Review by elitek02
Reviewed: 11/27/01 | Updated: 11/27/01
The "X" Difference
Finally, after months of waiting, gamers all around were psyched and ready for the release of Microsoft's entry into the console foray, the Xbox. As with all new comers in any field, this thing was dogged left and right by the opponents, some coming up with the most ridiculous reasons to criticize it when in fact were actually scared of the change this thing was going to bring...
The Xbox team decided to go for a substance over style approach when developing the Xbox, opting for a more simplistic VCR look. First and fore most: The Size. Forget all the rumors you've heard about its heavy mass, or gigantic proportions. It weighs in at a non-intimidating 8-9 pounds, and measures at 12x4x8 inches. So this thing may be bigger than the competition, but definitely not the monster you've most likely been led to believe. The system itself, sporting a Glock Black color scheme, features an ominous green jewel at the top of the console in the center of a raised ''X''. It features a front loading DVD tray, four USB controller ports; with ethernet, power, and multi-out slots in the back. Definitely not much of a system to look at, but it's what's inside that really exhibits the potential.
Using a custom designed 250 MHZ Graphics Processing Unit provided by nVidia, the visuals are some of the most advanced ever seen on a home console. Graphics on some of the games exhibit excellent use of light and shading, textures are crisp and clear, the resolution plays at high amounts outfits games with supreme clarity and detail. As a result of the graphics processer, frame rates are maintained at smooth and managable intervals, with some games locking frame rates as high as 60fps. Together with the substaintial memory and graphics chip, the Xbox can display great amounts of activity on-screen with out slow down or pop up. This is certainly one of the Xbox's strongest points.
There's a ton of things that are available with the Xbox. For one thing you've got the 10 gig Hard Disk Drive which streams the Data from the DVD providing for accelerated loading times. The hard-drive also eliminates the need for conventional memory cards, as it saves all the information in a allocated substantially sized portion. Probably the greatest aspect of the hard drive has to be the ability to rip songs from your own CD's, and create your own personal gaming soundtrack. The speed at which it copies isn't too lengthy, so you'll be ripping and playing your favorite songs in no time.
The Xbox uses a DVD ROM Drive, which provides for expanded data and information on DVD's to enhance the gaming experience. The DVD Playback features are unlockable with a $30 purchase, which includes a remote and reviever which you plug into anyone one of the four controller ports. From there navigation is easy and simple with the remote. The quality of the DVD playback rivals that of many stand-alone DVD players on the market, with features such as multiple zooming and play-looping.
The Ethernet/Broadband Adapter is set to be utilized with the upcoming Xbox Broadband network, in order to play against others with high-speeds and instantaneous reactions. Players will also be able to download new game saves, addons to enhance gameplay such as new characters and levels via the hard drive. The ethernet connection also enables multi-system linking for multi-player games of epic proportions providing support for as many as 32 players by 8 Xboxes and 8 Tvs.
The main User Interface for the Xbox system is a unique program called the Dashboard, which allows users to cycle in and out of menus in order to manage aspects of the system such as audio, video, and memory properties as well. One can check on their game saves, or change their video display to adapt to HDTV support, or manage which soundtrack of ripped songs to use for the next game.
The controller itself has been one of the prime targets for criticism, but I myself believe it's one of the best ever made. It was manufactured after hundreds of hours of play testing from a large panel of different gamers, each providing their own input in order to create a seemingly universally appealing controller. It is modeled after the Dreamcast controller, featuring the double grip style, with two responsive triggers on each side.
On it's face are 6 pressure sensitive analog buttons, 4 colored primary buttons for regular use, a start and back button for menu navigation, and 2 black and white miscellaneous buttons. For control and movement there is an eightway directional pad, and two analog sticks. Playing with the controller is a totally ergonomic experience, it's size provides for long-lasting comfort, without strain or pressure. The primary game buttons are easy to reach and press.
Another neat feature never before seen on home consoles is the break-away cord on the controller. With 9.5 feet of cable, an especially forceful tug could bring your whole $300 investment come crashing down, the break-away solves that problem by creating a connection before it is inserted into the port, so in the event of a buddy tripping, or cat running from the dog in the middle of a game, the force will only snap the cord, and leave your Xbox nice and safe on whatever post its resting upon.
The controller, although priced at a steep $40 USD, is durable and built tough, it comes with 2 expansion slots as well for extra storage mediums or peripherals such as memory cards and the upcoming microphone. In the end it is well worth it's price.
The Xbox is priced competitively at $299 USD (MRSP), which is a steal for what you get with it, some of it's advantages over its competition are the built in hard drive for faster loading, game saves, and future game augmentation, ethernet/broadband network adapter, HDTV support, Dolby Digital support, and four ready controller ports. The add-ons are adequately priced as well, ranging from 20-40 dollars such as the HDTV Pack, DVD Kit, and peripherals such as joysticks and controllers. Enough to not put a dent in the budget for those wanting to enhance their Xbox experience.
The launch was filled with games which have hailed it to be one of the best in console history. With titles such as the critically acclaimed FPS Halo, the sequel to the smash hit DOA2, Dead or Alive 3, gridiron greats such as NFL Fever 2002, Madden 2002, and the impressive Odd World: Munch's Odd. The future of gaming on the console is also bright as well, with extensive support from Sega providing games such as Crazy Taxi Next, Jet Grind Radio Future, Shenmue 2, Phantasy Star Online, and many others. Other big names such as EA, Capcom, Konami, and Shiny are also pledging their support as well with tons of new games and franchises set to appear on Xbox. The only uncertain genres which have yet to have a strong role on the Xbox are traditional console RPG's, and 2-D Fighting games. However with a large selection from all other types of games, it's not hard to find something to fit one's preferences.
In the end, this was a well made system by the game gurus at Microsoft, heeding to the call of gamers everywhere providing impressive power under the hood, and actual effort put into research as to what the gamer wants. The Microsoft Xbox definitely proves it's a ''Contenda''
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
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