OK, so it actually arrived over 2 weeks ago, but that is beside the point.
I managed to get the premium 360 pack from Argos.co.uk of all places (surprising, since the 360 was not in their catalogue nor was it being sold in any of the stores). More surprising was the fact it came with the Mini Media Remote (which at the time of receiving it was no longer meant to be bundled). Of course this meant I’d need the space for my new toy and there was only one place to put it: where my beloved, nigh on 4 year old Xbox sat.
What to do with the old Xbox? My box of a room isn’t big enough for 3 consoles, and I still played on the PS2. It was time to bite the bullet. My Xbox had to go, and fast. Realising I still hadn’t bought any games for the 360 (and balked at paying £50 a game for it), now would be a good time to sell an awful lot of Xbox gear. And sell an awful lot I did.
A local indy game store had just opened (named ‘360 Games’ no less), and they offered me £48 for my old Xbox, with a Controller S pad (the original mega-fucker pads had long since broken, this was the second Controller S pad too), the advanced SCART block (second one of them as well), and the Xbox Protection lead (lo and behold – second one of them too). Gamestation would’nt touch it. ‘That’s not the original pad’, ‘we can’t those with the protection lead’, ‘what kind of SCART block is THAT?’ and so on. Last time I go there. 360 Games also had the upper hand again: they had some 360 games in stock! Gamestation couldn’t muster a copy of Kameo out of their collective arse if they tried. Settling for Call Of Duty 2 (review up soon), I left this shop one Xbox and £2 lighter, with a feeling this new shop could do well. Yet there was more stuff to sell, notably Burnout Revenge, PGR2 and something else I no longer care about. These, I took to CEX in Leeds, knowing they had the second best trade-in value, and some copies of PGR3 (again, review coming soon) for only £40.
Every damn shop in Leeds was sold out of official Xbox 360 pads. Wired and wireless. Most people would wonder why on earth you’d even contemplate getting a wired pad (wires obviously being SO 2005), but the reason is twofold: It’s cheaper, and only my mate would be using it so I didn’t care. But where to get even a wired pad? I had to settle for something I rarely ever go for. A third-party pad. HMV in Leeds had around 50 Joytech wired pads, and at £20 they were reasonably priced. They looked a bit crap, but that was beside the point, at least 2 player Call of Duty and PGR3 would happen tonight. BONUS! My HMV games card has a fiver on it, so the pad’s an official bargain now!
Getting that discount at HMV reminded me as to what was in my wallet – a £10 voucher for Virgin Megastores. Oh joy of joys! But what to spend it on? I could get £10 off another 360 game, but there’s no point to that – they’re all £10 off at play.com. But whilst browsing Virgin something caught my eye: A 2100 Microsoft Points card for £17.99. My brain takes too long to work out the discount going on here – £8 for a few of Xbox Live Arcade games? What’s not to like? Having downloaded the demos of every Live Arcade game it was not going to take long to spend these points. 400 on Geometry Wars, 400 on Gauntlet, 800 on Outpost Kaloki X and the rest on the Penny-Arcade theme and some gamer pictures. All spent within an hour.
Halo and Halo 2. That’s all I wanted the 360 to work with. Any other games that worked would be a bonus. And bonuses they were: Quantum Redshift actually feels like a sequel (probably because I’d forgotten how it plays). Super Monkey Ball Deluxe! Cor. There is now only one game in my small Xbox collection that doesn’t work and I’m keeping hold of for now, and that’s Star Wars Battlefront 2. Please Microsoft, just make it work! Far Cry – Ubisoft are remaking it. Battlefield 2 – EA are remaking it. Midway Arcade Treasures – they’ll never work, MS want to make sure I buy each retro game again over Live Arcade. That seems to be the problem with my collection, most games I have will NEVER be made backwards compatible, or will be back-compat by the time I’ve forgotten about them.
The DVD playback is noticably better, the 360 winding down so it’s quiter during playback helps an awful lot too. The composite/high-def cable bundled in the premium pack is of really high quality too, something I did not expect from composite and a SCART adaptor. Optical out built into the AV cable saves me buying an advanced pack ever again. Music rips to the hard drive quickly and usefully now, getting the album info off the net and storing the album logically on the hard drive. iPod playback was at first confusing (expecting to be told to download the AAC plugin from the Marketplace, the iPod works straight away – but only showing mp3’s in the dashboard. One download later – and we’re rolling again) Downloaded video content is mixed, quality seems to depend on who has encoded the file. The Amped 3 Trailer (at 480p) for example was terrible, with lots of artifacts and colour issues. Do You Wanna by Franz Ferdinand (music video at 480p) had a problem with the darker colours blotching, but the Aeon Flux trailer looked crystal clear – near DVD quality. Even if the film does sound and look like a turkey.
A week in, and I’m still very, very impressed. The integration of everything, the online experience, the achievments, I’ve honestly forgotten I even had an old Xbox now. This thing is the future, until maybe the next shiny box with lights comes out.