I wanted to wait a few days before posting about the Xbox360 “New Xbox Experience”, partly so that I would have a proper chance to play with it. I downloaded it on Wednesday, like many others I guess, and was immediately unimpressed.
I should point out, though, that my lack of enthusiasm stemmed from what I think was a crash – the new dashboard downloaded, installed, and then my Xbox just sat there with a blank screen for a few minutes. After switching it off and on, though, it seemed to work OK so I’ll just put that down to a glitch.
When the system restarted I was guided through the initial setup – some introductions to the new features, and setting up my avatar. Whilst this gives you some scope to customise your appearance, it’s not going to give you an exact likeness. It’s not as customisable as, say, the Wii’s Mii or the faces on some MMORPGs. Still, it’s possible to get something that looks vaguely like yourself so that’s good enough.
The new layout takes a little getting used to. Rather than everything being in “blades”, they are now in vertically stacked menus which then expand with various options. Things have been rearranged and, in some cases, streamlined, but there are no major revelations here. You can still find your games library, and you can still see who’s on your friends list, but now you tell whether they are online by whether their avatar is awake or not. This isn’t as intuitive for me, though, as I prefer just to look at a list and have the online people highlighted.
Forgetting function for a moment, however, it has to be said that the new dashboard does look very good!
Right, straight back to function, because I want to talk about the one huge development that makes me think this update was actually a good idea: playing games from the hard drive. I don’t know if it’s just my machine, but I can guarantee that I’ll get at least one or two “unreadable disc” errors in a night of playing. They tend to happen when I’m just about to save the game, meaning that when it crashes I have to go back a fair way and replay what I’d already done. Most annoying. With the option to copy a game to the hard drive, though, the disc isn’t actually used. Sure you need to have it in the drive so that your Xbox knows you own it, but it just sits there while the game data is loaded off the HDD instead. No more unreadable disc errors. Or, at least, none so far. The only downside is that the games are pretty large (6.7gb for Gears of War 2), so unless you have one of the larger hard discs you will have to free up some space and possibly limit yourself to only loading one full-size game on there at a time.
So, NXE… in my (limited) view, just Microsoft playing around with things that didn’t really need played around with, but redeemed by one killer feature.
Have you tried NXE? If so, what do you think of it? Tell us in the comments.
PS – one final thing it’s very good to see is that community games are now available in the marketplace!