Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Holiday buying guide: Xbox 360

Holiday buying guide: Xbox 360

This is the third of atypicalgamer’s weekly buying guides. Future posts will cover the DS and PSP; see previous posts for the Wii and PS3. Note that while I’ve tried to be objective, these posts ultimately represent my own personal opinions. Links take you to Amazon.co.uk, although it’s worth pricing against other online retailers such as HMV.com and Play.com.

xbox360.jpg

The Xbox 360is now the oldest of the current generation of consoles. As the first “next-gen” machine, offering High Definition gaming, and cheaper than the PS3 was projected to be, it sold out instantly on launch in November 2005, a full year ahead of the PS3 and Wii, its success bolstered by the Xbox Live online gaming service. This PR dream was only tainted by the so-called Red Ring of Death: a serious fault that caused early models of the machine to conk out with their normally friendly green lights turning red, leading Microsoft to issue an apology and extended warranty in 2007. Recent models use different components.

While it’s not a sexy, gleaming piece of equipment to look at, its sturdy, matt white exterior (black in the Elite version) means you don’t need to worry about dirty fingermarks, while the wireless controller is equally substantial looking. And of all the consoles of its generation, it has the most games and can also play many titles originally designed for its forebear, the Xbox.

Should you buy it?

At the moment it’s the cheapest console available, even with a 60Gigabyte hard drive; there’s a pricier Elite model with twice the space. An Arcade version comes without the hard drive, but the disadvantage of this is not worth the cost saving. Unlike the PS3, it doesn’t have a Blu-ray drive, Microsoft choosing instead to back the doomed Toshiba HD-DVD format with an add-on drive. It does have the benefit of an excellent online gaming service, on the other hand.

Summary of pros & cons

+ High-definition games look fabulous

+ New, high-spec games come out on Xbox 360

+ Superb online gaming service

+ Xbox Live Marketplace offers dozens of retro and new games to download to the hard drive

+ Excellent value with current price drops

+ Loads of games including backward compatibility with Xbox, though you can’t necessarily transfer save files (check the Xbox site)

+ Works as media centre with a Windows XP computer

+ Watch DVDs

- Controller eats batteries

- Can be noisy in operation

- Adaptor needed for wireless Internet connection


Ten games to buy

1. BioShock

2. Grand Theft Auto IV

3. Halo 3

4. Half-Life 2: The Orange Box

5. Guitar Hero II (with controller)

6. Fallout 3

7. FIFA 09

8. Dead Space

9. Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga

10. Race Driver: GRID


Other stuff to consider

At least one extra controller

Either rechargebable batteries or a Quick Charge Kit

Xbox Live membership for online play

Wireless Bridge if you want a wireless connection


© Kate Berens, 2008

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