The Xbox 360/Xbox Live Report: Part Two
Ross wraps up his overview of Microsoft's newest cutting-edge platform.
Article by Ross Fisher (Email)
December 13th 2005, 09:00PM
As Chris (GN's editor-in-chief) puts it simply: "Xbox Live Arcade looks like it may turn out a bigger success than originally intended." Maybe it's the fact that we can play classic arcade games like Smash T.V. and Gauntlet with not only updated graphics and unlimited quarters, but online with other Xbox Live users? Or perhaps it's the possibility of future releases from companies like Namco, Sega, and indie developers? For the moment it's enough that we can yell at Chris when he takes down the whole team in Gauntlet.
Beyond actually playing together, the system is bringing back the old-school concept of "high scores." Integrated leaderboards track not only your individual progress and how you stack up against your friends, but your performance on a global level. Suddenly there's a reason to pick up a couple more toasters during that next run in Smash T.V. The whole experience is almost the complete opposite of gaming as we know it: simple, fast, fun, and painless.
Can you still go home when home is a digital copy of the real thing
Backwards compatibility on the Xbox 360 seems to be a love-hate thing with a lot of gamers. Some people are quite content with just having Halo 2 work out of the box with their 360, but for every Halo-fanatic there's a crying girl wishing that Barbie's Horse Adventure 2 had made the backwards compatibility list. Perhaps future updates will bring a game on your personal wish list?
Personally, I think that Microsoft has achieved an amazing feat here. How beefy a computer did it take before we finally saw a decent Super Nintendo emulator? Yet, here we are barely four years out and Microsoft has created an emulator that's mimicking a 733mhz Intel chip. It would have been nice if Microsoft had included the ability to remap the controller when it paying backwards compatible titles, but using the right and left bumpers in place of white and black buttons feels natural.
I've had some time to run though most of Halo 2 on my Xbox 360, and while I've experienced a few lock-ups it has been surprisingly smooth. There's a nice little touch where the Xbox 360 fades to white and then shows the familiar Xbox boot-up screen; only now instead of a bursting X on a black background it's now a white background. This may seem like a small thing, but it's a cute wink to the dedicated fans.
Those who've played Halo 2 on the Xbox know what I'm talking about when I say, "pop-in." Usually a cut scene is a fourth of the way over before my Xbox finishes loading the bump maps and textures. No more. On the 360 pop-in is as near to extinct as you could hope for. Yes, textures still pop-in but it's nowhere near what it was before. Now a cut scene starts and maybe in the background a texture will quickly pop-in.