Tuesday, November 22, 2005

So a New Console Hit Today...

And I honestly could not care less. Oh sure, the future is now and all that with the Microsoft Xbox 360. But despite claims that the games are super-stupendous-unbelievable gorgeous, I have yet to see an instance of that with the exception of Project Gotham Racing 3. This series has always pushed the envelope, and seems to be damn near photo-realistic with the screens I've seen. But since racing games do exactly zero for me, I don't care how pretty it is because I'll never play it. The release of Call of Duty 2 and Quake 4 for the Xbox 360 don't mean anything to me because I can play both on my PC, and they look the same from the screen-by-screen comparisons I've seen. Oh, and I have actually played Quake 4 on a 360 while I met with Activision in San Francisco back in September and it looked identical to the PC version.

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This does not represent the huge graphical leap forward people claim it does. What it means is that the first generation of games on the new console can match existing top-of-the-line PC hardware, and that's good news for gamers. When the "real" games start hitting for the console, my imaginary target for that is next summer, then we'll start to see the envelope pushed on everything. There is not a second before that point in which I will consider buying the console, not one. Any and all new consoles are great for the early adapters who love to blow their money on high-tech gadgets and gizmos, and they are more than welcome to it.

As for me, I'll hold off until it's been at least 18 months since launch. This is what I do with consoles since I started paying for them myself, and at no point do I intend to change this in my life. It worked wonders for the PS2, and I picked up my Xbox for the sole reason of finally playing Halo, a game I'd followed for years prior to its console-only release. But I won't touch the 360 (or next year's PS3) until after it's been out for so long for one reason: The games.

No console can sell me without at least five games I have to play or I'll die. There were at least that many when I finally picked up my Xbox along with Halo, and I did the same with my PS2. Short of that, Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo can all blow smoke as far up my backside as they want and I won't budge. If there are five drop-dead gorgeous absolute must-play titles by this time next year for the 360, then I might waver on my timeline. I do not doubt the console is powerful, quite the contrary. I expect phenomenal things from it in the future, but I don't think the developers have had enough time to really get up to speed on what the box can do. Just look at God of War and tell me you honestly thought the PS2 could pull that off, let alone do so this late in its life.

Now imagine the wonders we'll see two years from now on the 360 and three years from now on the PS3 (if it launches this time in 2006). This generation might push me and others further away from PC gaming if only because I've found the older I get, the less time I have for jacking with upgrades for my computer. I just don't care anymore, and maybe that's because of the day job. But I've built and rebuilt enough computers in my time to where I can do it blindfolded, and I hate doing it at home. My machine has a custom high-end video card that's now a year+ old, which means it's not close to what it used to be. To tell you how out of the loop I am on hardware I honestly don't know what the top card is anymore.

Even worse is I don't care. For $500, I can buy a top-of-the-line graphics card and a top-of-the-line sound card, or a new console and two games.

We'll eventually see where I wind up, and I know I will at least pick up a PS3 someday. Sony's exclusive titles have historically proven too tempting, and that's one thing Microsoft never sold me on this generation. Sure, games looked better on the box, but there were so many more options for the PS2 that it bordered on ridiculous. My number two system remains to be seen, but I will say this much. The 360 has a lot of promise and potential, but if it's not 100% backwards compatible in two years, then I'll keep my current box thank you. Halo 2 is the only game I own currently on Microsoft's BC list, and that game outright sucks. I might one day write up a column on why Halo 2 is one of the worst games I've ever played, but that'll have to wait until I'm in a bad enough mood. In the meantime, I'll watch people fight over 360's and laugh because the great games aren't even out yet and we all know it.

I'm just willing to wait for them to arrive first.


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