Sunday, July 15, 2007

The 360. A Summary of My Thrills and Rage

I was starting to think that the XBox 360 might not suck so much as a platform after being really disappointed in the backwards compatibility initially. I didn't own an original Xbox. There were a lot of games on it that I would have liked to have played, and I was really counting on those being playable on the new hardware. Log onto the Microsoft forums, and you'll see millions of flaming threads (with some notes from yours truly on some) asking, begging, groveling, flaming for games that were popular on the original system to be made backwards compatible.
I have nothing against the guys on the backwards compatibility team at Microsoft. I think they got a herculean task and probably about a fourth as many people as would be sanely required to do it (like that ever happens in the game industry :P).
I'm also sure that backwards compatibility was something casually spouted off by marketing that has now become a 2 year living hell for these guys, but their responses to user posts range from the thin-skinned to the accusing, all laced with a generous helping of pomposity.
Back to this later. I plugged it into the HD jack on my behemoth of a TV, and damned if it wasn't crystal clear. Oooh, neat! I thought. I'm going to play some games. This is going to be HOTTTT. But first, I'm going to stream some music and video! I have the network cable strung across the middle of the living room floor ....why not? (because adding wireless capability to the 360 would cost me $100. Let's chalk that one down as another victory for Nintendo.)
I have this neat program for the macintosh that allows me to connect to the 360 and stream video and music. It worked surprisingly well for all movies not bought at the itunes store, and I'm sure even those can be "taken care of". No need for me to buy an Apple TV!
Satisfied by my movie experience, I decided that I needed to give backwards compat another chance, and I popped in Munch's Oddysee, which I've been wanting to play for ages. Everything worked fine until the intro was over.....and then the controller became unresponsive. The Backwards Compatibility team STRIKES AGAIN. I tried again. Still can't move abe around on the screen.
Maybe I'm badly informed, but how hard can it be to test if something works when everyone who owns one of these systems has the SAME DAMN HARDWARE?!
You can assume that if a game works on one playstation, it probably works on all playstations unless the system is borked. Or that you can run a dos game under windows xp using the same tweaking with two identical PCs.
So in short, the 360 is shaping up to be a decent media machine. The video streaming is great. There *still* are only a handful of games which aren't squarely aimed at the 15 year old horomonal trigger-happy boy set (or the boys who are 30 going on 15), which is why us non-teenage-boys still have to put a little stock in backwards compatibility. I'm excited about Tenchu Z and Guitar Hero 2, both of which I own. Oblivion's a lot better on a PC. Viva Pinata sucks rocks. You can take that from a person who works on games like that and is therefore in the know.
The games I have which are supposedly backwards compatible don't work, and most of the ones I really want to play aren't backwards compatible. I shudder to think of sony ditching BC to cut prices and moving to software emulation. (They already have in europe).
Because however incompetent Microsoft is, Sony's an order of magnitude less so.

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