Last night, Microsoft invited us to preview the XBOX 360. The whole thing was arranged in a big appartment, with couch space for everyone and 4 consoles with 2 controllers each. There was free pizza, chips, beer & soda, and we got to test a few of the launch titles. This sounded like a lot of fun.

I think the whole thing was mostly a demonstration of how to throw good money after bad in PR. The MS head office probably had the (good!) idea behind this event. “Let’s invite potential early adopters, let them play in a fun atmosphere, and they’ll tell their friends to buy a 360”. The idea is that we and all the other people they’ve invited over the past weeks are the kind of people that our friends look towards when making buying decisions, and that’s probably correct. So, good idea!

But: If you do that, you should follow it through all the way. The two guys that oversaw the event were not really trying to steer our experience there in any way, which, from a PR standpoint, is bad. For the same reason we do PR tours in AO instead of letting the press figure out the clunky interface and grind through a backyard, these people should have made sure we see the good bits, and gloss over the bad stuff. I mean, this is basic stuff: We were obviously all a bit disappointed with the oversaturation, and the excessive use of effects that try to show off the hardware, but end up making the games worth. They should have addressed that, said something about this being launch titles, whatever – and made sure we talked about something else. Focus on the good hthings instead: DoA 4 was extremely popular, they must have noticed that, so they should have focused on it, told us what the 360 did for that game, what new stuff we could expect, etc. that make us want to ditch the old one and buy a new 360.

Okay, so much for ranting about the PR work.

Kameo: I liked Kameo, becasue I’ve been looking forward to playing another Rare game, but I also found it more
confusing than their previous titles. That mayy just be because I got ditched right into the game with no level
in which to learn the controls.

Mutant Storm: This was the best title I played, although it was only a demo version, and they had not unlocked the full title through XBOX Arcade (why? the “buy this game!” nag screen was annoying as hell, and really didn’t
help in selling the console). Great game, though. If the XBOX arcade stuff takes off and produces quality titles like this, that might be the reason for me to buy the console.

Project Gotham Racing: There are bviously a couple of effects here (motion blur, car paint) that the 360 does better, but the game itself is lame. If this is the quality of the launch titles, in terms of gameplay, then it pays to wait half a year until the second wave of games comes out. I can kind of see why it’ necessary to artificially create the impression that they’ll sell out on launch day.

DoA 4: INot my type of game. I can report that button-mashing gets you nowhere, which is probably good news for the fans of the genre. Judging from the popularity of it, this seemed to be good, but I guess you need to judge for yourself whether a new console is justified when you compare it with DoA 3.

Perfect Dark: My initial impression was that in terms of photo-realism, this game is a step backwards. The graphic effects make the game look worse. Mickael said something like “good effects are like makeup: you shouldn’t notice them”. This game is a cheap 40-year old hooker trying to look 20 by putting on a bucket of makeup.

Conclusion: We can safely wait to see what the PS3 and Revolution looks like, there’s no rush to buy the 360. Which is the opposite of what this event was supposed to tell us, and I’d say in Microsoft’s book, the whole
should be considererd a complete waste of money.

The Good: Free food and beer, and a nice atmosphere to play games in.

The Bad: No vegetarian pizza (how hard is this?), bad PR, the free sweaters were all L or XL.

[ media | Bill Mays – An Ellington Affair ]