Wow!!! Things sure have improved since the last console system I owned, that being the Atari 2600. Seriously now, working for GiN has allowed me to see all the new console systems. And quite honestly I have considered buying each and every one of them. I am not sure what tipped the scale in favor of the Xbox. The excuse I keep using is that I bought it to help improve the economy after September 11.
The only system that I do not have any experience with is the new Game Cube. I saw it in the store today and the reports that I have heard about its small size are very true. The line to try it out was way to long, though not quite nearly as long as the one to try out the Xbox, which makes me think that I made the right choice. In comparison to the Game Cube, my first impression of the Xbox was that it is big, bulky, and heavy. I did not really think much of the weight at first. It was not until a week later when I picked up a PS2 and noticed that it was noticeably lighter.
If I had thought about it at the time I would have timed myself during setup, but honestly I was more like a little kid on Christmas morning. As soon as I walked into my apartment, I dropped everything else and ran to the TV and hooked up my new baby"I mean Xbox. Even with running the cord through the little holes in my entertainment center, I had everything up and running with in 15 minutes. Most of my experience has been with setting up PC systems and I am sure most of you know, they are pretty easy, but it still takes a while to get everything set up. Well, not with the Xbox. Plug in the AV cable to the back of the Xbox then hook it up to your TV. Plug in the power cord and hook that into the Xbox. Plug in a controller and hit the "on" button. As Bill Gates said at Comdex, PCs should be this easy. All I had left to do was set the language, date and time and plop in a game.
When the main screen for the console comes up you have three options. The first is to manage your hard drive. The second is a music system, where you can save songs to your hard drive. The third is system settings. The area where you can manage your hard drive allows you to select your hard drive or one of the memory units (sold separately) that you can plug into your controller. Through the interface you can see what saved games belong to each title, as well as delete individual saved games or all the data for a particular game. The Music area allows you to copy tracks from a CD and create your own play list that you can play during games. The system settings area lets you manage your audio and video options, change the date or language, or set the level of parental control.
Without comparing the console to another system, the only things that come to mind as significant are its size – it is larger then a new VCR and its weight – which I mentioned before. I have not missed a resent button so far. I only mention this because I read a number of previews of the system before it came out, and a number of people mentioned this as a negative feature. The game manual referrers to the power button as a power/reset button. All I can say it that I have not missed a reset button at all.
There are four jacks for controllers or other peripherals such as an ‘Xbox communicator,’ a headset that I believe will allow for online chat and voice commands which is supposed to be released next summer and the input device that works with the DVD remote control (remote sold separately) on the console.
The controllers are considerably larger and heavier than in the PS2 and other systems I have had experience with. I have had no trouble getting the hang of them. The most notable feature for me is the inline release on the controller cable. According to the manual, it was added to keep the console from being pulled out in case someone gets tangled on the nine foot cord. From experience, the inline release is great.
The controls are pretty much standard. Two Trigger buttons, joysticks on the top left and bottom right is the layout. Each one can also be pressed in at a button. Located at the bottom left is another directional controller, and at the top right are six color-coded buttons, including four big ones labeled X, Y, A, and B. There is also a smaller, clear button and a small black button. The last two are the only ones that were not in easy reach of my hands. I have found the controllers to be very comfortable to grip while gaming for many hours straight, and I am not at all sure what all the fuss was about with other publications.
Overall I am very pleased with my new system, even considering that I had to go through a package deal to preorder the system, which added a couple hundred dollars to the initial price tag. It is not an easily portable, and by that I mean its not a light system like the Game Cube, but as long as you realize that when you purchase the system, you will not be disappointed.
I have played a few games and I am very pleased with the graphics, but I will talk about that more as I review some of the first generation games such as Halo, Evo 4×4, Gotham Racing, and Dead or Alive 3 to name a few. So far my experience with the game load time is that it seems long, but not intolerable. My main disappointment is that using the DVD functionality requires another purchase, while it comes standard with the PS2. While I am very happy, I do have some issues with the system. I give the Xbox, standard as configured, 4 1/2 GiN Gems.