Once you’re signed up, go ahead and put on the funky headset. When I say funky, it’s because it doesn’t go ‘over’ your head as traditional headphones do – check this out
and you’ll see what I mean. All set. Phew. Now it's time to play games.
If you don't have any games that are already Xbox Live enabled, you can play the two demo games that are included with the kit: Moto GP and Whacked. Acclaim's Re-Volt was included in the original beta, but Microsoft had stated it was for the beta only and now is nowhere to be found (which is too bad -- I'd rather play Re-Volt online than Whacked any day).
MotoGP is a motorcycle racing game that was released by THQ in the Spring. The demo version offers only a few tracks but does allow up to 16 racers on the track which is very cool. If you have the original Moto GP, you'll be able to play on any track -- the retail version effectively 'unlocks' all the tracks for Xbox live. Can you say "clever marketing tool"? I knew you could. The offline game of Moto GP was very good and online, it's even better. The fact that not only can you race pretty much lag free is complimented by being able to trash talk your opponents as you cross the finish line. It's all good.
On the other hand we have Whacked! which is a cute attempt at a game show but is actually more like a revamped Cel Damage game. Basically it's a game where you're beating up your opponents to capture the flag or stay king of the hill or get the most tokens or whatever. It's been done before and there's not much depth here. Personally, I'd rather have seen Re-Volt than Whacked! here because I still enjoy the Dreamcast game from a few years back, so Whacked! is getting my venting here. It's not a horrible game, it does have it's moments, but it's no Re-Volt.
After playing online for a while, you'll find some regulars. One of the great features of Xbox live is that you don't have to remember GamerTags -- various menus within each XBL game will show both a 'friends' list which is a list of people (similar to MSN Messenger) that you have added. You'll also see a list of people you've recently played games with -- which comes in very handy if you want to leave feedback on that dolt who just disconnected midway through NFL Fever. Just like eBay, Xbox Live allows you to post feedback on gamers -- so not only will you know if they disconnected -- you'll also know if they are viewed unfavorably by other gamers. (Feedback is limited -- you can't type anything you want, you'll have a few standard feedback messages). You can ask one of your fellow gamers that you've recently played to become a friend as well, which is very cool. Once you have a gamer added to your friend list, you'll be able to see if they are logged on and what game they are playing, even if you're playing a different game.
If you have actual human friends over to play on your Xbox (and extra contollers, natch) they can play online as well -- even if they don't have their own XBL account. You can set them up as 'guests' and although their scores/gameplay won't affect rankings and they may not have voice capability, a 4 on 4 game is still pretty fun online. 4 on 1 is a lot of fun :). Now, if you're 'actual' friends have XBL accounts too, they can bring over a memory card from their house to yours with their gamertag and they can also bring over their headset and voila they can use their account on your Xbox. Neat, huh?
Once you have a gamer added to your friend list, you'll be able to see if they are logged on and what game they are playing, even if you're playing a different game.
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