Unpacking the Xbox 360

It’s hard being a technology writer on a budget, writing for a small-town newspaper that doesn’t get sent samples of all the latest gadgets for testing.

As a result, a lot of my writing is based on compiling reviews, comparing specs, company press releases, assembling stories, informed opinion, and all around wishful thinking. In most cases my recommendations are all about waiting for the right time to buy. For example, regular readers will know that I’m holding off buying an iPod for myself until they make one with a built-in microphone and FM tuner — like every non-Apple MP3 player on the market.

Sometimes I actually do buy the products I write about, but only when I’m at least 99 per cent sure that I’m getting the right product at the right time.

That was the case when I finally bit the bullet and purchased an Xbox 360. There were a lot of factors in my decision — price, games, online capability, technology, the number of units sold (which has an impact on the number and quality of games produced), and how long I can expect to enjoy it before it gets replaced with something else.

After much research I do concede that the PS3 is probably a superior machine when it comes to graphics and all around capability — the Blu ray player would have been nice, as well as the larger hard drive, built-in wireless internet and free online play — but it still falls short in the games category. No doubt Sony will rectify that in time, but third party companies don’t have much incentive to make exclusive titles for the PS3 when there are more than twice as many Xbox 360s out there. I did consider getting a Wii, but in the end I decided I wanted a true next generation console to go with my high definition television. If the Wiimote motion controller really is such an important a feature for gameplay then I expect Microsoft will develop its own wand one of these days.

In terms of games, no console can top the Xbox 360. Reviews of the best games of 2007 almost always include Halo 3, Bioshock, and Mass Effect, which are Xbox 360 exclusives. Other top rated games, like Rock Band, Guitar Hero III, Assassin’s Creed, Madden 2008, NHL 2008, the Orange Box, and Colin McCrae’s Dirt are available on all consoles including the Xbox 360.

I’ve now finished the Halo 3 on Medium difficulty, and I’ll probably go back and try the single player campaign on Hard. I’ve also played my first few games online, and get a little better every time.

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