Saturday, December 20, 2008

the next generation

I recently purchased an Xbox 360. Yes, it’s a Jasper.

I don’t really feel like I can be counted on to give an unbiased opinion about the thing right now – I’m still very much in that new hardware honeymoon phase one tends to have when one drops several hundred dollars on a new box of plastic and silicon. That being said, I will now proceed to inform you of my opinion anyway.

My honeymoon with my PSP lasted until I beat Patapon and Jeanne d’Arc and then… put it down. It was a summer fling, really. Yes, there are worthwhile experiences to be had on the platform, and yes, I have bought and played games other than those two, but it has not been the constant companion that my DS has been.

My honeymoon with my PS2, first bought at the end of 2004 when the slim models were introduced, continued until college spirited away all my gaming time. This was sometime junior year, two years later. Even though we aren’t as close as we once were, when that first PS2 finally broke down this past September I replaced it before two hours had passed.

My honeymoon with the DS continues unabated, going two and a half years strong. It’s a real solid relationship. We’re thinking of tying the knot, finding a nice place in New England somewhere. I’ll find work in IT while it makes money by having its picture taken with cute celebrities.

Jumping from the PS2’s long twilight period to what could arguably be the 360 in its prime, several things stand out. The NXE is slick and intuitive. The media capabilities – I frequently stream music from my laptop – are impressive, and would probably be more so if my laptop and my television were ever more than ten feet apart.

This isn’t your PSP or DS or Wii Internet experience, either. Plug that magical blue cable into the back of the box, and the thing is completely aware of the Web from the moment it’s turned on. Full games and demos are just a few button presses away, and your friends list lets you know just who is playing the demo of Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader. All games are aware of Live, whether they’re designed around multiplayer deathmatches or long, solitary campaigns. No game is an island.

This is in many ways such a fundamentally different experience that it’s hard not to expect your other platforms to get their heads in the game. In particular, the sweet shot of endorphins that unlocking Achievements releases is easy to miss when you’ve got your PS2 hooked up or your DS in hand.

Now that I’ve gushed, I feel the need to express my concerns. The thing is pretty loud, especially compared to the other glowing boxes under my television. Even this newest hardware revision is loud, and the general Internet buzz is that it is substantially quieter than past consoles. Even with said new revision, there’s no guarantee that it won’t RROD on me in three months. Everyone made their joke about the power brick three years ago, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still bloody huge. Lastly, I am not really a member of one of their largest target audiences, that audience being people who buy and enjoy Halo. For all its occasional flashes of brilliance, it is glutted with racing and sports and FPS titles that I enjoy sporadically at best.

I am about to make you my bitch.

Yes, I have qualms, but now that I’m on board with this whole “current generation” thing, I’m here to stay.