Friday, May 14, 2010

Xbox Live

A few days ago I bought a wireless adapter for my 360 and signed up for Xbox Live. Long story short, I don't know how I ever lived without this. I'm about ready to quit my job, dump my girlfriend, and withdraw completely from all society in the "real world" and just exist online, playing games, watching movies, and... well, that's about it, but that's enough.

I'm just going to break down my initial impressions, opinions, and experiences so far.

Set-up and Payment:
Out of the box, you get nothing but an ethernet cable and port on the back of the console. Wi-Fi requires purchase of a $100 adapter, and that's in addition to Xbox Live Gold membership that costs $50 bucks a year. So you are already looking at an initial investment of $50 bucks just to get online and play some games, which isn't very expensive all things considered, but it is kind of lame in comparison to the PS3's completely free online model. I understand why Microsoft charges to get online, but it still seems silly to pay a fee for the opportunity to buy things through the X-Box Live Marketplace.

As my buddy Justin mentioned in one of the comments on an earlier post, you also have the option of getting online by jacking your 360 into a laptop that has wi-fi, but for a couple of unimportant technical reasons that didn't give me satisfactory results.  But you can read all about that here if you are interested.

I sold a bunch of old games I never play anymore to Gamestop and made enough in store credit to pick up the wi-fi adapter for next to nothing. All you do is pop in the driver CD, restart your 360, and plug in the adapter. I was literally online about five minutes after getting home from the store. It's fairly idiot proof. I do wish the cable from the adapter was a bit longer and also that it plugged into the ethernet port on the back instead of taking up one of the USB ports on the front, but these are minor complaints. Oh, and I also wish it had been, I dunno, $50 cheaper. And that's a major complaint.

Once you get online and create an account, you set up an avatar. This was pretty fun since I like that sort of thing (you can see mine up on right there), but they are a bit too cutesy for an adult game console. They look only slightly more articulated than Wii avatars. There are a lot of options to customize his or her features and play dress up, with even more options available to buy online at prices that are, frankly, way too high.

Oh, and my name is "Fuwalda." Look me up if you're so inclined. My avatar is lonely.

Music Marketplace:
I haven't spent much time here, but I guess it's where you can buy music and videos. So far, all of the videos I've previewed are in standard definition and look fairly crummy, and I can't imagine why anybody would buy music straight to their 360. But if that's what you want to do, here's where you go to do it.

Video Marketplace:
Here is where you can buy or rent movies in SD and HD. I haven't done this, but they seem to be reasonably priced and the selections for new releases seem decent. Much better is the Netflix tab that allows you to stream movies as long as you already have a Netflix account. It gives you access to your queue and even lets you browse for movies in different categories. A search feature would've been nice as well, but I'm sure that will come with some new update. As long as your connection is good, SD movies look great and HD movies look fantastic. When I'm not playing games, this is where I spend a lot of my time. The HD movies look so good, I'll often watch just a few minutes of each just to see how good each film looks. I've become such a video snob over the years, I'll actually watch Bio-Dome in HD instead of, say, Ghandi in SD.

Games Marketplace:
And this is why you get a 360 in the first place, right? And the games marketplace doesn't disappoint. Here you can download demos or HD videotrailers for almost every game on the market. You can even buy a select number of full games, but I haven't done that yet. I think I'd rather just own the actual game all things considered, but sometime when I'm bored or drunk in my apartment I'm sure I'll end up buying Dead or Alive Extreme 2 or something equally stupid. Downloading is simple and fast, with the ability to line up downloads in a row. You can even play some games while you're also downloading, but some games suspend downloading in the background. I'm not sure why some games do this, but it must have something to do with online content. And when your downloads are down, a small, unobtrusive little box appears letting you know.

Honestly, just being able to download game demos straight to your console is a game-changer that makes this generation of game consoles the best ever, in my opinion. I never have to leave my apartment again.

Facebook is available on the 360, but the format is so odd and unintuitive that it is basically worthless. I never use it, and neither will you.

Web Browser:
Why is there no web browser? It seems like that would be a no-brainer. Nobody in their right mind would want to surf the web on their 360, but it would've been a nice option all the same. It's not something you'll miss, but it is a curious omission.

Bottom Line:
Xbox Live is a bit expensive to get set up right away, but it more than pays for itself with the embarrassment of riches it has to offer. If you have a 360 and aren't online, you're missing everything the console has to offer.

1 comment:

Justin Garrett Blum said...

I like the jukebox functionality of the 360 once it's hooked up to your home network and can stream music files off of your PC. You don't need Xbox Live for that part, though.