Xbox 360 - The first year

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posted 12/1/2006 by Charles Husemann
other articles by Charles Husemann
One Page Platforms: 360
Editors Note: This article was originally going to go up last week on the actual anniversary of the Xbox 360 launch but holiday travel and tryptophan prevented it from getting completed on time.
 
The Xbox 360 is officially one year old and one week old which in console years means it is just over 20 years old (assuming a four or five year life console lifecycle). Just think by December it’s going to be legal for the Xbox 360 to buy alcohol without using a fake Gamertag. This time last year people were getting home, plugging in their high definition consoles, and firing up Call of Duty 2, Project Dark Zero, Kameo, or one of several other launch titles. Some of those people even took their console online and downloaded an amazingly addictive game called Geometry Wars Evolved (a few sites called this game the best reason to get the console).   Who am I kidding, let's be brutally honest here. This time last year most people were either freezing their asses off in line to get one or trying to buy one on eBay. 
 
Outside of hardware shortages the the Xbox 360 launch wasn't perfect as a couple of key titles slipped. Dead or Alive 4 shipped a month later and the amazing Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion slipped until the end of the first quarter of 2006. Still the system launched with 18 retail titles and the lineup really didn't suck that badly as far as launch lineups go. Sure you had a few crummy ports like Gun and Tony Hawk but there were still a decent core of exclusive games that showed off what the system could do. Project Gotham Racing 3 featured jaw dropping visuals and a lot of cool online modes while Rare's Kameo wasn't nearly as bad as most people expected it to be(except for the damn water boss, I still get pissed off thinking about that nearly a year later).
 
One thing that gamers noticed quickly was that Microsoft's new white console wasn't exactly the quietist thing in the world and while most people didn't notice this while killing Nazi's or saving magical kingdoms, the noise was quite noticeable when playing quieter games like Sega's Condemned: Criminal Origins. Under high loads the roar of the fans and the rumble of the DVD player made the device hard to ignore, even from across a living room.
 
As with a lot of new hardware, the first few batches off the assembly line proved to have more than their share of "quirks". Early on there were a lot of problems and the "ring of death" as the systems overheated. Microsoft was pretty classy about the whole thing and had a pretty good replacement policy in place and even copped to the defects earlier this year and refunded costs for the early adopters. Thankfully I have never had any problems with my unit (knock on wood).
 
After learning their lesson with the enormous "Duke" controller Microsoft provided gamers with one of the best controllers on the market. Hands down Microsoft came up with a controller that feels right,has a decent rumble and long battery life. Microsoft's mechanism of allowing you to sync the device with the console is easily the best of the three next generation consoles as you just have to push a button on the top of the controller to sync controller with console. The only real limitation here is that the console is limited to four controllers but that seems to be the industry standard right now. .
Besides the excellent new controller Microsoft has rolled out some pretty kick ass accessories for the 360. I’m a big fan of the VGA cable which has helped my relationship with my girlfriend out tremendously by allowing me to go upstairs and play games on my Dell monitor and not interrupt her while she watches her stories on the big screen TV. 
 
Microsoft has also recently released a new wireless headset, steering wheel, and HD DVD player and while I haven’t had a chance to try these out in person the reviews around the internet have been fairly positive. 
 
The only thing that’s really lacking from the 360 hardware portfolio right now is a bigger hard drive. Users have had to deal with a 20 gigabyte ceiling (assuming they have a premium or purchased the add on drive) and they can really only access about 13 of so of that due to overhead for the system. With Microsoft now releasing bigger and bigger demos and high definition content (TV and movies), the 13 gigabytes isn’t a lot of head room.
 
One final peeve about Microsoft’s accessory line is that they are not sharing the wireless protocol they are using for their devices. This means that no other company can manufacture wireless devices for the system. Companies like Red Octane who will not be able to produce a wireless guitar controller when Guitar Hero ships for the 360 next year. I get that you want to keep some things to yourself but it seems a bit much when you can get a wireless controller for a last gen system like the PS2 but not one for the Xbox 360.
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