The Xbox 360

...this is what an Xbox 360 looks like on its side
...this is what an Xbox 360 looks like on its side

After deliberating between the PS3 and the Xbox 360 for well over a year, I finally caved in a bought a 360. Depending on which console you own, you might be thinking that I wasted a bunch of money. Give me a minute, and I’ll give you my reasoning why I feel that the $300 was well spent. (No, I will not mention the Wii from here out because I think it’s a sick joke Nintendo is playing on the world right now. I’m sorry if you bought one.)

The Games

First and foremost, the games that Microsoft and its third-party developers have created are some of the best out right now. From first person shooters (Halo 3), third person shooters (Gears of War), arcade games (Geometry Wars), puzzle games (PuzzleQuest), racing sims (Forza 2), and sandbox games (Grand Theft Auto 4), nearly every genre of game is covered multiple times by the 360’s library.

The Xbox Live Arcade only strengthens the long list of games going for the 360. While the Microsoft Points system is initially annoying, once you realize that 800 MSP equals $10, 800 MSP for a game doesn’t sound so bad. While the XBLA doesn’t offer extremely deep titles like GTA4, games like Geometry Wars and the recent Braid make up for their shortcomings with ingenuity and fresh innovation.

In comparison to the PS3, it wouldn’t be fair to say that the games on the PS3 are bad, there just isn’t nearly as many great games as on the 360. Yes, Metal Gear Solid 4 looks amazing, and yes, LittleBigPlanet will blow everyone’s mind when it comes out, but the games on the PS3 are coming too little too late for me.

I wanted to buy a console that is playable now, not one that might be more playable come Christmas.

Xbox Live (Online)

I’m not the best at sitting down for a day by myself and playing through a game start to finish. I can usually play for an hour or two, but after that I just want to put the game down and do something else for a while; it just gets monotonous. This is why the ability to play games with my friends online is a huge deal to me.

Since the original Xbox, Microsoft has worked very hard to build the infrastructure of LIVE and keep the community thriving. Their efforts have payed off, and the LIVE system is light-years ahead of where the PSN is or will be any time soon. Whether it’s through simple leaderboards where I can see my friend’s top scored in plain sight for me to beat, of if I can play a real-time 16 player match, Xbox LIVE has done nothing but boost my enjoyment of playing video games.

The ease of using Xbox LIVE is something that I didn’t take into consideration when buying the Xbox, but I’m very glad that it has worked out in my favor. The integration of LIVE into Xbox games is great. For example, in Halo 3 after my friend has invited me to play with him, I hit two buttons, and I’m sent to the correct waiting room where we can set up a group game.

The Price

This is pretty straightforward. The Xbox 360 Pro/Premium (20gb) is only $300 right now, so compared to the PS3’s $400. While it’s true that a feature-by-feature comparison of the two systems reveals that the PS3 is a better value, I simply don’t need the features that the PS3 is touting as making it next-gen.

After paying for the console, I had the games to consider. Because I was working for Microsoft at the time, I received a discount on first-party games like Gears of War and Halo 3. Ignoring those games, the Xbox has been around long enough that there are many quality titles that’s prices have dropped significantly. All in all, the Xbox delivers the features and games that I want at a price that works best.

The Fall Update

The current “Blade” UI design on the 360 works fine, but with the massive amounts of recently added content (movies, games, etc.), it is clear that a more scalable design is needed.

At this year’s E3, Microsoft showed off its brand new uer interface for the Xbox 360 that will be rolled out this Fall. Along with the UI overhaul, features like Netflix integration and new genres of XBLA games piqued my interest. It’s pretty clear that the 360 won’t have the 10 year lifespan that Sony says the PS3 will, but it gives me hope to see that Microsoft has been really working on improving an existing product rather than pushing out a new console every three or four years like they could.

Basically, I love my Xbox 360. It fits all of my wants/needs out of a current gaming console.

Why is Blockbuster’s influence so huge all of a sudden?

Blockbuster LogoLast time I checked, everyone had crossed Blockbuster off of their list of companies that matter. I thought that it’s recent attempts to make a showing in the online movie rental sector was a joke. As of late, it seems that my assumptions were wrong because every tech blog has been pronouncing the victory of BluRay over HD-DVD as a result of Blockbuster’s recent announcement that it would be adoption BluRay over HD-DVD.

Don’t get me wrong, I was BluRay to win this standards war. I believe that Sony’s PS3, while the most expensive, is the best “next-gen” console. I believe that it is years ahead of the Wii and of the Xbox360. But that argument needs to be saved for another day. Apart from the console wars being waged right now, BluRay is just the better format.

Has everyone forgot about Netflix? The one company that has risen above just being a “geek’s only” secret you shared with only your best friends. It’s public and normal people use it without a problem. Just for a second, think about what would happen if Netflix adopted HD-DVD. Obviously, Blockbuster is the larger of the two companies, but it is also falling much faster than Netflix is rising. If there was a coalition of sorts made of up every movie rental company/organization against Blockbuster’s adoption of the format, it could mean the end of both BluRay and Blockbuster. Of course, this won’t happen, but the Netflix situation certainly could.

Just playing Devil’s Advocate here, but just think for a second about the contradiction of your past words and current assumptions. As usual, only time will tell…

Spiderman 3: A laughing matter

Spiderman 3 Poster

Talk about a letdown of massive proportions. Yesterday I went to go see Spiderman 3 with fairly high expectations. I figured that they were justified seeing as this currently rumored to be the highest costing movie ever (around $500 million). Boy was I wrong.

As the theater experience began, I had nothing to complain about; the previews were sweet! Pirate of the Caribbean 3, Shrek 3, and other great movies had me in a good mood. The beginning of the actual movie wasn’t bad either. A nice love scene and success for MJ opened very nicely. Then the depression hit. She was fired, Peter was being just stupid, and Harry was screwing everything up.

It was around this time that the writing (screenplay) went to hell. Parker got “emo”, and my friends and I couldn’t suppress our laughter at the absurdity of what we were seeing. Died black hair? Eyeliner? On the world’s best superhero? I don’t think so. Everything just seemed so very cliché; there was nothing new or unique to be seen. The whole idea of a villain coming back to life was overdone, and the “other worldly poison” moved too much like a high-tech Hexxus from Fern Gully (one of my favorite 90’s kids movies).

The abundance of Spiderman-swinging-around-the-city scenes were overbearing. The fight scenes, while sometimes cool, were either too short, long, or unrealistic. I understand that saying that a movie is “unrealistic” is fairly ridiculous to say, but to have someone’s face ground against the side of a moving train and be unscathed is even more ridiculous. While one might argue that Sony was trying to stay true to it’s key demographic (young boys), why the PG-13 rating?

While Spiderman 3 gave me a good laugh, lines like “wicked cool” made it impossible for me to take it seriously. My verdict? $500 million wasted.