Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Xbox 360

While I do play video games, I'm hardly a "hardcore gamer". I've been playing the same NASCAR video game on my PC for seven years now, and while I do have a PlayStation 2, the only games I play on it (and am interested in playing long term) are sports games and Guitar Hero/Rock Band type games. That's pretty much it, and that's the main reason why I hadn't moved up to a "next gen" console as of yet. (Secondary reasons: money, lack of spare time especially during curling and kickball season, and because I'm already spending $100/month on television service, meaning any time I spend playing video games is less time getting my money's worth out of my DirecTV subscription.)

Then, two or three weeks ago, after realizing I hadn't turned on the PS2 in two months, I decided I was bored with it. I also had a birthday coming up in a couple of weeks. Hmm...

Well, there you go. Now I have an Xbox 360. (Thanks, Amber!)

Now what? Well, let's go buy some cheap games!

I have a lot of experience with sports games, and here's what I've learned over the years. For one, there is rarely a huge difference between one year's game and the next year's game, but there usually is a huge price difference, so it is almost never worth it to get the latest version of the game. That's why I got "NHL 09" instead of "NHL 10". At GameStop, NHL 09 was $20 used, while NHL 10 was $50 used.

The other thing with sports games is that it's kind of hard to avoid EA Sports. I'm not a big fan of Electronic Arts (I'll save that for another day), but the problem is, with most of their sports games, they either have an exclusive licensing agreement with the league (boo) or have no competition. Hockey is actually one of the few sports for which EA actually does have a competitor, and the general consensus is that NHL 09 and 10 are far superior to their 2K Sports counterparts. Meanwhile, with NCAA Football, there is no competition. So be it - if you want to play video game college football, you're stuck with EA Sports.

NHL 09 was the first game I bought because I think hockey translates better to video games than most other sports. One option NHL 09 gives you is the ability to use the simple control scheme from NHL 94: two buttons. On offense, you can either shoot or pass. On defense, you can either switch players, or hit someone. That's really all you need, right? Simplicity makes for a good game. And, it's fun! Going back to the days when I played NHL 2002 on my college roommate's computer (that would be you, Erik), I've played over 1,000 games of video game hockey. (Yes, I've kept track. Surprised? My video game hockey history goes back much longer than that, but 2002 was when I started keeping track.) Unfortunately, the computerized fans in NHL 09 still chant "Let's Go Hurricanes" rather than "Let's Go Canes", and that bothers me. Meanwhile, just to name a couple of examples, EA has had "Let's Go Buffalo" and "Go Leafs Go" in the game for years. Such is the plight fans of southern hockey teams often face.

Meanwhile, I haven't had a chance to play the football game all that much yet, but I did want to know what the Bowling Green football stadium looked like in the game, since I have actually been there. You know the game's renditions of Doak Campbell Stadium and Beaver Stadium are going to be nearly 100% accurate. But what about Bowling Green's stadium?

Needless to say, that is waaaay too big to be Bowling Green's stadium. I know nobody cares about Bowling Green, and I understand why getting Doyt L. Perry stadium right isn't one of their top priorities...but what gets me is that in NCAA Football 07 for the PS2, the Bowling Green stadium rendition is accurate! Why didn't this carry over into the Xbox 360 version of the game? Surely, the Xbox 2009 version should have everything that the lowly PS2 2007 version had, right? This goes back to my love/hate relationship with EA Sports. Excluding the Madden series (which is very important for the prestige of the company), their effort and attention to detail is, shall we say, selective. NHL 09 is a lot of fun, though, and for that we can thank the NHL for not offering EA Sports an exclusive licensing agreement, and also 2K Sports for providing viable competition.

So, anyway...enough about Electronic Arts. Why did I ask for an Xbox 360 for my birthday instead of a PlayStation 3 or a Wii? First off, a PS3 was completely out of the question - everything I've heard suggests that it's inferior to the Xbox 360, and it's more expensive, too. As for the Wii, there are four reasons I chose the Xbox 360 over the Wii: 1) the Wii does not support high definition; 2) most sports games are designed more for the Xbox 360 than they are for the Wii (NHL 09 isn't even available on the Wii); 3) the Wii is more fun for multiplayer gaming than single player gaming; and 4) because while things like the Wii Fit are really cool, I think I'd get bored with the Wii quickly once the initial curiosity wore off.

Moving forward, I've learned early on that to get the most out of my Xbox 360, I should connect it to the internet. Internet connectivity adds a whole new dimension to what I can do with the Xbox, from multiplayer to downloadable content, just to start. Unfortunately, there are some hurdles to jump on that front. Our house is not wireless, and the internet connection is on the other side of the house. So, here are our options: 1) get a really long ethernet cable (100 feet, or if that's not long enough, 250 feet) and stretch it the length of the house; 2) call Time Warner Cable and ask them to create another cable outlet closer to the television; 3) make my house wireless internet capable and get a wireless adapter for the Xbox. Amber may not like solution #1 (it'll result in a house eyesore), solution #2 will be more expensive (I'm assuming TWC will charge us for the additional outlet, installation, and the additional cable modem we'd need), and solution #3 would be even more expensive than that. However, a stop-gap could be solution #4: temporarily move the Xbox 360 to the side of the house with internet, temporarily hook it up to one of my older standard def TVs, get whatever downloadable content I want, and then move the Xbox back to the HD set. That'll be the short term fix so that I can get things like updated rosters. (If anyone out there has any other solutions I haven't thought of, I'm all ears. Or, since this is an internet blog, all eyes.)

So while I do have the Xbox 360 in hand, I'm far from getting everything completely set up yet. But that's okay, because I've got five years to go.


James Allen said...

My vote is for wireless Internet. All you need is a router and that's like $50. We use it and have the following things that use it:
Amy's MacBook
School MacBook Pros over the weekend
G1 Cell Phones
I'm surprised the XBox doesn't come with integrated wireless...the Wii did.
I guess this means no more PC games and more Xbox games, eh?

Chris Allen said...

Yeah...aside from the old NASCAR game, I wasn't doing that much PC gaming anymore anyway.

To hook up the Xbox to wireless internet, I'd also need to get a wireless adapter for the Xbox (it doesn't come with a wireless card), and apparently that's another $70-80 on top of the $50 router. That's why it's not option #1.

amber said...

Option 1 would be more expensive then you think because I would have to come up with creative ways to hide the wire (tearing holes in the walls, ripping up carpet, covering the wire with different colors of duct tape then covering the rest of the walls with more duct tape to camouflage it, etcetera).
Alternatively, we could crawl under the house and just drill another hole in the den floor?

allen_t said...

Want an atari console? We have one doing nothing. You can't beat space invaders.

James Allen said...

I still can't believe an Xbox 360 doesn't come with wireless connectivity right out of the box. Ridiculous.

Chris Allen said...

Yeah...this is a Microsoft product, remember.

James Allen said...

Microsoft can't hear the complaints through their gigantic piles of money.