Microsoft Xbox Console Review [04/02/02]

Launched in November 2001 in the North American market, Microsoft's first effort in the console gaming market has hit big. With recent launches in Europe and Japan, Microsoft looks to challenge both Nintendo and Sony for a piece of the videogaming pie. For more information, check out the Xbox website.

Out of the Box
Grade: C+
When you buy the Xbox, be sure to pick up a couple things with it. In fact, unless you want a $300 paperweight, you're gonna have to buy a game or the DVD Remote. Unlike the PS2, the Xbox doesn't have anything to be backwards compatible to. So, basically, the Xbox is a $350+ investment just to play much of anything. Fortunately, you can pick up an issue of the Official Xbox Magazine that comes with a demo disc.

Console Hardware
Grade: A
Xbox is easily the most powerful console of this generation, spec-wise. Along with that is the fact that the console comes with it's own internal hard drive, which allows for game saves and recording songs from CDs. In fact, the 8 GB hard drive will keep you from having to buy a Memory Unit when you initially purchase the console. Also in the back of the console is a built-in Ethernet Port for online play. With four controller ports for multiplay, you'll find the Xbox console perfect for your gaming needs. The only drawback I see is the lack of online options for those who don't have or don't wish to pay for Broadband online access.

Grade: B
I won't lie to you. The Xbox controller is fairly big. But where most of it's size lies is in the two slots for the Memory Units. Once you put the controller in your hand, it takes a little time to get used to, but once you find the right way to hold it, it feels fairly comfortable. Unless you're a young child or have small hands, it won't take much time to get used to the controller. The analog sticks are responsive and the two triggers have sufficient spring to them. The lengthy cord (with the breakaway safety feature) is a nice addition that I hope other console makers pick up. My only real concern is the buttons, which seem a little too close together and the location of the Black and White buttons, which seem a little out of the way.

Memory Unit
Grade: B
For $35, you'll find this piece of equipment a little less of a requirement. In fact, unless you like to take your game saves over to a friend's house, you're better off just saving the money for games or the DVD remote. It is nice that this isn't a required expense, but for the money, you're still getting the same deal out of this as you would a PS2 memory card.

DVD Remote
Grade: B
Yeah, the $35 seems a little pricey, but that's to keep the DVD fees from being a part of the console price. Unless you have AAA batteries lying around, add another couple bucks to the cost of this piece of hardware. Since the DVD function isn't a required part of the console, this really is optional, but if you bought the console as a part-time DVD player, better scratch around for a few more bucks for the DVD remote.

Games - Launch
Grade: A-
The Xbox had a number of titles released at launch or just afterwards. In fact, Microsoft was fortunate to have a number of great console-selling titles to help them right off the bat. Halo, Dead or Alive 3, and Munch's Oddessy easily made the console worth a purchase. Along with that were a variety of titles to help the new console compete in the market.

Games - Long Term
Grade: A-
Microsoft's strength for the future lies in three areas: Original titles created specifically for the console, like Project Ego; titles being developed for either PC and Xbox or for all consoles; Sega's large and growing support of the console, which will bring all of the Sega fans onboard. Where the Xbox may have problems is the lack of support or original titles from Japanese RPG-makers like Square and Enix. Even without that, the game lineup does manage to promise a lot of good things to come.

- - Vane

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