CONFUSING Reviews: Microsoft’s XBOX 360 – System Features

Posted on March 11, 2007. Filed under: confusing reviews, features, gaming, reviews, sundays, xbox 360 | Tags: , , |

CONFUSING Reviews: Microsoft’s XBOX 360 – System Features

We’ve all asked our selves, “What Game system is right for me” every time a new one comes out but this generation it is a whole different story. This time you might be asking your self, “What games do I enjoy most,” “Which system has a better online component,” and of course, “How much money do I feel like spending today?” All of these questions are very hard to answer to some degree but hopefully this little piece I wrote up will help you decide, “What is right for me?”

Read Also: How the Console Crumbles

Microsoft’s XBOX 360 – OnlineFeatures


I’m still thinking, maybe Green is better…

Sure, I could sell you a console but why would I want to when I can help you choose the best one for you. This generation all the consoles have some special feature that makes them different from the other; the PS3 with its Blu-Ray, the Wii and the remote, but what does the 360 have? Well the XBOX 360 has lots of good and bad features that helps it become truly unique, at least “unique” in a sense that it has things the other two console don’t have yet…

This part of this series will dive into the machine behind the mask, what it has got to offer. It’s a lot more than you think.

XBOX 360 Dashboard


Let’s start off by asking “How do we use this monster?” Last generation the consoles were easy to use but there was a trade off: they only did three things at most. Now we have consoles that perform 5 to 10 things-all at once. This may have been a problem if it wasn’t for the XBOX 360 Dashboard.XBOX Live
The 360 Dashboard has everything you want to access on the screen. Should it be XBOX Live, Games, Media, or System settings, you can access it and view it on a series of “Blades.” Each subject given above has its own blade. When you first power on your system the “XBOX Live” Blade appears and shows what messages you have, which friends are online, the XBOX Live Marketplace, and a disc-tray like icon that asks if you want to play the game or open the disk tray [should a game not be in there already]. It also shows you your gamercard [we’ll dive into that later]. It’s great that the XBOX Live Blade shows up first because it lets you see which friends are online [if you have XBOX Live and internet access], and what messages they have sent you. This is important because it lets you “Jump In” with your friends fast without having to wait and answer them quickly.If you have yet to sign up for XBOX Live or create a Game Profile for your saves and such the 360 reminds you and tells you if you have done so or not.

Some of you may be saying “…but I wanted to play a game first but on every blade you can access disc based games quickly because of the aforementioned picture on the bottom of the screen. But if you wanted to play other games, such as XBOX Live Arcade titles you could always switch to the Games Blade. As with the XBOX Live Blade you will see your gamercard, Achievements, the games you’ve played, the XBOX Live Arcade icon, and a place to play any downloaded demos.

From the Achievements icon you can view what games you have achieved points on and what achievements you still need to get. From the Played Games icon you can view the games you have, uhh played. This includes disc games, XBLA titles, and XBLA Trials. Demos are not counted here. From the XBLA icon you can view the games you have downloaded, download more, and view the last game you played. You can even set your XBOX to download new games while you are not home.

XBOX Live Arcade
When you view the games you have downloaded you have many options to choose from, besides the given one of playing. You can view the Friend Leaderboards to see which of your friends has the highest score, the achievements you have unlocked, and to delete the game. From this screen [after selecting the game you want to play] you can also view its rating and tell a friend about it.

Having the options for playing games all in one place makes playing games easier and fun.

But, what if you don’t want to play games? What if you want to watch a movie or listen to music, or both? Well, as with disc based games you can select to play a DVD, CD, or HD-DVD from any blade but if you want to watch downloaded movies, TV shows, and listens to music from your mp3 player you need to switch to the Media Blade. All three, the XBOX Live, Games, and Media Blades, are next to each other with the System Settings last. Switching to the Media Blade will let you choose, again, your gamercard, Music, Pictures, Videos, the Video Marketplace, and Windows Media Center [We’ll go into that later].

When you first get your 360 up and running the Dashboard may seem a little bland but there are solutions to that. While you may not want to buy them all there is Dashboard themes available for purchase as well as free themes available on your 360. Some are really cool and add style to your 360 and makes it unique. The theme I like the best is from The Darkness videogame.

These “Blades” are sort of like the PSPs XMB but not. All of the grouping of the different items can sometimes lead to confusion. Sure, Microsoft had good intentions of when they put the navigation together but there are some problems.

First of all, not everything is in front of your eyes. When you pick one item in a category the screen changes to another blade, then to another, and another, and another and so on…
All of these blades can be a hassle. When you’re done picking one thing amongst all of those blades you have to navigate out of them; one by one. It would be best if the navigation was more like a tabbed internet browser but it is not and finding things at certain points can be a hassle. To top it off on certain occasions the Blades will glitch and freeze up for a couple of seconds; this really bothers me especially when I receive messages while playing a game.

To kind of counter this problem Microsoft put the main user blade in to the OS. To get to this all you have to do is press the Center Button. On this Blade you can access your friends list, messages, and recent players. You can also access settings, the music player, and chat settings. If it wasn’t for this Blade I probably would never use the 360 for anything but gaming.

POP-UP – Thumbs Up!


So, you’ve got a new message and you want to find out how to read it or find out its there. What do you do? Well, you do nothing but press a simple button. When ever you receive a message or when ever a friend logs into Live just press that center button on your controller. When you do so your system will take you directly to that message or friends profile. But how do you know you received a message or if a friends online? Your 360 tells you! You may not like pop-ups on the internet but these ones you will like.The pop-ups only appear when a message is received, a friend logs in, you unlock an achievement, or when a download is finished. When ever you see the pop-up pressing the center button brings you new info in the form of a blade. This can happen in the dashboard, in-game, and when your watching a movie or playing music. If you don’t like the pop-ups you can disable them so that they don’t show up during movies or so that they don’t make a noise when you are playing a game.The pop-ups make navigating the Dashboard a little easier. Some developers have even changed were the pop-ups appear so that they don’t mess with your groove or get in the way of the cut-scenes. In Geometry Wars the creators made it so that the pop-ups appeared after you died but you knew you unlocked your achievement because they put a sound in the game to play when you did so.

The best part of the system is the pop-ups because without them, as I’ve said before piloting the console would be somewhat of a challenge.

Games on the 360


What did you buy your last console for? Was it for a new music player? Internet browsing? DVD capabilities? I didn’t think so. It was for the games right? You bet it was. Sure, I can go into everything else with full in-depth analysis, bit by bit but wouldn’t you get bored. You want to know what the 360 has to offer for when you are playing games and that’s what I’m going to tell you about.Playing those games; plain and simple!
Playing a game on the 360 is way better than playing a game on any other console. IF I had all three consoles and wanted to buy a multi- platform game I would buy the 360 version. Let me tell you why before you start a flame war [unless you already have because you probably haven’t read this far into the review]: Achievements!Achievements make for a better more long lasting experience. If the 360 didn’t have Achievements I probably would have stopped playing Gears of War a long time ago. Achievements give me a sense of satisfaction and I love that I can show off my abilities to others because all of your achievements are tied into your gamercard. One doesn’t even have to play the story line to unlock most of the achievements in a game. All games are required to have achievements as well. Most retail games have 1000 and XBLA titles have 200. Some retail games are known to have less than 1000 points; like Crackdown.

Another thing you can do whilst playing a game is listen to music from your iPod and hard drive. Just imagine: listening to the latest by your favorite “emo” rock band while you are growing your Viva Piñata garden [hilarity ensues]. Music background playing is not just possible on disc based games but also with all XBLA titles and demos.

Say you’re playing Gears while your friend is playing Viva Piñata and you want to invite him to play co-op, what is a person to do. Well, with the 360 you can invite your friend to join you from the game you are playing. All he has to do is accept the invite. This is another key feature that without would make for some very confusing times; remember the dashboard and its plethora of blades?].

Gaming on the 360 is finely executed; much more than listening to music or navigating the system. There are some bad things however. When playing a disc based game the disc drive becomes unbearably loud, too loud to play the game with low volume and still hear your mom across the way hiss-y fitting. It’s even hard to hear what your friends are saying online or in chat. Even when playing an XBLA title the system is loud as well; mostly because it is trying to cool itself down. This is not a problem 100% of the time but it shouldn’t be a problem at all.

It’s a home theater in a box…


So game playing has got you bored eh? Well don’t fret [well maybe you can] the XBOX 360 is a multimedia device. Besides having the ability to play games on and off a disc it also has the ability to play DVDs, CDs, mp3 players, and view pictures. The 360 has the basic features of the PS2 for when it comes to playing DVDs and CDs but it does a whole lot more as well.MusicThe music experience on the 360 is a great one. When playing CDs you can extract tracks from them and store them to its hard drive. When doing so you can create play lists and playback your music while playing games. However it can not extract or save songs from your iPod to its hard drive although it might be able to do so with the ZUNE.

When not in a game while you are listening to music you can use your 360 as a party machine. It has many visualizer settings that are said to all be different although most look exactly alike. While in that mode you can set the music to shuffle and such. It may not act like the Windows Party Player on your PC but it is close.


When watching movies you can pretty much do what you do when playing games sans listening to music. You can message people, join games you’re invited to, and see what your friends are doing. You could probably listen to music as well but why would you want to? There is only one problem I have with the 360 while watching movies. That problem is the fact that the disc drive is extremely loud. This problem only occurs when you are watching DVDs or HD-DVDs on the HD-DVD adapter [sold separately].

The 360 has other ways of watching movies. You can download them just as you would download XBLA games. The selection ranges from comedies, action, and drama to TV shows, trailers, and animations. The Video Marketplace is a great place to download a movie and watch it without having to leave your home but there are some drawbacks. Full length movies [some] are purchased on a rent-only basis meaning after a certain time the video is automatically deleted from your hard drive. Some of these movies are really old as well but some are new. Most of the TV shows are classics and are very popular. The download times are phenomenal as well. And if you are lucky you will find a video that is free for download like South Park.

Watching downloaded videos is better than disc based ones on the 360 because you don’t have to put up with the loud disc drive.

In Conclusion
Well this is not the end of the full review but it is the end of this part. What you should get from this section is:

  • The 360 Dashboard is great due to it trying to organize everything in an easy to use way.
  • It is bad because everything is not in front of your eyes [making for some confusing dilemmas] and it sometimes has glitches that ruin the fun of using your 360.
  • “Playing games on the 360 sometimes is a better experience because of the achievements but that does not necessarily mean the games are better.”
  • Listening to music while playing games is fun but listening to the disc-drive while playing games is not.
  • Watching downloaded movies is great while disc based movies can be hard to hear.
  • The best multimedia feature the 360 has is the ability to listen to music.
  • POP-Ups are good as are achievements.

Part three will be coming soon. It will deal with the 360 accessories and exclusive titles. Until then let the flame wars commence.



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