A beginner’s guide to the Xbox 360 – an Aussie perspective
The Microsoft Xbox 360 was introduced to the Australian public a full nine months earlier than the Nintendo Wii or Sony PlayStation 3, and has since lost the lead it had built up in the beginnings of the latest console war.
However, it still manages to hold its own by delivering solid, straight-forward gaming. In this second installment of Cool Shite’s console beginner’s guide, we’ll set the record straight on what the Xbox 360 has to offer – and which version may be best for you – before you decide whether or not to purchase Microsoft’s pride and joy.
Microsoft offers three Xbox 360 packs to shoppers in what may be seen as a help or hindrance, depending on one’s technical know-how.
At $299.00, the Arcade pack is the cheapest of the bunch, packaged with a 256MB memory unit and bundled arcade classics like Pac-Man and UNO. The only problem: you won’t be able to fit much downloadable content or game saves on such a small memory unit.
The Core pack (sometimes simply referred to as the ‘Xbox 360′) sorts out space issues with a built-in 20GB hard-drive. At a suggested retail price of $399.00, it also features a superior A/V cable than the Arcade pack, and can usually be found at your local gaming store with a two-game bundle included.
The Elite pack, best of the three, comes with a 120GB hard drive and HDMI A/V cable for high-definition 1080p resolution. As with the Core system, you can usually find a package with a two-game bundle, however the suggested retail of $549.00 is sans game.
While the Core and Elite packs are able to store lots of downloadable content, it all comes at a cost. A gold membership on the popular Xbox Live service – allowing access to online multiplayer capability – is $80 for a year. All packs come with silver access to the system, but that only provides the chance to download extra content (like extra songs for Guitar Hero 3…at a price) and demos of other Xbox 360 games (which are free). Where Australians really lose out is in lacking the Xbox Live Marketplace; we cannot stream Hollywood movies and premium content (think iTunes) as North Americans can. Wouldn’t you love to give Netflix a spin on your console?
Also on offer is an impressive back-catalogue of over 200 games. Exclusive title Halo 3 held the record for the highest grossing opening day in entertainment history for quite some time, Fable 2 has proved to be a great success by combining RPG elements with straight-up action, and Gears of War 2 shows off the console’s graphics power while introducing a solid plot into a first-person shooter. Upcoming titles such as the highly-anticipated Resident Evil 5 and exclusive Halo Wars ensure that the console can satisfy gamers now and in the future. If that wasn’t enough, the console supports what’s fast becoming a staple in the industry: backward compatibility for original Xbox games.
For those looking to grab a dirt-cheap high-definition player no longer supported by any movie studio in existence, the now-defunct HD-DVD drive add-on is only an eBay search away. The format has gone the way of Betamax, losing out to Blu-Ray as the medium of the future. While rumours are suggesting Microsoft may be releasing a Blu-Ray attachment soon, it seems more likely that Microsoft will embrace the movement of downloadable content – here’s hoping Australian internet accounts can keep up with demands on bandwidth and download limits!
Gears of War 2
Despite some solid games in other genres, the Xbox 360 is fast becoming synonymous with the first-person shooter genre; great if you’re a fan. Kudos to Microsoft for catering to those of varying budgets and intents with their various packs…providing shoppers can understand the differences between each. Picking up Gears of War 2, Halo 3, Assassin’s Creed, The Last Remnant, Viva Pinata, and The Elder Scrolls III: Oblivion will get you a nice cross-section of the console’s best. Sticking to what the original Xbox did and improving upon that, the Xbox 360 is the least innovative of big three consoles, but with the power of Microsoft behind it, you know the console will be supported for quite a while.
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