EDG Staff Impressions on the New Xbox Experience

Thomas Pine:

Once downloaded the first thing that you’ll come across is the custom avatar screen. I have to be honest – I first knocked MS for blatantly ripping off Ninty’s Mii idea, but after spending some time with this new feature I was surprised at the level of depth involved. Don’t get me wrong it’s still XBL’s equivalent to Miis, but that doesn’t take away from the fun of it. I still have a problem getting my character to look like me though?!? There are other more impressive features with this new update. What I appreciate the most is the new group chat feature where you can gather together a group of friends and talk about whatever. It’s a nice experience that only adds to the community aspect of live. I expect to spend a lot more time group chatting with friends. The other feature that I feel is well implemented is the ability to now download your games to the 360’s hard drive. This still requires you to have the disc in your 360’s tray in order to play, but now you won’t have to worry about the added stress from the constant spinning of the disc (and let’s face it the 360’s not exactly notorious for build quality). Also with this added feature you can now worry less about scratched discs, and at $60 a pop that’s a nice quality. All of this will inevitably push those who have not upgraded to the 120g HD to now do so. The only negative thing that I can see with this dashboard update is how the blade system is now handled. By pushing the guide button on your controller it will, for the most part, bring up everything that was available with the old dashboard. The problem is that it just doesn’t look as nice to me as before, and almost seems to be displayed in a lower resolution. It’s a minor criticism for an otherwise beautiful build. In all, I really like the new dashboard, and the features that it’s included. While I haven’t had a chance to mess with Netflix yet, I look forward to doing so. With a price tag of free what is there to complain about? It’s just another example of how MS really has a lock on the online gaming experience.

David Lange:

When I first saw the concept for the NXE and it’s Avatars I was…skeptical. Since the runaway success of the Wii, Microsoft has suddenly developed an interest in the, apparently profitable, casual market (another ship to plunder). They began launching adds imitating Nintendo’s own, with a similar play-together theme aimed at the casual crowd. Though these me-too blurbs died down, the NXE, I believe, is a continuation of this trend and Microsoft’s intention to expand the Xbox audience, with a tamer user friendly aesthetic more approachable for the non-gamer. The Avatars are a ripoff of the Mii’s and the expanded community features of the interface are an attempt to channel peoples’ attention and interest into Microsoft’s new ‘all inclusive’ online community. However, regardless of corporate agendas, I would have to say that after my first “experience” I was fairly impressed, though mostly with the polish, ease and style of the aesthetic (I haven’t delved deeply into all of the features yet.) The uber-slick, Hi-Def visuals and character models make Nintendo’s cutesy Mii’s and their cut-out features look like kindergarten art projects and the Wii’s sparse interface, might as well be DOS by comparison. Old features are improved, new ones have been added, including a simplified but functional Netflix interface (we’ll talk about that later), navigation is easier than ever and overall the environment is far more appealing. It may not attract the casual revolution Microsoft needs to compete in the same ocean as Nintendo (the real hook is the motion control after all) but it’s a stepping stone for the next generation. As XBL evolves with each cycle, so too will the breadth of it’s community. It signifies the reshaping of the industry and things to come.

Patrick Adams:

Microsoft has truly achieved a great thing with NXE. Now more than ever I feel like I am hanging out with my friends, playing games, even if they are playing different games and playing them across the country. With NXE it feels like it’s just one big party. No other console has this effect on me. When I sign on to my PS3 I usually can see maybe one or two friends on but it’s nothing that feels “alive.” As for the Wii, it feels like a total dead zone. Anytime I turn on my Wii and play something I feel like I am playing alone and missing out on the Xbox crowd. This is definitely a positive thing for Microsoft and with the release of NXE it feels like a whole new console. Everything (except for a few minor things) seems to run a lot faster and smoother. The menu’s are very organized and have a sharp look and feel to them. I have to admit when I first saw NXE I was kind of dissapointed. Especially with the new avatars but these feelings have all changed now that I have gotten some hands-on time with it. I am very satisfied with the change. I am also looking forward to the avatar options to expand. Hopefully they will be releasing more and more things for your avatar. How cool would that be to have a L4D t-shirt?! The one thing that I think I enjoy the most is the menu button, it does everything that the original 360 design did and it does it a lot better. Overall I really like NXE and am enjoying all the new features. I can’t wait to see some more Community Games as well.

Eric Bouchard:

I have been looking forward to the NXE for quite a while. Granted, I could take or leave the avatars, but I was looking forward to seeing how well the Netflix streaming would work and testing things like installing games to the hard drives. What have I learned since the download? I like the avatars more than I thought I would. The Netflix streaming is impressive, with the only real downfall being having to pre-queue your movies. The party system is better than advertised, giving friends a chance to keep in contact over multiple games and battles. The hard drive instalation is a bit of a mixed bag right now; while it does not improve a game like Gears of War 2, it makes a huge difference while navigating menus in Fable 2. As more games are designed with this feature, it will be more than just something that keeps you from wearing out your DVD Rom drive. What has impressed me more that anything else is just how clean the new interface is. After using the blades for more than a year, it is taking a little getting used to, but I think NXE is a major step in the right direction for Microsoft.

Patrick Adams

I am the founder/creator of Everyday Gamers. I am a husband, father, and gamer. You can find me as CrownOfThornz on Xbox Live, PS3, and Twitter.

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