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Microsoft X-box Review

In the recent system war two great system's have arisen to join Sony' Playstation 2; Nintendo' Gamecube and Microsoft' X-box. Yes you heard me right. Microsoft has now been thrown into the mix as a hardware developer. But how can one make a decision on which to buy if one isn't familiar with each. The PS2 has been on the American market for more than a year now and has proven its greatness with dozens of excellent titles. The Gamecube has been reviewed and shown to be a considerable system. But what about the X-box?

I recently purchased an X-box and have found it more similiar to the PS2 than the Gamecube. This is mainly due to its DVD optical drive and price range. The DVD movie function is very enticing, but the $300 price tag is discouraging. But fork over the cash and you will be glad you did.

With the X-box itself comes the console, and a/v cord and powercord, and one controller. Not to mention the warranty and manual which constantly reminds you that the X-box could kill a three-year old. Detailed stats give you insight on the systems specs including the 733mhz Pentium III processor, the 9 gigabyte hard-disk, and its broadband Ethernet capability. This is all well and good but how does it affect your gaming experience? Well, to start off, the 9 gig hard-disk allows you to store savestate information that can be transfered to an 8 megabyte memory card via controller port. It can also be used for game upgrades. A recent example is in Dead or Alive 3. The Japanese version of DOA3 has more features (as is usually the case) like more character costumes and expanded levels. So an American third-party company is going to release an upgrade disk which contains those hastily forsaken features of the Japanese version. Just download the disk information onto the hard drive, and upon loading the game the added features will automatically run. The hard-disk also allows copying of CD tracks to be stored and then be arranged into soundtracks and played in-game. Although, not all games support this feature.

The X-box sports four controller ports on the front along with the Power button and Eject button for opening and closing the disk tray. Unfortunately, Microsoft did not bother to include a Reset button but that isn't a huge set-back. Upon activating the X-box a green light illuminates in a ring around the Eject button. The opening screen asks you to set the date and time, like with the Gamecube and PS2. Afterwards you have a green menu screen with three areas; Memory Management, Settings, and Music. To run a game you merely insert the disk and the Game Screen takes over.

Menu Sceen Functions:

Memory - This option allows you to delete or copy saves and soundtracks onto the hard-disk and up to eight memory cards at once.
Music - Allows you to create soundtracks, play CD's, and delete saved tracks.
Settings - Allows you to use the screen setting, set up Dolby Surround, Parental Controls, Automatic Off, Clock Adjustment, and read System Information.

The X-box controller is larger than most console controller'. Possibly the largest. It may seem awkard at first, but it is quite comfortable for most games and fairly easy to use. It has two analog thumbsticks (not in the middle like the PS2 but one is to the top-left and one on the bottom-right of the controller). They can also be pressed down as seperate buttons, similiar to the PS2 controller. There are also six pressure-sensitive buttons above the right analog, two menu navigation buttons (start and back), and two analog triggers on the back of the controller akin to the one's on the Dreamcast controller. On the top are two ports for memory cards and hardware attachments. Although the X-box controller is large and third party's offer smaller alternatives, the original Microsoft version is the best. The controller also comes equipped with built-in rumble and a nine foot cord with a break-away cable for safety reasons. Remember, a falling X-box can kill a three-year old.

The X-box hits high on some key factors such as the built-in 9 gig hard-disk and the broadband capability. It is an amazing system packed full of speed and graphic goodness, but it does fall short in some areas. First, the X-box should have had a USB port like the PS2. Unfortunately, Microsoft wanted to steer clear of the computer image and felt a need to leave the port off. Second, with the PC hardware existing in the X-box, Microsoft should have allowed for upgrade ability. Once again the computer image would have been too strong if they had allowed for this. It also wouldn't leave a reason for a second Microsoft system and money is all that really matters. Finally, the gurus at Microsoft should have worked longer on controller design. Although the X-box controller isn't bad, it could have been alot better. These are minor points and overshadowed in the end by the majesty of the system overall. The X-box is a great console amd seems to have a bright future, especially online if Microsoft plays their cards right (as of now Microsoft has not announced an on-line partner but Sony has so expect the X-box to be last with on-line capability). I think we will be hearing the name Microsoft in the gaming world for a long time.

Written by Gandalf


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