Xbox 360

Following the success of their Xbox console, Microsoft have come up with a fantastic gaming machine that is capable of a range of advanced functions. It is aimed squarely at both the grown up gamers and the home entertainment market. It appeals to serious gamers with an impressive array of multiplayer and online titles already on offer, meanwhile the add-on HD DVD player is the cheapest high-resolution DVD player on the market. The Xbox 360 can also store and display photos, connect to the Internet, play CDs, DVDs and MP3s at high quality and support high definition resolution, meaning that it is also being bought by people who hardly intend to play video games at all! Having been on the market the longest, the Xbox 360 offers the most in terms of accessories, game titles and online content. Now let’s take a detailed look at the Xbox 360.

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Xbox 360 Versions

The Xbox 360 comes in two versions – the Core Console and the Pro Console, with a newer, more expensive version – The Elite (120GB hard drive and much vaunted HDMI port as standard) yet to be released in the UK. Let’s take a look at the differences between the two UK models:

Xbox 360 Core Console (£199.99 approx.)

  • Console.
  • Wired Controller.
  • Composite AV Cable.

Xbox 360 Pro Console (£279.99 approx.)

  • Console with Premium Chrome Finish.
  • 20 GB Hard Drive for storing games, movies and music.
  • Wireless Controller.
  • Xbox Live headset.
  • Component HD Cable.
  • Ethernet Cable.

Xbox 360 Online Next-Generation Capabilities

  • Xbox Guide. Featured on both the wired and wireless controllers, the Xbox guide button allows you to switch the Xbox 360 on and off without ever leaving the couch. It also brings up the Xbox Gamer Guide and Xbox System Guide allowing you to connect instantly to the contents of your hard drive, your online friends, games, music, movies and downloadable content.
  • Xbox Live (Silver Service is free or Gold Subscription £35 per year). Running since November 2002, Xbox Live is an online multiplayer gaming and content delivery portal designed and operated by Microsoft for use with the Xbox and the Xbox 360, it is currently accessible in 37 countries worldwide sporting 6 million users as of March 2007. Certain parts of the system are accessible to PCs running Windows Vista and there are plans to make it accessible to handheld devices such as 3G mobile phones in the future. There are two tiers of membership – Silver, which comes free with all Xbox 30 purchases, and Gold, which gives access to enhanced services like online multiplayer play. Via Xbox Live you are able not only to play multiplayer games with other people across the globe, but it also allows you to chat with them via MSN, in-game messaging systems or voice-chat. You can also see what your friends have been up to recently – what they are playing and their progress within the game. Each user is assigned a gamer card and gamer tag which display personal information, gaming preferences, skill levels and reputation ratings awarded to the player by other members of the online gaming community. Xbox Live Arcade is an extensive catalogue of smaller games to be purchased and downloaded to the Xbox 360. Some multiplayer games now support in-game video, which is provided by the Xbox Vision camera. Xbox rewards is a system whereby players can accumulate points by overcoming gaming challenges and redeem these for online products. A hard drive is not necessary for use with the Xbox Live service but some form of memory device such as a memory card is needed for downloads and you need at least a broadband connection to access Xbox Live.
  • Xbox Live Marketplace. This is the part of Xbox Live which allows users to download free or paid-for services such as: games via Xbox Live Arcade; in-game content such as new weapons, characters, levels and maps; upcoming movie and game trailers, and game demos. In the United States users can rent movies and download TV shows to keep – Microsoft have teamed up with media giants such as Warner Bros Home Entertainment, CBS, MTV networks and Paramount Pictures to offer a range of content in both standard and high-definition format – this service should be coming to the UK soon. All content is purchased via Microsoft Points which can be bought via in-store coupons or via credit card.
  • Backwards Compatibility. The Xbox 360 uses software emulation to play old Xbox games. Additionally, it upscales them to a higher resolution resulting in an enhanced experience – although in rare cases, some old games do not work well and experience glitches and slow-down as a result.

Xbox 360 Accessories

Xbox 360 Hardware

  • 20 GB Hard Drive (Included free with Pro Console system or approximately £69.99 when sold separately). Stores games, photos, movies and music, plus downloaded content. With this detachable drive you can turn your Xbox 360 into a complete home entertainment hub. Transfer files from your computer, MP3 player or digital camera to the Xbox 360 wirelessly or via one of the console’s USB ports – watch in high definition and listen in Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound.
  • Xbox 360 Memory Unit 64 MB (around £22.99). Up to two of these portable memory cards slot into the front of an Xbox 360 allowing you to save your in-game progress and anything else, such as movies, photos or music, in the absence of a hard-drive. Take it anywhere, snug in its included key chain carrying case. A 512 MB version is coming to the UK soon.
  • Xbox 360 HD DVD Player (£129.99 approx.). Watch the next generation of high definition movies on HD DVD – with stunning resolution up to six times that of ordinary DVDs, picture in picture menus accessible during play-back and booming Dolby Surround Sound. See what all the fuss is about for yourself! The HD DVD player plugs into the Xbox 360 via one of the high-speed USB ports and comes with two additional USB ports itself. This HD DVD player can even play standard DVDs so your film library will never become obsolete. Note: You will need an HD-ready television or other display device to enjoy movies and video games in high definition.
  • Xbox 360 Faceplate (£14.99). Customise your Xbox 360 with a range of changeable faceplates – choose from either Woody, Hot-rod, Sun, Silver, or from a range of special edition faceplates.

Xbox 360 Controller Accessories

  • Wireless Controller (Included free with Pro Console System or approximately £32.99 separately). Say goodbye to tangled wires with the Xbox 360’s high performance wireless controllers. Powered for 40 hours by two standard AA batteries, with optional vibration for maximum life and ample warning to advise of battery expiration, these controllers operate at a range of 30 feet, streaming information at 2.4GHz and include an integrated headset port for Xbox Live play. You can purchase Xbox 360 rechargeable batteries (£9.99) giving 25 hours of play per charge or an Xbox 360 simultaneous play and charge kit (£14.99) for those marathon gaming sessions, when running out of juice mid-combat is not an option.
  • Xbox 360 Wireless Racing Wheel (£89.99). Don’t just see the realism. Feel it! With dual rumble motors, powerful Force Feedback and real world automotive design this ergonomically crafted wireless racing wheel heightens the realism of any driving game a thousand-fold. It uses the same high-end wireless technology as the XBox 360 wireless controller, screws down to any flat surface and comes with a twin-pedal base unit for maximum control – this really is a racing car gamers dream piece of kit.
  • Xbox 360 Headset (Included free with Pro Console system or £14.99 separate). The standard Xbox 360 Headset plugs directly into the controller and allows you to issue in-game voice-activated commands, liaise with team mates or even abuse opponents (be aware of online decorum though)! Otherwise, you can simply chat with your friends across the global Xbox Live network or leave them pre-recorded voice messages.
  • Xbox 360 Wireless Headset (£TBC). All the features of the standard Xbox 360 headset but in a completely wireless version, allowing up to four wireless headsets and four wireless controllers per Xbox for the ultimate multiplayer experience. Using the same 2.4GHz wireless connection as the wireless controller it connects at a range of up to 30 feet, giving 8 hours per charge and recharging directly from the mains.
  • Xbox Live Vision (£TBC). The Vision is a specialised web cam made for use with the Xbox 360. Games such as TotemBall and Pinball FX allow you to interact with the Vision to actually control the game. Compatible games such as Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 allow you to digimask – that is, record and map your own face onto in-game customisable characters – making you the action star. Boasting an impressive 1.3 mega pixels resolution and a frame rate of 30 frames per second, high-quality video chat is available via the Gold subscription on Microsoft Live. The Xbox Live Vision plugs directly into one of the console’s USB ports and is compatible with Windows XP and above using SP2 in addition to Macintosh PCs using MAC OS 10.4.9 in iChat.
  • Xbox 360 Universal Media Remote (£19.99). A one-stop wireless remote controller covering all your Xbox 360 functions, also compatible with Windows XP Media Centre Functions and standard TV controls. Access your digital library of photos, music and videos at the touch of a button, access the Gamer Guide or watch DVDs, HD DVDs, and power on/off from the couch. A clearly numbered and backlit keypad gives easy access to a myriad of functions – even in the dark!
  • Xbox 360 Wired Controller (Comes as standard with the Core Console System £24.99). This vibrating, ergonomic controller is a design improvement on the already acclaimed Xbox controller. The centralised Game Guide button affords instant access to next-generation functions, it comes with a headset port as standard for Xbox Live play and is even compatible with most Windows PCs via a high-speed USB port.

Xbox 360 Connection Devices

  • Xbox 360 Wireless Gaming Receiver (£TBC). This inventive piece of kit connects your Xbox 360 with your Windows PC, allowing you to enjoy your favourite console gaming experiences on PC. Supporting up to four wireless headsets and wireless controllers at a range of 30 feet, it plugs directly into a USB port with a cable length of six feet eliminating the need for any further wires and will support all future Xbox 360 Wireless Accessories.
  • Xbox 360 Wireless Networking Adaptor (£TBC). Introducing the ultimate in Home Entertainment Media Hub integration – connect to your PC wirelessly and stream movies and music from room to room without the need for wires. Make use of every bit of hard drive available in the house to collate a enormous collection of music, videos and photos for display on your HD ready TV and Dolby Surround Sound system.

Xbox 360 – The Final Word

The Xbox 360 console is made great by its services – the range of games already on offer is simply fantastic, and Microsoft’s online service is unparalleled in terms of simplicity and content by competitors so far. Major drawbacks are the lack of built-in or free features i.e. HD DVD is a separate purchase as is wireless networking. Additionally, you have to pay for Gold subscription on Xbox Live to play multiplayer games online and a 20 GB Hard Disc comes only with the Premium Console – this compares badly with the Sony PlayStation’s built-in HD Blu-ray player, Wi-Fi, 60 GB Hard Disc and largely free online content. However, these disparities are reflected in the price of both consoles. Across the Internet the Xbox Live service has come under fire for charging for just about everything and there have been hardware problems with the Xbox 360 overheating; the fan is noisy and the machine, in general, makes a fair bit of noise while running. Overall, however, this is an excellent machine and a bargain at the price. The HD DVD player add-on is still the cheapest on the market and with a year head start on some of the competition the sheer range and scope of available accessories, games and online services, plus its ability to integrate with Windows Media Centre PCs make the Xbox 360 a worthwhile choice for both serious gamers and home entertainment maestros alike. Find out more at the official site.