handcircus

Games and Interaction design

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The future is here.....?

So we've arrived at the next-generation. I've been fortunate enough to be generously given a 360 for Christmas (which I have to admit might be a decision kate may soon regret) . I've now had it exactly a week, and its quite a machine. That said, its not all roses either.

I'm a complete sucker for a shiny new thing and its only now that I feel I can have any sort of perspective on it. Like a sugar-fuelled infant with attention defecit disorder, all other toys have been dropped and pretty much all my playtime has been focused on it. I've got the premium pack with Gotham Racing 3, and with broadband at home its enough to hopefully get reasonable impression of what its capable of.

I spent about the first hour with the thing poking, prodding and trying to get it to connect up to as much as I could in the house. Linked it up to broadband, got my live account sorted, got it connecting to my itunes library upstairs (eventually after muchos pissing around, and switching to twonkyvision rather than MS's own media extender bollocks). Started mucking around downloading a few demos, having fun with Jeff Minter's lightsynth "Neon", getting all the free trailers, themes etc. And the result? Very very tasty. The infrastructure is very well designed, a great interface and everything fits together as it should. The system is always there at your command, whether watching movies, playing games....errr anything else. Little popups inform you of your friends activities, or any achievements. A menu can always be brought up to allow you to change music, check friends status, go back to the dashboard.

Anyway, so onto the main sales point of the 360... the games. Well PGR 3 is weird. At first I thought it looked shit, like driving though a model village. Then I thought it looked almost photorealistic (incar view through daytime vegas is stunning), and now I think it looks like a very pretty xbox game but shinier and with HDR lighting. I'm not playing in HD so not sure if I can really comment, but when you are concentrating on the visuals rather than the game itself at times it really is stunning. BUT the game is THE SAME! I know this has been said god knows how many times by people younger and uglier than me but theres no game innovation besides live support. The Kameo demo again looks lovely and is kinda fun but it doesnt make me rub my eyes like Mario 64 did. And the bricks are too shiny damnit. Perfect Dark Zero looks ok. Just downloaded the fight night demo and my god the graphics are good. The characters are amazingly realistic, I mean REALLY realistic.... no zombies here the skin and muscles are so well modelled (scanned?) and rendered (and I LOVE the fact that it was available for worldwide download within hours of Bill G's keynote speech talking about it.... nothing like not having to wait) but the game is soooooooooooooooooooo tedious and oldschool.

So in general.... next-gen infrastructure is a wonderful thing. Next gen graphics are nice and all (although you dont notice em after a few hours of playing) err and hopefully some new games will come out soon that do something a bit different with this stupidly powerful machine. Oh and xbox live achievements is the new pokemon. except you cant trade.....

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