I was lucky enough to win a Xbox 360 from the Pepsi/Doritos BeFirstToPlay contest in Canada. It just arrived today, 8 days ahead of launch date. And it came with Kameo
First impressions: Holy. Friggin'. Crap.
Updated Impressions are in RED
Now that I have had some time to play with it on my projector at 90 inches with 5.1 sound, here are some impresions.
Disclaimer: I am not a professional reviewer, just a regular guy giving you some of my own impressions. I see on a lot of forums people think I am lying about there being no jaggies in Kameo. Trust me, I don't see any. I can see them in Halo and Halo 2's backwards compatibility mode quite easily as I mention below but not in Kameo which is razor sharp across the board. Also keep in mind I am viewing this stuff on a best case scenario setup. My stuff is all calibrated and setup properly. I'd like to think of myself as an amateur videophile. Thanks and enjoy the review. :)
The Package and Hardware
The box is smaller than I thought it would be, but it's quite heavy. It's sturdy and everything is packed well. Half of it is the console tucked in nice and snug (hard drive is already attached), and the other half is all of the accessories individually bubble wrapped.
There's a quick start guide, warranty form, and two sets of AA batteries included as well (for the media remote and wireless controller).
The power supply (brick) I am sure you have all seen by now. It's rated at 203 watts according to the back, so that explains its size. The Xbox 360 sucks up a lot of juice to provide all that horsepower! The cords are thick and well shielded. Nothing feels cheap. The Component and A/V cable is also of high build quality. There is a switch on the connector to select TV or HDTV. TV defaults to 480i and 4:3 fullscreen ratio and HDTV defaults to 480p.
The controller feels similar to the S controller but it has been improved. I'd say it's virtually flawless and it should work well for both large and small hands. I have big ones and nothing felt strained. The rumble seems SLIGHTLY less powerful than the corded Xbox S controller. This must be because of it running on batteries and wanting to conserve power. It still does its job though.
When you power off the console, the controller also powers off to save battery life. Both the console and controller will turn on if you power the console on from the controller. If you power it on manually, then you also have to remember to turn the controller on (Xbox guide button).
Media remote is nice, didn't get much of a chance to play with it yet but it feels solid.
Headset is similar to the original XBL headset, just white. :)
Lastly, the console itself runs QUIET!! I can't even hear it from where I am sitting (about 10-12 feet away)
Hard Drive Content
There are a few high definition videos on the hard drive. One on the making of Xbox, a Warren Miller one, and a Titanic one. I only watched a few seconds of each so I can't comment on the content but the quality was great.
Hexic HD is the XBL Arcade game included. There is also 12 songs on the hard drive to get you started. Standard pop music really. Nothing too bad though, at least its not as bad as "EA Trax."
No Halo 3 trailer, sorry guys. ;)
Sleek and sexy as we have all seen in the pictures. I don't really need to go into this that much. You use left and right on the left thumbstick to switch blades. The audio that accompanies all the interface movements is nice and not too overpowering. After playing around with it for 5 minutes it all felt natural and intuitive. I must say it's pretty handy being able to touch the Xbox Guide button no matter what you are doing and get instant access to your dashboard again.
I wasn't able to sign in with my existing Xbox Live account. When I enter my passport information it says sign-ups are not available at this time. I am connecting to the service though, as it downloaded an update before I did anything. I am hearing other Pepsi winners are having the same issue. Must not be up and running this early (still 8 days before launch). I called Xbox Live Support and his best guess was that it would be up and running in time for Zero Hour on the 20th.
It works now! Here is my GamerCard:
There doesn't appear to be any downloadable content yet. Also there are no downloads for backwards compatibility yet.
I spent maybe 2 minutes with the included Hexic HD game, there were more pressing matters to attend to. It looks kind of like Tetris. Not really my thing...I am waiting for the classic arcade games.
The DVD playback is progressive scan and limited to 480p It won't output in 720p or 1080i. It's better than the Xbox DVD player's quality and is a perfectly fine solution for the average person. I still prefer my HTPC and scaling to 720p though.
Networking with Windows
Hooking up my Windows XP Pro computer to the 360 was a breeze. First you install Windows Media Connect 2.0 and then turn your Xbox 360 on, then start up WMC and you get this:
It automatically recognizes that the 360 was on my network. So once I allowed the 360 access, I was taken to this screen:
I shared my own custom music folders then went back downstairs to my shiny new Xbox 360 and went into the Media Blade. The cool thing is, it organizes the music for you. It looks at the ID3 tags of the MP3 files are organizes them into Artists and Albums, and Genres if the tags have it. So first thing I picked with A Perfect Circle's Emotive album.
Neon, the music visualizer
Then I fired it up and was blown away. I can't state this enough: The music visualizer is FREAKING AMAZING. You have no idea what you are in for! I spent a full half-hour just going through my music and being amazed by the visuals. Screenshots, or even the videos on the official Neon site do it no justice. It reacts to the music so well its scary, and you can influence it with your controllers analog sticks. Using the D-pad switches the different visualizers. This would be the ultimate thing to have playing at a party while the music is going. It's hypnotic. Sorry, no pics. My digicam just isn't good at taking them from a projector because I have to leave the shutter open for so long. It just ends up blurry even with a tripod.
I don't have Windows Media Center so I can't test the video streaming. The photos feature I haven't even touched yet.
I tried burning video files to disc (both AVI and WMV) and while the 360 recognized it as a "Mixed Media" disc, it wouldn't let me play the video off of it. But you can play music or view photos off a CD-R/W or DVD-R/W. I am going to see if I can get Windows Media Center for one of my PCs to see what formats of video I can stream.
WMA Surround sound worked.
Since I cannot yet connect to Xbox Live, the only games I could test were Halo and Halo 2 as they are the only ones that are B.C. out of the box. I have also read that this is an old B.C. build for Halo and Halo 2 and once you get on Live you can download the new one.
B.C. games work like any other. Just pop them in and they run after being proceeded by a white Xbox screen to denote that it's an original Xbox game.
Yes, the games run in 720p, and YES they look a lot better than the originals on a HDTV. This build didn't seem to have anti-aliasing enabled but I am confident the downloadable one will have it (says so in Microsoft's site anyway). The frame rate was smoother than the original Xbox for both games. Playing these games in 720p is a real treat and it improves the visual quality quite a bit. It looks nothing like the screenshots on Bungie's site... it's much, much better. I am going to revisit the Halo:CE campaign soon because of this. The controls feel identical. Only difference is that the white and black buttons get mapped to the two new shoulder buttons.
I played the first level on both Halo and Halo 2 and found no issues whatsoever. Upon playing again at a louder volume, there was some sound issues but someone pointed out a post to me on halo.bungie.org from a Bungie audio guy who says the audio emulation wasn't finished in this patch. The new one is supposed to correct it.
Also note that Halo 2 pop-up is still present, but it is minimized. The pop-up finishes quicker probably due to the faster DVD drive.
Kameo: Elements of Power
So after I went through all the "boring" stuff, I sat down and popped Kameo in. This would be the first time I would see a 360 game in action. I avoided the Kiosks as I wanted to be a Xbox 360 virgin when I got my own.
Holy. Mother. Of. God.
This is the best looking game my eyes have seen. Period. End of story. There is no way you can claim this game isn't next-gen. It is. It ran smooth as butter in 720p and there wasn't a single jaggy that I could find. Hello anti-aliasing! The textures are ultra high res, the various normal mapping, bump mapping, parallax mapping, etc. makes it all come to life. Character models are highly detailed. The environment are gorgeous, both up close and far away. It's just a delight to look at.
I am sorry I can't provide any pics. You can't freeze the game, so stuff is constantly moving and it just blurs when the shutter is open for so long.
Anyway, let me talk about the gameplay for a bit. It's heavenly. You start out with 4 warriors: Kameo, Major Ruin, Chilla and Pummel Weed. Each of them has two main abilities and several special abilities and these all can be used in combos across multiple warriors. The gameplay is simple and intuitive in its roots...you find your fingers doing all the work without even thinking, but below this lies a great deal of depth.
This is what sets Kameo apart from other "similar" games I have played. It's easy to play, FUN to play, but it takes great skill to be a true master at it.
On the first level, there are tips scattered throughout that you can walk onto and press A to read them. As you go on it teaches you more special moves and combos you can do. For example, in one area you need to use Chilla and Pummel Weed to get past a gate. Chilla throws a spear to open the gate slightly just giving enough room for Pummel Weed to slide underneath. Another example with Pummel Weed is double tapping forward on your left thumbstick followed by RT+LT at the same time gives you a powerful double punch.
I haven't spent enough time with the game though, so this will be short. I am still on the first level!!
More Kameo Impressons
I got a little further in the game and experienced some amazing stuff. It's funny, as I am typing this I see a commerical for "Ratchet: Deadlocked" on TV and just seeing that after spending time with Kameo really, really makes me think we have entered the next generation.
I had my first boss battle and it was fun as hell. Reminded me of the classic boss battles of old but with new twists. In this particular fight I used Pummel Weed to uppercut and stun him, then used Chilla to throw Ice Spears in his neck til he was dead.
I saw my first bit of Kameo water. Photo-realism anyone? Well very, very close to it anyway. Both the look and the physics behind it are revolutionary.
I got to play a level on Horseback :) The one where you run down the thousands of trolls. It controlled beautifully and during one part you run through tall grass and it reacts to your horse galloping through and it was truly a sight to behold. Besides the water it was my biggest "jaw drop" moment of the game.
There are lots of secrets in the game, so explorers will be rewarded. The rewards include Elemental Fruit to upgrade your warriors attacks and more!
Here's the pics of the packaging and contents