By Stephanie Zacharek
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Charles Taylor
By Melissa Anderson
By Inkoo Kang
By Amy Nicholson
By Sam Weisberg
When the Xbox 360 was delivered last week, I saw this mammoth nearly-two-pound stick of an AC adaptor, the biggest adaptor I'd ever seen. It looked powerful enough to beam me up to Star Trek's holodeck, and not in a good way. By that time, The New York Post had already condemned the system in a piece that was riddled with errors, as if Maxine Shen hadn't even seen the device. She wrote that if a geek wanted to take advantage of the 360's superior graphics, an HDTV would be needed. True or not, this worried me. Then, it was noted elsewhere that only about 200 Xbox games would be backwards compatible with the Xbox 360. What about great games like "Psychonauts" or "Destroy All Humans"? Can't play them. Talk about woe!
But when the Xbox 360 was plugged in and turned on, I have to admit I was surprised. The graphics on NBA Live 06, NHL 2K6 and Kameo looked staggering-on my non-HDTV 32" Sharp. This made me want to play games I've never really liked. I put in "Need For Speed: Most Wanted" and raced so long, I got a return of carpal tunnel on my right wrist. As I sped through somewhere that looked like the primeval forests near Seattle, the rain came down, and the rain looked so real, I thought I would get wet. All right, when I put in the snowboarding game Amped 3, the graphics didn't seem all that: but that's because the game, which tries to be hipper than thou, ain't great. I didn't even launch King Kong or Perfect Dark Zero because I wanted to maintain some semblance of decorum, not bop around the living room in a paroxysm like Kate Moss pogo-ing in that video from showstudio.com.
I'm not saying you should spend your $400 right now on an Xbox 360. And I'm not saying I forgive Microsoft or Edelman for ignoring us haughty leeches here in the media capital of the world. What I am saying is that the Xbox 360 is worth $400. Its specs are impressive (512 megs of memory, a 3-core CPU, an ATI 500 MHz processor, HD, infrared ports, a 20 gigabyte hard drive, a remote control, USB ports to play almost any mediaeven from the Sony PSP, a revamped online gaming hub, and a wireless controller with no lag time). What's beyond impressive are the graphics and gameplay. In panoramic scenes of bucolic wonder, the jaw just drops, just like the jaw dropped in the theater when I saw Peter Jackson's vision of a dreamlike New Zealand in Lord of the Rings. Sure, there's no killer app for the system, and that's hard to reconcile. There should have been something utterly inventive beyond Halo for the 360. But right now, the Xbox 360 is indeed the shit. (And it's now been confirmed that all Xbox games will be compatible with the system: eventually.) All of this bodes well for the future of the Xbox 360. If the games look this magnificent at the beginning of hardware's lifecycle, they're going to look even better by this time next year. And if future games look more and more movie-like, the lure to play will be palpable. But by that time, the arguably more amazing PlayStation 3 and the more creative Nintendo Revolution hardware will be available. Will it be a three-way battle of mythic proportions? Stay tuned: Next week, a review of games for the Xbox 360.
Join My Voice Nation for free stuff, film info & more!