Sunday, June 03, 2007

Our 3RL Adventure --- Why the XBOX 360 is the best console to date



Funny title?

Yep, it certainly is.

For those who haven't been to the live journal site, I'll re narrate what happened to our XBOX 360 here. After a year and two months of wonderful service, our Japanese XBOX 360 finally succumbed to the three red lights of death. While we told ourselves that we are fully prepared to buy a new console, and even set aside money for it, its always painful (well at least for me) to part with money that could have been used for something else. We tried the towel trick and to our amazement it worked. Of course, it sucks when the first thing you do before even playing is to wrap your console in a blanket and leave it on for the next ten minutes. For then minutes the only thing you can do is twiddle your thumbs and pray that the unit isn't getting baked from all the heat.

Luckily at that time, there were people in our country that were good enough to actually service the unit since Microsoft has no official support for the XBOX 360 here. We sent in our unit and additional fans were put in to help the cooling of the XBOX 360. For a few months the unit was back to normal and we were happy. Later on our experts learned that the true culprit of the XBOX 360 was none other than the X-Clamp that holds the GPU to the motherboard. At that time our unit was still working but then it eventually got the annoying E-74 Error. E74, was pretty simple, one time we were playing a GoW online match when all of a sudden we encountered checkerboard graphics. We got nervous and rebooted the machine and after a reboot, the screen flashed the E74.




By this point our 'faith' in Microsoft was shattered. Before we thought that majority of the hardware problems were caused by user negligence. We were so wrong. We treated our console like a king but it still got problems. We were upset that such a wonderful console with great titles was extremely unstable. However, since at that time our unit only had a cooling solution, it didn't really solve the problem brought by the X-Clamp. So we had the X-Clamp removed and replaced with another thing. This was very tricky since there needs to be some specific requirements in doing so. For a few weeks, the solution worked and we thought that our 360 was free from the massive hardware defects that seem to happen to the community. We left for a short vacation in a relatively good mood. But alas it was not meant to be. Shortly after we had our unit repaired for the second time we got the death knell for the XBOX 360, the true killer Error E76.



With E76, you really know that the console is dead. The basic symptom of this error is when a game hangs up after a few minutes of playing. You can force the console to try to load but rather than getting the green/grey start-up you get a creepy version with shades of red. At that time we were absolutely devastated. We just came from a trip abroad and we had so many new games. We also came down with a very violent flu which required us to be hospitalized for a few days. The XBOX 360 dying was absolutely horrible. Eventually we decided to buy a new unit with a longer warranty and we're back in the game.

So enough with the intro...if you're still here, let me get to the gist of the this post.

While we were on vacation we were already looking at other consoles, particularly the Playstation 3 and the Wii. By this point our Microsoft fanboy glasses were off and we were more than willing to get a new console that wouldn't really break. So we went around and tried a lot of demo kiosks and looked at the game selection.First off is the PS3. We already knew it was huge and it didn't really look at great as its predecessors. However, some PS3 owners were raving about certain games such as Resistance looking up to par with some of the best that the XBOX 360 has to offer, at that time in particular, Gears of War. Let me set this straight. It doesn't. I think we spent around an hour in the kiosks (well there was no one else around) trying this game. Gameplay wise it wasn't really anything out the ordinary and it certainly didn't look like it was trying to display the superiority of the PS3 Cell. In fact the game looked poor running against the Call of Duty 3 demo on the XBOX 360 kiosk beside it.

You have to give Sony some credit since their set-up was as huge as their console and running their best Bravia models. The XBOX 360 kiosk looked puny in comparison to the PS3 one but games appear otherwise.

We also tried other games too such as Sonic and Gundam Musuo for the PS3. We even saw the Ninja Gaiden Sigma demo. But what really killed the PS3 for us was none other than Ridge Racer 7.My husband and I are big Ridge Racer 6 fans. We also brought my brother along with us on vacation, and he's another Ridge Racer nut. They have played the life out of RR6 and got practically all the achievements the game has to offer. Not to mention they spent around 100 hours in online play for this game in XBOX live. From everything we read in the Internet, RR7 was really just a souped up version of RR6 with better AI. We expected the game to look exactly like the XBOX 360 version or even better, given the extra development time.

But Sony has made a HUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE mistake by not including HD cables on the PS3. The first time we played RR7 was in a kiosk that used standard cables on an HDTV set. The game was an absolute mess. While we were annoyed with the tilt-motion control interfering with our standard analog sticks (yes later on we figured out how to turn the darn thing off), we were shocked at the sheer difference between RR6 and RR7 graphically. Nitrous boosting in RR6 is smooth as butter with the blur effect gracing the screen. In RR7 is was a horrendous mess. Eventually we got to play RR7 on a unit running with the HDMI cables. While it no longer looked as bad as it does on standard cables, it certainly wasn't a step ahead RR6 and once again in some cases RR6 was better in lighting and overall graphics. While I'm not really a graphics whore, when the console is asking me to plunk down around $600 of our hard earned money, I have to criticize it as much as I can to make sure that the purchase is well worth it. And looking at Ridge Racer 7 and the rest of the PS3 games we have tried, the amount Sony is asking for is definitely not worth it. While I understand they have other features like the Second Life version for the consoles, PS Home, and Blu-ray those things come secondary for what a game console is for us...a machine to play videogames.

I will not discount the idea that the PS3 will have better games in the future, probably when Final Fantasy and Metal Gear Solid rolls in by 2008, at this point in time, the machine is certainly not worth it. Buying a PS3 now, at its full price, is a bad investment. Better to buy it later when there are more games available for it and when the rumored price drop occurs.

Next up is the Wii. My husband and I were never keen on the Wii but my brother was interested thanks to the Nintendo DS. We tried the default Wii game, Wii Sports and we lost our interest with the console a lot more. I understand that Wii wasn't about graphics but more on gameplay and the 'revolutionary' Wiimote. But after trying out Wii Tennis, I was scratching my head as to why some people have hailed this machine as earth shattering. The controls were sketchy at best. I was trying to figure out the pattern to hit the ball right but I couldn't get it work. I'm not really a lousy player but there were occasions where I swear I didn't even try to hit the ball but my avatar actually did and scored a point. We also looked at other Wii games but they were not really impressive gameplay wise.

But what really put things in perspective for us, with regard to the Wii, was Guitar Hero II.GHII was all about gameplay. I'm not really a rock / heavy metal fan and more of the mellow music kind, but I found myself drawn to the game. Of course, I eventually got to have a nicer appreciation of rock culture thanks to this game. But GHII is no novelty game that was patched up together. The game had a lot of technical details that make its gameplay highly addictive. Of course, I do know that real Guitar Heroes play REAL GUITARS but GHII gives you the opportunity to feel the thrill of being a rockstar without having to invest a good chunk of your time in learning how to play an instrument. The care on technical details given in this game and the responsiveness of the guitar controller to it makes this game an absolute must have and would probably go down the annals of videogame history as one of the most innovative games of our time.The Wii pales in comparison to Guitar Hero II.

The basic thrill you get out of the Wii is having to wave your arms around rather than having them on your lap while you are playing. You certainly will not do those over-exaggerated moves, such as ducking behind your couch while playing an FPS title, as Nintendo's marketing team would want you to think. You can play the Wii, the lazy way with nothing more than a flick of your wrist. But the games do not reflect the precision needed to make the gameplay challenging. Compared to GHII, the Wii games appear to hold your hand with its automatic, yet faulty, detection. There is not much care, even on the side of Nintendo, in making the games precise. For short, the Wii and its games to me are patch-up games and a novelty. Perhaps one day, there will be games for the Wii that will truly take advantage of its motion sensing capabilities but now its mere novelty.

To sum things up, it took the death of our first launch unit for us to realize that the best console to date is the XBOX 360. We tried to keep an open mind with the other consoles but they really didn't cut it, in terms of price and overall experience.

NOTE: This is wuffy wirting through scytherage since she forgot her account settings :p Next-up will be some of our impressions on games such as Command and Conquer 3, Forza 2 and BLUE DRAGON!!!

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