mind. Not having a whole lot of time I only messed around with it a bit, but I can see it becoming very popular among people who wish they had something to do with their hands while really listening to music. Seeing it in motion at 60FPS was fantastic, although one of the people watching me said it made him queasy, which was a bit of a surprise.

5. Not knowing where anything was, wandering the back-end of the system was a breeze. All the options are clearly marked and logically sub-divided into sections. From messing around with the light synth to setting the clock or poking into the Live Arcade settings, it only took a few seconds to orient myself. "I want to do this. It should be... here! Yep, there it is." Simple as that, really.

6. Nice controllers, but they'll get dirty quick. White just isn't the right color for something that's going to be held in people's hands all day. From a layout perspective, I really like the movement of the black/white buttons on the Xbox controller to the left/right shoulder buttons of the 360's. Someday, though, I'd love to see the return of the six-button Saturn-style pad.

7. They want that system secure in the kiosk. To access it, you've got to use the keys three times! Once on the left and right sides, allowing the flat part holding down the clear plastic keeping the 360 untouchable to be tilted forward. Then there are two screws to be removed, one from the base of the clear plastic and one from above the lock behind the monitor, both of which seem redundant seeing as things are already locked in place. Then the monitor has to be unlocked and swung aside, because otherwise the plastic housing would just bonk against it when lifted. Finally the plastic housing can come off, usually hitting the back of the monitor on the way by. The system can then be accessed at last, but it's much more work than the usual "turn key, open display" method used on every other console kiosk in the world.

Much as I wanted to keep playing around, I could only justify about five minutes of poking into the inner workings of the 360. I got to run all the experiments I'd been meaning to, though, and came away mostly pleased by what I saw. November 22 is going to be a very fun day all around, and can't get here soon enough.

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