Microsoft XBox

Name: XBox
Made By: Microsoft
Price: $149.99
Includes: 1 controller, audio/video cables, power cord, high-speed ethernet port, 8 GB hard drive.
Does NOT include RF adapter.

What It Is:

Microsoft's first entry into the gaming market is the XBox, released November 15, 2001. It retails for the same price as the Playstation 2, but gives you much more for your hard earned $200.

The box itself includes a hard disk drive, much like a computer, that can be used for saving games or creating your own custom music soundtracks for use while playing games like Project Gotham Racing. It also includes a standard port for connecting the XBox to a high-speed internet connection. Using the same port you can also directly connect up to 4 XBoxes together for a maximum of 16 player games (a standard ethernet hub, appropriate cabling and 4 televisions would also be required.)

Both of these options will be available on the Playstation 2, however it's not known at this time when the hard drive will become available or how much it will cost in addition to the price of the machine. The modem/ethernet connection is available for the Playstation 2 right now, but they are in notoriously short supply. Also because they are not included with the Playstation 2, it's unknown how many software companies will make games that support the new additions.

There are many other devices that are also available for the XBox such as additional controllers (the box itself can support up to 4 controllers, and extra controllers are more or less required for multiple player games. Two memory cards can be used in the top of each controller to save games, although this will only come in handy if you need to take saved game data to, say, a friends house as the included hard drive has more than enough space for game data.

The hard drive can also serve as a sort of digital jukebox. If you place a standard music CD in the drive you can play it back or you can copy music tracks to the hard drive. Once they're on the drive you can organize them into play lists, play all the tracks randomly and use them as custom soundtracks in games. It's also fun at parties. You can store hours of music and play it all back in any order you desire.

For roughly $30 you may also obtain a DVD kit, this kit is required to play DVD movies on your XBox. It includes a standard RCA remote control as well as an infra-red device that plugs into one of the controller ports on the front of the XBox. Unlike the Playstation 2, the XBox WILL NOT FUNCTION AS A DVD PLAYER unless you purchase this special kit. If you have an HDTV set the XBox will NOT output a progressive scan DVD signal. It will do 480i though the additional High Definition A/V kit.

It's also important to note that no system for the past several years will plug directly in to some older television sets. They all use 3 wires, one for video (usually a yellow plug) one for left hand audio (white plug) and one for right hand audio (red plug.) If you look on the back of your television and see either 2 screws (really old televisions) or a single jack with screw threads on it, then you will need an added device to use ANY of these machines on your set. This device is called an RF adapter, it will connect either to the two screws or to the threaded jack and allow you to play games through the older set.

In most cases your VCR will already have the correct connections on the back and all you have to do is connect the game machine to the VCR.

So what should I buy?

I would reccomend buying the XBox bundle ($200) which comes with two games (more on those later) and the DVD kit. If you don't already have a DVD player then it makes sense to get as much value for your $200 as possible, being able to play the latest movies as well as the latest games goes a long way toward that goal.

Save your money on a memory card, you don't need one because games can be saved to the hard drive that's already inside the XBox. If there's more than one game player at home you might want to take the memory card money and put it toward a second controller.

If you have an older set then you'll want an RF adapter. If you have one of those cool new HDTV sets, well, first what are you doing reading this page? LOL. Second you'll want the high-def AV kit which will allow 480i DVD playback and make your XBox games all that much spiffier.

You may have also heard about Xbox LIVE! which was released on 11/15/2002. The LIVE package allows you to connect your Xbox to a DSL or Cable Modem internet connection and play LIVE enabled games against other human beings over the Internet. The LIVE package is $50 and in effect pre-pays for a year of service with the LIVE network. It also includes a head-set and microphone so you can talk to and make fun of every single person you're playing with. A valid credit card is required to sign up for the LIVE service.

GAMES! OK, speaking of games...

XBox games are geared toward an older audience, so bear that in mind when purchasing. There are a limited number of games that are rated "E" for every one, but the showpiece title, Halo, is most certainly an "M" for Mature rating. I'd buy Halo and Project Gotham Racing to start with. Kids may enjoy the crudeness of Shrek or Oddworld. A suprise title though is Fuzion Frenzy which is a marvelous 4-player party game. Role Playing Game fans will be in awe of Morrowind, not so much a game as it is a simulated fantasy life where you can do pretty much anything you want, as long as you're prepared to live with the consequences.

New for the Christmas 2002 season is a wonderful package that includes a brand new Xbox PLUS two games! Jet Set Radio Future where you strap on a pair of rocket powered roller skates and go spray-paint a town and the ultra-realistic off-road racing game Sega GT. Other great games to consider are Blinx: the Time Sweeper and the mature gamer will appreciate two Tom Clancy Games, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell and Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon. Also not to be forgotten is the amazing World War II simulation Medal of Honor: Frontline.

Gamers lucky enough to have DSL or Cablemodem internet access may also enjoy the following games over the Xbox LIVE network, Mech Assault and Unreal Tournament 2003

Why NOT to buy?

There are valid reasons for not owning an XBox, not the least of which is that Microsoft is completely unproven in the gaming market. Sure they have a lock on the computer market, but games? What does Microsoft know about games?

In terms of hardware the XBox is much larger than most other consoles which I don't personally have a problem with, I mean it is smaller than my tuner or laser disc player, but not THAT MUCH smaller. ;^)

There's also the issue of the initial library. The only machine out right now with fewer games than the XBox is the Nintendo Game Cube.