We were lucky enough to be invited to Amsterdam for the unveiling of Microsoft’s next-generation superconsole, the Xbox 360. And as well as sitting in a sweaty room watching developers pass off cut-scenes as real gameplay, we actually got hands-on with many of the games in the launch line-up this December – plus some titles that aren’t going to be released until 2006.
You already know that the Xbox 360 is faster, smaller and higher-definition its predecessor. But what more did we learn?
• Xbox boss Jay Allard announced Project Gotham Racing 3 was his favourite game, and judging by the queues of journalists he wasn’t alone. The arcade racing gameplay is familiar, but the graphics – particularly the glorious damage you inflict on rivals – are taken to a new level. Schmoking, as the Dutch like to say.
• Perfect Dark Zero may be the grandchild of N64 classic Goldeneye, but it doesn’t feel dated It’s easy to pick up and play, the levels are beautifully designed and it’s bound to succeed if for no other reason than you can shoot pigeons as well as people.
• Gears Of War, a first-person shooter that mixes tactical action and horror, looks unbelievably scary. But it’s not out until next year.
• Other highlights from our epic gaming session were Dead Rising – a dumb Grand Theft Auto with zombies – and the strikingly beautiful Need For Speed that (like so many games on show) made up for lack of imagination with pin-sharp, high-def visuals. Over 200 more games are in development.
• Xbox 360 Live will make multiplayer gaming more accessible – you are constantly monitored in order to match you to opponents with similar skills (or, in our case, total lack thereof), while a new Live Arcade service will offer heaps of Tetris-style games.
• You can hook up your iPod/PSP/generic MP3 player to the 360's USB port and use that as the soundtrack to your games.