Out of the blue a week ago, I was contacted by MS through a forum, none-the-less, and invited to NYC to try out the Xbox 360 for a day. All paid, so who would say no? Gotta say that I really don't know what to think about this whole thing. For one thing, it was the shortest trip I've ever taken (arrived tuesday noon, left wed AM), but MS spared no expense. Private Cadillac to pick you up from the airport and drop you back off the next day and setup in a swanky $300 a night hotel. Add that to the airline ticket and MS forked out at least a grand for each person just in travel and room. There were also a lot fewer people picked that I thought. 20 total, 10 to NYC, 10 to SF. Anyway, we get to the event around 3, X360's setup everywhere with nice Samsung 30" LCD's all at 720p. About 30 setups like that all over, all developer SKG's, all wired controllers. Only one wireless controller in the place and that was being used by one of the MS people. The control does feel pretty good and after 8 straight hours of gameplay, no fatigue or discomfort so kudos to MS right there. Guess I'll have to get rid of my Duke. First thing we get a tour of the system and a quick glance at Kameo. Kameo is already started and ingame and we get to see one of the coolest features that will surely make you Live lads squirm with joy. Press that nifty 'Xbox' button on your controller and out slides a panel over your current game. In it shows a bunch of info, friends list, messages, your stats, whose online, play music (in any game), etc. Easy stuff to connect to friends, join their game, do other stuff while a level is loading. Pretty cool over all, but a bit sluggish from what I saw. About a 1 to 2 second delay on selection. From this screen you can also load up the dashboard which will quit your current game. So the dashboard. Wow what a huge improvement! The system is very slick with the 'blades' (panels), purty as well and completely skinable. LIVE is the main (first) blade. All the info you could want right there. Next blade was Games. This shows every game stat you have as well as lets you download updates, new stuff, demos, connect to Xbox Live Arcade (some awesome stuff there and comes preloaded with every Xbox360....at least I think that's what they said oh and Geometry Wars fucking rules!!). You can compare your stats with other players and every game is going to have some sort of stat to get even if it is just "You got to level 4". 3rd blade is the media blade. This will connect with any Media Center PC for further features, but you also have pictures and they gave us all ipod nano's to connect straight into the Xbox. The ipod shows up and you can play your music straight from that, no transfers necissary. We couldn't keep the nanos. I assume pretty much any MP3 player will work as well. So the dashboard is a huge success IMO but most of the features I could care less about. As long as Live is a pay service, I won't be a part of it, but for those of you that do hand over your money and play a lot online with friends the new interface will become very useful. So we go through a quick peak at Kameo (more on that later). Then we go to the demos section and check out PG3. Quick race, presentation is over. Then we are set free to play anything we want. Most of the games had at least one person there responsible for it, whether it was the producer, designer or whatnot. So here are the games: Call of Duty 2 First, the only finished game there. The main designer was there and it was pretty funny watching him point out all of the little secrets for me to go to. The game looks just like it does on the PC. If you have played the demo, you know what to expect. Sound is great! (only station there that had wireless headsets for audio as the rest only had minimal sound coming out of the tv, most of the time silent. ) But just like the PC, the graphics aren't anything truly spectacular. Ran very smoothly and should be a hot launch title if you don't buy it on the PC first in the next couple weeks. Kameo A near finished game. Got it to crash a few times. I also spent probably 4 hours on this title alone. Very fun game, creative, and unique. It reminds me a lot of Munches Oddysey. Graphics are pretty good on it and really good in certain situations and certain models, but then others are lacking. There is also a great deal of aliasing which as you read on, turns out to be a problem in most of the games. This isn't a game that you can really describe. You just have to play it. PGR3 Very mixed feelings on this one. The devs went on and on about how much detail is in the surrounds and the buildings etc. Some of it is great, some not that great, some not even needed. The cars, also tons of detail went into them, but then some of them look like they are cell shaded, especially the interior view. But the biggest problem with the game that I had was that it was a jaggy mess! What the hell happened to that free AA that the system could do? You can have the most detailed background in the world, but if the cars look like they were cutout by a kindergardener and pasted on top of that world, it will look like crap. I'm hoping that it is because it isn't finished and they still have to impliment it but man, I was expecting jaggy free gaming from this system. The gameplay was decent. Cars were sluggish, very easy to lose control. Guess I'm too used to Burnout 3. The online element seems to be pretty deep. They have a ticker going across the bottom of the screen when you are in the menus that shows random games that are currently going on and whos winning etc. I will say that the game looked photorealistic if you stepped back a ways where your eyes will cause natural AA. So there's hope. Dead or Alive 4 Checked this one out briefly. Graphics still look good. Not much different from DOA3. The environments now have objects that you can hop over, fences, tables etc. Some also have random elements such as cars that you can throw your opponent into when it drives by causing more damage. Takes timing. The online feature has a virtual lobby where you go in as a character and walk around talking to other people and pick fights. You can also go up to this virtual tv screen and watch the current fight as it is going on. Tons of different looking lobbies to get, and characters. This is where they are going in terms of customization instead of just adding more and more costumes. Fighting is just like DOA3. Oblivion This is a tough one. I watched all the videos, seen the screenshots, then played the game. The graphics are good, and then they are bad, really bad. That opening scene in the jail didn't look anything like the videos. Sure you had some great looking bricks and lighting, but nothing went together or meshed. Again I'll use the kindergarden analogy. Cut and pasted on. Some serious jaggy issues that need to be worked out. The game itself looks pretty good. Crashed that one a couple times. It's Fable, in a different setting. Condemned I didn't play it too much because there was no sound and you really need that for this creepy game. Not positive but I think it is based on the Doom III engine and it looks it. And if it isn't, well they copied it pretty well. Nice use of lighting. It's a mix between Doom III and the movie Se7en and CSI. The guys that played it for a couple hours loved it. Jaggies again present but not as much as some other games. Need for Speed I personally found this game to be more fun than PG3 and the graphics looked top notch as well. Of course this is hard to tell when the game is only running at ~24 frames per second. Now I don't know if the systems we were playing on were the final hardware. So there could have been some power issues, but the game needs work. The open city is pretty cool and you can go anywhere, no loading. And again, jaggies golore. NBA 2k6 Another one of those that can look great at times and then just 'off'. Definitely shows where sports games are going in terms of reality. Didn't care for the gameplay though, but I'm not the best judge for that kind of game. I did notice some framerate issues. Perfect Dark Zero Can't believe I forgot this game. Ok yes I can, because it is completely forgetable! It's just another generic FPS. Not a single thing caught my eye on this. The graphics aren't that hot, the character animations don't look right, the gameplay is clunky. I just wasn't feeling it. I played coop with one of the top gamer chicks from that chick clan (forget the name) and I just got bored. Good sound would have helped a bit but just from the game itself, I no likey. I think that's it. Overall the games look good, but not great. I have a feeling that MS is rushing things a bit for this launch and that's never good. We'll have to wait for the 2nd gen games to come out to see what it can do graphically because none of those games are pushing any envelopes. I also don't believe any game will be able to surpass what current gen PC gfx cards will be able to do. But as developers start using the new features both platforms should get some nice looking games in the future. My biggest complaint is the fucking jaggies. There is absolutely no reason why any Xbox 360 game should have jaggies, or the amount that was apparent in these games. I've been jaggie free ever since I got my 7800GTX and I'm running at 1680x1050p. With the specs the X360 has, 1280x720p should be a cakewalk, and 1920x1080i which is essentially 1920x540. So hopefully those features will get enforced and improved upon. So now about the event. Gotta say, I didn't really get the point of it. MS spends all of this money on a couple random people to fly them out for a few hours of gaming on the system and then just sends them off? No survey's, very few questions answered besides some game specific from the devs that were there. We all kept our memory cards, but that's all the swag we got. Seems like a pretty expensive localized publicity stunt. The various forums will be buzzing though, and that was probably the intent. As for the system itself, it didn't alter my decision to wait for the PS3 and at that time get what I want...hopefully cheaper. Games that exploit the power won't be out for quite a while and I would be a tad worried about the first gen hardware and games. But MS does have a solid console on their hands. It will be successful and if you are a Live junky, then you are there main target audience. That's probably why I'm not super hot on the console. BTW, the controller ports are on the front of the system. Not sure if everyone knew that (I didn't). They are hidden behind a trapdoor. Anyway, I do want to thank MS for giving me the opportunity. It was fun, and they treated us very well.