Bill Kunkel (Editor-in-Chief, "Tips & Tricks" Magazine) gives expert video advice on: What are some games that show off the capabilities of the Xbox 360?; What are the best qualities of the Xbox 360? and more...
What is the "Xbox 360"?
The Xbox 360 is the next generation up from the Xbox, and there has been a significant improvement with the Xbox 360; in terms of graphics and in terms of the sophistication level of the game. Basically I think it was an attempt by Microsoft to get the old Xboxes off the market, because they were basically being transformed into PCs. They are PCs, essentially; almost literally, all you have to do is add a keyboard to it. I believe they call it white boarding. So, people would buy three and four Xboxes, turn them into PCs and start up a little farm there. That was not making Microsoft happy. So, they knew in their next jump that they were going to have to make a system that was not going to be a PC in a box. The Xbox 360 clearly has a lot more of its resources devoted to graphics and animation and frame rate, and the elements that make games look hot.
What are the general graphic capabilities of the Xbox 360?
The general graphic capabilities of the Xbox 360 are not quite as high as the PS3, but again so much of it is subjective. It's like giving two artists a canvas. One artist has access to a million colors, and the other artist has access to two million colors. Will the artist who has access to two million colors necessarily produce a better painting? That's kind of where you're at when considering the capabilities of the Xbox and the PS3.
What type of controls does the Xbox 360 use?
The Xbox 360 uses the BESQ Standard dual analogue joysticks, which has as many buttons that they can possibly fit onto the plastic casing. The joystick has two sets of buttons on top left and right side, and basically just buttons everywhere. What is interesting about this is that they are designated a, b, x, y and unless you are playing in fairly bright lights, it will take you time to adjust to the joystick until you memorize what those buttons are.
What are some games that show off the capabilities of the Xbox 360?
Obviously the newest stuff; 'Lost Planet', and 'Gears of War' are just absolutely remarkable. When people see them for the first time and they're told that the graphics on the Playstation 3 are even better, they're like "I find that hard to believe," because when something really looks great, and you're told that there is even more technology that makes it look even greater, you're pretty much happy with the fact that it looks great already.
Can I play Xbox games on my Xbox 360?
It appears to still be in doubt as to which games are going to be playable. The same problem exists with the Xbox and the Xbox 360. I think everyone sort of assumed that the Xbox 360 would play all Xbox games, but it doesn't. The problem is connected to the engine of the game. The engine is what drives the game. You could play five different games and they're all using the same engine; they're just using different graphic overlays, because it's so expensive to build an engine for a game. So, if the game uses an engine that's already been translated to make it playable on both systems, then any game that uses that engine will be translated over.
What are the networking capabilities of the Xbox 360?
Just as we've gotten used to Windows, get ready for a whole new operating system folks, because here comes Vista. Vista is designed to be compatible with the Xbox 360. So, if I have a new game coming out called Shadowrun (I believe that will be the first) on the Xbox 360 and I've got Shadowrun on a Vista PC, you and I can play one another. I can play on the computer, you can play on the Xbox 360, and we'll both see exactly the same image. They're going to have some problem because whereas all Xbox 360s are playing at the same speed, not all PCs are playing at the same speed. If you've got a quad-core PC that cost you two thousand dollars or something, it's playing a lot faster than an eMachine that cost you maybe three hundred and fifty dollars. So, I don't know how they're going to do the balance on that, but we're now looking at an actual point of convergence.
What are some exciting accessories for the Xbox 360?
Well of course the Xbox Live is the big accessory. It has the ability to play online, and we have wireless connectivity in our place so it's a fairly simple matter to hook it up to your wireless ISP and just play your video games with your friends. You've got your buddy list up there so you know which one of your friends are up there playing at that time; you can chat with them or whatever. If you want to get one of those headsets with the speaker, the little microphone on it, you can talk to one another while you're playing. It's become kind of de rigueur really for game systems these days; almost all the systems have them now and if you want to have online play, people want to talk to one another.
What are the best qualities of the Xbox 360?
The xbox 360 is reasonably priced, and has got a very, very strong selection of software. The convergence with the PC is huge in a lot of areas, because for the first time we can have people playing one another on the same game. This is something that, a couple years ago, would have seemed ten years off - the idea of someone on a console playing somebody online on a PC. It's very, very impressive.