The next rotation of games

Microsoft will be the first to enter the arena of next-generation console video gaming when the Xbox 360 launches Tuesday. Consumers are looking at what could be complete market domination by Microsoft until the releases of Sony’s Playstation 3 and Nintendo’s Revolution, both rumored to launch in early to mid 2006. The Xbox 360 will be unrivaled and unmatched for several months, and its mouthwatering specs make it hard to resist even for those die-hard Sony and Nintendo fans.

Microsoft is advertising the 360 as the most powerful console gaming system ever made. With a bold claim like that, I just had to take this beast for a test drive. With the help of the demo kiosk in a Target store, the 360 and I met for the first time.

The system itself is less bulky than the Xbox and sleeker with a silver finish. The controllers are smaller, lighter and have two additional shoulder buttons compared to the old Xbox controllers. Along with the big hardware changes from the old system, there are important small upgrades, such as the 360’s Ring of Light. A green light in the shape of a ring that can be found on the system and controllers, it serves as a fast and easy way to find out which controller belongs to which port. If there is a controller plugged in port number one, unique corresponding lights on the controller will be lit up. It may sound insignificant, but the constant cries of “Which player am I?” during multiplayer will be a thing of the past.

The 360 comes close to being the most comprehensive media center available, with playback capabilities ranging from DVDs to MP3s and JPEGs. Users will also be able to share media files through a wireless network.

The playable demo of Peter Jackson’s King Kong was very impressive. The controls were easy and intuitive. The graphics were stunning, and the camera angles comfortable. The sound effects and music were clear and excellent. If movie-inspired games were indications of the films themselves and if this game is a taste of what’s to come on the Xbox 360, then not only would Peter Jackson’s King Kong be an award-winning film, but Xbox 360 games will be astonishing.

For those concerned with backward compatibility, only select Xbox games will be compatible with the 360, and then only for some 360 gamers. The 360 is being sold in two packages: a bare-bones model known to retailers as the Xbox 360 Core System for $299 and a higher-end model with additional components – called the Xbox 360 – for $399. The additional components are comprised of a hard drive, a wireless controller, a headset, high-definition A/V cables, an Ethernet cable and a media remote. If purchased separately, those components would cost more than the difference between the bundles.

But it’s not likely that one will have any luck buying either on launch day. Most video gaming stores, such as EB Games, has already sold out of its preorder shipment.

Microsoft will need to put as much development into its machine as it can, because it will have some heavy competition. The PlayStation 3 will boast a new type of hardware technology, called Blu-ray. Blu-ray lasers allow for up to 54 gigabytes on one Blu-ray disc. More information can be stored on a single Blu-ray disc than on many people’s hard drives.

The Nintendo Revolution is highly anticipated for several reasons. The company claims that the Revolution will be able download all the Nintendo game titles of the past 20 years. If these claims are true, it will be the most innovative console of the three.

The specifications of the new generation of consoles may be hard to fathom, considering they will be running at speeds faster than some of the fastest computers available today. That is almost as fast enough to give Superman a run for his money. However, the faster the machine, the more power it requires. Hardcore gamers are going to find that they will be spending a small fortune for not only the systems, but also on their electric bill.