Review: Xbox 360

Microsoft’s new Xbox 360 features stunning video performance and awesome game play, especially on a wide-screen, high-definition TV. The many new media-playing features are pretty good, too. But don’t rush out and buy one. They’re all sold out -- for now.
New to the 360 is the introduction of “gamertags “to Xbox Live, almost like a virtual drivers license, except gamertags tell other players on Xbox Live what games you play and what achievements you’ve earned. You can also review players you’ve played against on Live, adding (or subtracting) to their personal legends. Live-enabled games also give you a list of the people you last played against, making it easier to find new friends (or seek out old enemies) to play against online.

Of course, all of this is secondary to what the 360 was designed for: playing great games. In playing our copy of Project Gotham Racing 3 (PGR3) we found that the visuals of the game were stunning, even on a normal TV. However, on a widescreen HDTV in 1080i mode, it became gorgeous and fluid. If you have the means, playing on an HDTV with a full 5.1 surround-sound setup creates a rich environment that takes advantage of the 360s media and gaming capabilities.

The 360 also offers the Live Arcade where more casual gamers can try out arcade classics, puzzle games and more before buying online through the Marketplace. Probably the most addictive game of the Live Arcade is the Geometry Wars arcade game, reminiscent of a modified and updated Asteroids but with greatly music and frantic pacing.

When using the 360’s wireless controllers, the response time didn’t feel sluggish at all. In fact, it was comparable to using a wired controller. Playing PGR3 online with a cable modem using Live we found that the quick match system worked well with the various opponents’ trash talking each other using the 360’s headset. Lag was never an issue during Live play. At no point during any of our time playing PGR3 or any of the Xbox Live Arcade games did our unit crash or display any of the problems reported elsewhere. That doesn’t mean some percentage of units aren’t bad, it just means that the unit we tested worked great.

After many hours of game play both at home and at the Zero Hour event with all the various launch titles, it’s safe to say that Microsoft has succeeded in creating the best gaming system ever put on the market -- for now.

Editor's Choice
Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Carrie Pallardy, Contributing Reporter
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
Astrid Gobardhan, Data Privacy Officer, VFS Global
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing