Got a private hands on preview yesterday...impressions....

Discussion in 'Gaming' started by Jason Harbaugh, Oct 12, 2005.

  1. Jason Harbaugh

    Jason Harbaugh Cinematographer

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    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? [​IMG]

    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. [​IMG] 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. [​IMG] ) 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. [​IMG]

    Anyway, I do want to thank MS for giving me the opportunity. It was fun, and they treated us very well.
     
  2. Jason Harbaugh

    Jason Harbaugh Cinematographer

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    Oops, left out Xbox 360 in the title. :b
     
  3. Scott_lb

    Scott_lb Supporting Actor

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    Information like this is what's causing me to wait on multiple reviews of the system (and it's games) before picking one up at launch. One gaming publication will say the games look totally amazing and truly next-gen. Another will say that they simply look like really good current-gen games. In order to justify spending $400+, I will have to wait and see. Not too much longer, though.........
     
  4. Jason Harbaugh

    Jason Harbaugh Cinematographer

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    I'll be really curious to see what happens in the next 6 weeks. Some stuff just needs tweaking. All of the problems are very apparent on HD sets. No clue what they look like on SDTV's as far as AA is concerned.
     
  5. David Galindo

    David Galindo Screenwriter

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    Wow, its looking more and more likely that Perfect Dark Zero will tank.

    While Nintendo was a bit flexible with Rare's release dates, looks like Microsoft is rushing them to get this one out the door. Too bad. [​IMG]
     
  6. JoanPablo_T

    JoanPablo_T Stunt Coordinator

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    I had the opportunity to play PDZero last week, I liked it. Thought the graphics were good, surely not the best the 360 can do, but nice. The controller I was worried about (I hate the S Controller) but I was able to use it. The control of PDZero at first seemed a bit hesitant, however I atributed it to me being such a Halo freak and not playing other games [​IMG] I will assume it will have sensitivety controls and hopefully the ability to tailor buttons to perform specific functions. Not just the 'cookie cutter' variations. But I will be buying the 360 at launch along with PDZero.

    jp
     
  7. PerryD

    PerryD Supporting Actor

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    Perhaps some of the games are running at 1080i and being fed into 720p displays? That could explain the aliasing artifacts that you saw.
     
  8. Jason Harbaugh

    Jason Harbaugh Cinematographer

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    Nope, the setting on the Xbox360 were set to 720p. I checked that first thing.
     
  9. Ken Chui

    Ken Chui Supporting Actor

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    Jason:

    Thanks for posting your impressions; your candor is appreciated.


    Wouldn't the engineers or staff on-hand fine-tune the monitors and/or adjust the console settings to ensure that the games were being optimally displayed prior to the event's opening?

    Granted, I haven't seen the games running on an actual HD screen with progressive scan output, but the high-res screenshots and HD movie captures, taken from X05 and shown online (for titles such as PGR3 and Oblivion) on various websites, echo Jason's sentiments re: the lack of AA implementation. There's still a month to go, so there's ample time to add more polish, plus, not every title Jason tested will be available during launch week anyway.
     
  10. Jason Harbaugh

    Jason Harbaugh Cinematographer

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    I also just found out that one of the games where I noticed the biggest discrepancy between the videos and screenshots on the web and what I saw in person, Oblivion, was an older build. That explains a lot, but it just brings up more questions. Why would they purposely use an old build at an event like this?

    It's funny, I've posted this at few places which I was probably expected to do, and some people claim that I'm biased and I went in to hate the console. Harsh claims from gents that don't know me. For one thing, I only owned an xbox this gen, and I loved it. But I'm not a company whore and went in with an open mind and the attitude of 'ok, sell me on your new system.' I wasn't going to sugarcoat anything I saw. Hopefully I come off as being fair, which I at least think I was. PD0 is the only one I was harder on than probably needed. The game just bugged me. [​IMG]
     
  11. Romier S

    Romier S Producer

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    Very simple really. They are knee deep in development hell trying to get thier game finished. Every spare moment is going to be used to fix bugs and complete the title for launch. It's especially worse for all of these developers since they have to deal with that launch deadline and try to make it out day and date with the console. Which will, of course, prove lucrative in the long run (as long as the game doesn't outright suck) and make the hellish hours worth it.

    They use the most stable recent build they have (for Oblivion they are more than likely still showing the E3 build) and keep on trucking towards the final game going gold. It's common practice.
     
  12. James T

    James T Screenwriter

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    What did you post to get a chance like this Jason? In movies, they do advanced screenings to spread reviews via word of mouth. I guess they were counting on a good review from you.

    I'm hoping Oblivion will be less buggy. Bethsoft seems to be gettings better at fixing bugs. Daggerfall was horrible, Morrowind had a few nasty bugs, but overall very stable. I'm just hoping I don't get 50+ hours into the game only to have all my save games crash on me.
     
  13. Jason Harbaugh

    Jason Harbaugh Cinematographer

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    I used to be a staff member at xboxaddict.com for about 3 years. I left that early this year and have been fairly inactive in the xbox community but I have posted comments on E3 and the Xbox 360 and PS3 respectively. Mostly were reguarding the fanboys and their biased views on one system or the other. You know how that gets. [​IMG]

    Anyway, a long story short, someone from MS reviewed the top members at various gaming sites (there was the top forum admin from playstation.com that got invited too) and in their words said "you have a balanced and objective collection of posts. I’m contacting you because of your strong knowledge of consoles and respect within your online community."

    Emailed back, and got a phone call with travel arrangements. There were 2 of us from that particular forum.

    Interesting way to find people and normally I would have called 'scam' on it. Thankfully it wasn't. [​IMG]
     
  14. Derek_P

    Derek_P Stunt Coordinator

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    does the 360 have HDMI output?
     
  15. Chris Brunner

    Chris Brunner Second Unit

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    Did anyone ask about backwards compatability with current Xbox games? Or, has that issue been explained already?

    C
     
  16. BrianB

    BrianB Producer

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    Microsoft have said the premium pack or XBox360s with the extra HD plugged in will be backwards compatible with some Xbox games. At this time, it's not known exactly which games will be compatible. They've said as time goes on, and the emulation improves, they'll make available additional "profiles" for games on XBL for free download.

    Peter Moore said they're working on getting a list of initial titles available sometime this month.
     
  17. Scott Wong

    Scott Wong Second Unit

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    No HDMI output? Weird.
     
  18. Ken Chui

    Ken Chui Supporting Actor

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    I had an opportunity to check out the 360 demo unit at Gamestop yesterday (I was there to pick up my copy of Resident Evil 4 Premium Edition for the PS2).

    There were only three playable demos installed (Call Of Duty 2, Kameo and King Kong); the remainder were game trailers. I didn't want to monopolize the console (as there were a few customers in the store), but I did manage to play the Kameo and King Kong demos (the other customers were more enthralled with Call Of Duty 2).

    Overall, the demos were OK (in terms of presentation and control); nothing extraordinary gameplay-wise. Having to manually adjust the camera angles during combat in Kameo was somewhat frustrating, and there were some AA issues. I didn't get very far in King Kong (no template for the controls were provided and the environment was dark), so I didn't have a take on the demo.

    If anything, my limited hands-on experience helped in reaffirming my decision to forego the purchase of the 360 at launch. Those who are still on the fence regarding its purchase may want to check a Gamestop or Wal-Mart in their vicinity to better determine if the 360 is a must-have come November 22.
     

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