Thursday, January 19, 2006

XBOX 360

- composite cables hooked up to a sharp 32" standard definition TV with a dd 5.1 sound system. Wired Ethernet to a netgear wgr614 v5 router through road runner cable modem.

- mfg date 11-25-2005 so this is definitely a new batch.

- first thing I did was do the live gold transfer. Since I already linked my live account to a passport account through it was really easy.

- Next I tried media connect. I found out it doesn't support network shares even though you can add them on the computer. I tried changing the service login ID to a local admin account but then the service would no longer start. I think they want you to install Windows Media Connect on each machine that has content you want to stream to the xbox. I tried streaming photos and music without issue. Unfortunately it seems to only support browsing by ID3 tag or play list. NO directory navigation which sucks. Then I tried my archos and rio forge mp3 players through usb. I even tried some photos that were on the archos. Everything worked great and this time you can ONLY navigate by directory structure. I wish I had both options under both conditions.

- I highly recommend you go to the system tab and do the "Test XBOX Live Connection." It showed my NAT to be strict which basically means LIVE WILL SUCK. It really limits who you can connect to, and you can't host. What I found out was you MUST ENABLE UPNP on your router (mine is the netgear wgr614 v5). After that Live works GREAT. You'll see the xbox open port 3074 UDP through upnp. I retested and my NAT reported as "open" which is what you want.

- I had one freeze(sort of, sound was still working but couldn't close the gamer card) when I had upnp off in pgr3 while trying to access a gamer card in gotham tv. Once I turned upnp on everything was smooth. I never had any issues while in single player. There have been no locks, freezes, or crashes so far (knock on fake simulated faceplate wood - no I didn't buy one).

- Next I d/l the free trial of geometry wars and messed with that a bit. I ended up buying $25 worth of microsoft points and purchased the full version of geometry wars for about $5. They have different amounts you can buy but they all equate to 80 pts/dollar. No volume discounts. I also briefly tried joust and gauntlet trials. Then, I checked out the Lost Planet Trailer and Red vs Blue.

- Xbox Guide button brings up a menu which has unique menu items NOT found in the dashboard blades. This is where you can change your theme and play custom music tracks that you have stored on the hd, on a portable mp3 player through usb, or streamed from a pc.

- tried a dvd and the remote. It's pretty nice with 32x scan, a-b repeat, zoom, but no slow motion. I tried some svcd/vcd's but they were a no go. DVD+R's work fine.

- Ridge Racer Six. Very crisp detailed textures and silky smooth 60fps, deeper nitrous mechanic than the psp version. I've always been a ridge racer fan and this one doesn't disappoint. Live support is great. I played in several 8 player games and it played great with no warping or lag. There is one SERIOUS BUG in rr6 which really shows this title was rushed for launch. If you stream music from a pc you will experience CONSTANT MAJOR LAG AND STUTTER while playing online. It's not enough just to stop the music play back. You must do the following:
1) Go to the system blade
2) Choose computers
3) Choose the highlighted option (Windows-based PC or Windows Media Center)
4) Disconnect the connection.
This really kind of sucks and is only an issue in Ridge Racer six. This means the only way to have a custom soundtrack while playing online is to either have it on the HD or from USB.

- Project Gotham Racing 3. I only played this very briefly and tried one online game which also played very well. I also checked gout Gotham TV which is way cool being able to watch the top races live. Text is really hard to read for us poor standard def sobs.

- Perfect Dark Zero (collector's edition). I finished the first level (basically a tutorial). My feelings are a bit mixed so far. I like the graphics and don't mind all the shinny surfaces. The movement speed is VERY slow compared to recent shooters and therefore changes the pacing/tension a bit. I'll have to play it more to get a better feel. I jumped into an online match for a few minutes and it played smoothly.

- Condemned: I think this is my favorite game so far. I've only finished the first level. Hey it's by Monolith and uses the fear engine. I love fear and this game is great too. The spooky atmosphere, lighting, and melee combat are all great.

- I love the controllers and the new headset. Much more comfortable than xbox 1.

- pluggin in a usb keyboard sure makes adding people to your friends list much easier.

- backwards compatability: I dropped in halo 2, d/l a little emulation update and I was up and running. I played the first level and it felt just like xbox 1 except I really like using the 360 controller. It even boots with the old xbox 1 graphic. I then tried Far Cry which is not on the backcompat list. It just says it's not supported and to check back in the future.
- Found out more about media connect and unc network shares. You have to enable guest account and grant it access to you shares. Forget that! No way I'm enabling guest account for anything.
- I tried nimh batteries on my 2nd controller and they work just fine.
Today I tried the VGA Cable. I hooked it up to my 17" samsung. Go into system blade, console, display and pick your resolution. It works just like the pc with a countdown confirmation. So if you pick a bad rez just wait and bit and it will change back. I picked 1280X1024 which is the naitive rez. I quickly tried out geowars and pdz. Both looked great! Then I tried pgr3 and everything looked fine until the actual race started. The game was no longer letterbox but stretched to fill the entire monitor. NOT GOOD. After reading this:
I found out for pgr3 (and only pgr3..sounds like another BUG due to rush to meet launch) you have to set resolution to 1024X768 if you are using a pc monitor. After that it works fine. Kind of annoying but shouldn't be an issue if you use a 720p LCD TV b/c then you can just pick 1280X720 and everything should be fine.
- I recently picked up a wired 360 controller for cheap ($28). I hooked it up to the pc and let it find drivers online. Need for speed most wanted automatically configured the button mappings to be identical to the xbox 360 version(I compared using the demo). The controller works and feels great on the pc. It's my new favorite pc gamepad. Now if they can just get rid of that wire.

Overall this is a slick piece of hardware. Xbox arcade and marketplace are great. There are many things to explore besides the games. Several strong launch titles with excellent live support (except the rr bug). There's just a ton of potential for this system.

Get one if you can find one and if you get one you really need to be on Live.

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