360 Hour Tour

PGR3 - Out of car
Visited the 360 Hour Tour at The Lighthouse this morning. Turned up at 10AM thinking it would be busy but it was pretty quiet – just a few other geeks and two loud neds…welcome to Glasgow. Finally got into the show at 10:30. First impressions were very good – around 50-60 360’s all with hi-def screens were spread around the room – some on stands and some with sofa’s to allow more comfortable gaming. Pictures from this morning can be found at Flickr.

Made a dash (brisk walk really) for a PGR3 console. After getting through the very impressive menu’s it was into a street race round London. Graphics are excellent although there seemed to be a few ‘jaggies’ on view. The background detail is amazing – the environments are so rich that it’s hard to take it all in. There was no slowdown to be seen even with the other five cars on track. Certain sections of the tracks were very dark – so dark that you couldn’t make out the track and that wasn’t down to the room lighting or reflections. I’m hoping that it was more due to the screens MS were using. Played this game the most this morning but seeing as I loved PGR2 that’s no surprise. Speed of the cars was good and the handling model was similar to PGR2 if not a little more tricky – the TVR Cerbera was a beast to handle and also very very fast. One odd point – background textures. Compared to the screens that I’d previously seen they looked a bit low-res. We were told that this was a 90% complete build so maybe there was more to be done but they looked a bit ‘tacky’. It also didn’t feel hi-res. Certainly a lot more could be seen and you knew you were playing a more powerful console – Graham commented on the feeling it was a 480 rather than 720p game. I tend to agree.

Next I tried Perfect Dark Zero. This is the one game that’s had most pre launch hype and also been the most disappointing. Ramped up the difficulty to max and found it was just too tough. Graphics looked very good though – a lot better than I had expected. The level started indoors and again looked very dark though. Some really nice touches though – I was hiding behind a jeep and zoomed in on an enemy – he too was behind a jeep but I could see his legs. I shot him in the leg – he leaned down to feel his leg and I was able to shoot him in the head – really nice moment. Explosions were also great to watch. Tried an outdoor level too – bright, colourful clear graphics and zooming in and around this level showed just how big the environments were. We tried to set-up a co-op game but it wasn’t for doing it. Menu’s felt a little clunky. I want to play this now.

Other games got a small bit of time each:

  • Kameo – Graphics were very impressive. A bit confusing as to what you had to do but I played it for all of 5 minutes. Depending on reviews this looks to be an essential purchase
  • Call of Duty 2 – Very sharp graphically – got a quick shot as there were only 3 machines set-up with this game. As it’s a FPS I htink a lot of it’s sales will go to Perfect Dark Zero.
  • Condemned – Needs a lot of time – more than I could afford but very pretty graphics
  • Fifa 06 – Nice menu’s, nice grass, really crap game. I thought this felt worse than the Xbox version
  • NBA 06 – Didn’t have time to play it – player models were very detailed including sweaty faces
  • Need for Speed – Actually looked very good – some playtime showed a slight jerkiness in the graphics – PGR3 really showed it up to be honest.
  • Tiger Woods – A prettier version of the original – not much to say really

The pads were excellent. With the black and white buttons now moved to above the triggers they felt very comfortable – even the guide button in the middle was easy to get to. The guide itself was disabled in the demo pods although you could access it on the machines next to the sofa’s. Reboot times were ok and felt roughly the same as Xbox. Loading times too were pretty average – not too long but not short either. One notable exception – Fifa 06 took an absolute age to load.

You’ll notice there is no mention of sound. The demo pods were all muted but there was space for two headphone sockets so if you do get to visit one of these events take a set of headphones. When my PGR screen was finally turned up I was very impressed with the engine sound of the TVR. It sounded great and that was even with the DJ in the background doing his best to drown everything out. Also the demo pod screens are very close to your head – the pads used aren’t wireless and are fixed meaning that you will pay more attention to the graphics than you would at home. Perfect Dark Zero when I played it on the sofa looked amazing – far better than when I played it on the pods. The screens are hopefully the reason why some of the games looked dark – artificially so. I would have thought MS would have made sure that the screens selected would show of the games at their best….who knows – maybe they are and games will be ‘dark’. EA games seemed to all have a graphical filter on their games – like a shadow around the main object. You could see it on NBA and Fifa but it was most noticeable on Need for Speed – any background object seemed to have a shadow effect around it. Don’t know why but it was definitely there.

So after all that – do I want a 360. YES. Without a doubt. Do I wish I had pre-ordered. YES. Will I get a 360 this year – probably not but I’ll still try and get one. However this event didn’t blow me away as much as I thought it would. It made me want to play the games but I feel that the leap forward to the next gen won’t be as big as SNES to PS1/N64 or PS1 to Xbox. Roll on December 2nd when the hunt for my 360 will begin.