Xbox 360 Games

We got an Xbox 360 for Christmas, along with 6 games. Here are my first impressions (I haven’t played ’em all – Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland and Perfect Dark Zero, namely).

The system itself is a beautiful piece of hardware that looks gorgeous in my basement’s entertainment center. We have a wood entertainment center, so naturally, the wood grain faceplate is adorning the system, complementing the entire area. Once the system is on, the UI is integrated very well, although I’m still a bit unsure about it in-game. The “blades” system MS implemented feels like either an OS X toolbar or a set of tabs. Navigation is easy, although it’s a bit difficult to find some things, like, for instance, the M4A support file I needed to properly play my iPod (more on iPod integration below). Overall, though, the UI is clean and easy to navigate.

iPods work pretty well on Xbox 360. Plug it in, choose it on the Music blade, and play. However, I have a few gripes.

  • You have to download a plugin to listen to .m4a files (which is what iTunes’ AAC encoder spits out), which is a pain to find and is tied to an Xbox Live account (which means all you non-XBLers are effed)
  • iTMS’d music doesn’t work (but we knew that)
  • There’s no shuffle, AFAICT, which is suck UPDATE: Shuffle is possible, just a cryptic, unnamed button, in true MS fashion
  • If you have a playlist with more than 100 songs on it, and you want to play them all, you’re stuck listening to the first 100
  • Loading up a real iPod (aka non-shuffle) takes FOREVER in-game. Damn proprietary database.

There are a few problems with the blade system and the dashboard. The first, and this is really a matter of design, is that some themes that you can get for your Xbox 360 (like, say, the Penny Arcade one, which is what I have) make the dashboard buttons hard to see. I mean, I really love this design; it’s absolutely gorgeous. It just makes it hard to see some things. Also, when you’re in game, sometimes you can accidentally hit the gigantic X button in the middle, which sometimes pauses the game, and sometimes doesn’t (I know DOA4 doesn’t). This wouldn’t be so much of a gripe if it weren’t a 2-3 second turnaround, which is more than enough time to get an flying roundhouse kick to the face. Finally, blades come from both the left and the right sides of the screens, which is a bit disorienting if nothing else.

Onto the games. Call of Duty 2 was the first one I popped in, having played a demo of it. The single player game is incredible, if short (my friend John beat it in a night). You play as the Russians, the British, and the Americans, on a kraut-killing quest. The multiplayer is a bit slower than I’m used to, but it fits the game very well. Lots of awesome WW2 maps, some nice weapons…it worked very well. My only problem right now is that the game got a bit repetitive – all you do is kill Nazis. Sure, that’s the premise, but it got a bit stale after a few hours.

Need for Speed: Most Wanted was one of the games I was REALLY looking forward to. I was a HUGE fan of Need for Speed: Underground 2, but there were a few gripes I had with it.

  • The open-ended nature made driving a hassle. Getting across the map is a huge pain in the ass.
  • If you wanted to upgrade your car, you had to go to 6 different types of shops – some of which are quite a drive away from each other
  • The game always took place at night
  • No cops (police chases were a staple of the NFS series for a long while).

So EA went and released this totally awesome game on me, and it’s pretty much fixed all of my gripes. It’s still open-ended, but, for the most part, the races you NEED to complete can be started from a menu. All car upgrades happen in one place. The game takes place in day and night. And then the cops. The cops are incredible. You really feel like you’re in a chase. They’re smart and hard to lose. And, the story is much better. All in all, an almost perfect game so far.

Now, I’m not normally a fan of snowboarding, but I played it’s predecessors on Xbox, so I was excited to try Amped 3. I was very pleased. I haven’t played all too much of it, but it looks like it kept the series’ trademark bizarre, Monty Python-esque humor. The snowboarding itself is easy to get into and enjoy. I’ll need to look more into it.

And, as a huge fan of it on Xbox, I got Dead or Alive 4. This looks like your run-of-the-mill DOA game – beat some people with a certain character, a story is revealed, and a character-specific movie at the end. I really wish they could do more to make this look prettier than it already is (don’t get me wrong, it’s gorgeous already, but it doesn’t look much better than Xbox), but I’ll happily take what I’ve got. I’m not really sure what’s new, so I’ll have to investigate more.