After a long wait, the Xbox has finally been released in the Benelux. The stories that reached our country through the oceans spoke of a console that blew away everything you had seen before. But we managed to get our hands on one, and started hard to take a critical look at the latest console.

The technique.

What we all know at the moment is that the Xbox has already won on one front, namely that of the best hardware. With the 733 MHz processor, a cranked up Geforce 3 and 64 MB RAM on board, the Xbox blows the PS2 and NGC off the road. When you also see that it contains an 8 GB hard drive and an Ethernet card, with broadband support for the online capabilities, not to mention 4 controller ports, it’s hard to compete with the technical possibilities of the Xbox. But this is not all. There is also a very separate chip in the Xbox for the multimedia applications that will come in the future (think of the internet and speech recognition). And they took good care of the sound too. With 256 sound channels, 64 of which are 3D, and Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound support, your ears will not be disappointed. But, as we’ve also seen with the N64 versus the Playstation, hardware isn’t everything. It’s mainly about how the hardware performs and what it can conjure up on your screen.

So now it makes sense to take a look at the graphics. The graphics, unfortunately for Xbox haters, are simply the best I’ve ever come across on a console (which perhaps makes sense), and for the most part, even better than the graphics I’ve seen on a computer so far. to show up. Anyone who owns a mid-end computer these days will be amazed at the power of the Xbox. It is true that to really enjoy the graphics you need a widescreen TV, because the Xbox has a maximum resolution of 1920-1080. On a small TV you won’t find it ugly at all, but on the widescreen TVs you can really see that the resolutions make good use of the screen size. It is true, however, that most TVs nowadays can hardly handle 1920-1080, Anti-aliasing makes much more sense then. Fortunately, the Anti-aliasing of the Xbox works fine and it really removes all the serrations and saw teeth. Everything is 3D, from the trees in Halo to the environments in Project Gotham Racing, and there is always something happening. Smoke, fire, men running past you, the most beautiful light effects, lasers and grenades flying around your ears. It sounds like I’m describing a game, and this is also a scene in Halo, but this is just to describe what the Xbox can bring to your screen. Simply overwhelming.

The sound.

As mentioned above, the Xbox supports Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, but also just stereo and all other settings that you are used to. The sound itself is well arranged and if the game developers delve into it well, these will be good times for our ears. Unfortunately, you have to buy a separate, more advanced digital cable for Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. So to be able to use Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, you must already have a 5.1 amplifier. But it has to be said, it also sounds great in Stereo.

The ease of use.

A console is of course a console because you can put the game in it and start playing right away. How is that arranged on the Xbox? Well, it’s okay. Installing and preparing the Xbox is a piece of cake. Anyone who has had a previous console knows how to put these cables in. Simply plug in the socket, Scart cable in the TV or VCR, and start up. The first time you start the Xbox you will be the first to get the settings screen for you to choose, whether or not you have a game in it. There you have to set the time and your time zone, after which you get to the real settings screen. There you can do everything. You can start playing music, maintain your hard disk (delete or move save games), or go to the ‘settings’ menu. There you can go to different menus: Clock, Language, Audio, Video, Auto off and System info. At Clock you can change the time settings, at Language what language you want the Xbox in, at Audio what kind of sound you want (5.1, stereo, etc.), at Video what screen size you want and whether you have PAL-60 on. . At Auto off you can set the Xbox to turn itself off after 6 hours of no use and at System info you can find extensive information about the Xbox. All this may cost you 4 minutes of your time, and then you can start playing.

According to many, the Xbox is anything but beautiful. I can really only agree with that. It’s not something you put next to your TV, we also have it in the cupboard. The controller, on the other hand, is not that bad in terms of shape. There’s a stylish logo in the center and the buttons and shapes just look sleek. There is also a lot of commentary on the size of the Xbox and the controllers, it would all be way too big. Because of all those stories I had really imagined a baker. But when the Xbox came out of the box, I thought it was not that bad. Okay, it’s a bit bigger than the old consoles and certainly bigger than the NGC, but it’s not as big as they say. On the other hand, the controller is a bit too big. It really is a beast, especially if you put the old controllers from Psone or N64 next to it. Fortunately, the controller is very comfortable in the hand. The fingers fit nicely around it and the buttons are all easily accessible. Quite a few people have passed by by now and none of them really had a problem with it. For people who really have small hands, there are of course also the smaller (Japanese) versions on the market. What is good is what they used that extra space for. The standard rumble motors are really powerful. In addition, there are also two open spaces on top of the controller for later applications, such as a headset or memory card. Mention should also be made of the security created by Microsoft in the cable. There is now a kind of extra piece close to the plug with which you plug it into the Xbox. You know it: are you having fun playing, someone walks by and yanks the controller out of your hand or worse, your console flickers on the floor. Now that will no longer happen, because that extra piece will come loose when a sudden force is applied. You can still pull it hard during normal use, but with a sudden pull, plop, remove the cable. Really handy.

The first reports we got about the Xbox talked about a very cheap console that would be three times as powerful as the other next-gen consoles. What they really wanted to earn were the accessories. Well, aside from the power in the Xbox, they were wrong. The Xbox price is now nearly 90% responsible for holding back sales, and a whole lot of accessories are already in it. The hard drive and an Ethernet card have become the two most important accessories in console land lately. That doesn’t mean there aren’t more things you shouldn’t buy with your Xbox. There is of course the advanced cable you need for Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, something you should not miss if you already have 5.1 in your living room. There’s also the DVD Remote Controller that you must have if you want to start watching DVDs, something that may be seen by many as a big disappointment because you think you have a DVD player right away. And, as mentioned above, there are of course a lot of different controllers available. Big, small, programmable, or bad controllers, they can all be found again. Just like the steering wheels. It may be clear, the hardware manufacturers have often thrown themselves at the Xbox. And of course we should not forget the 8 MB memory card. It is actually no longer necessary with the hard drive (50000 blocks), but if you are going to race elsewhere you can bring your own cars. We still have to wait for the headset and the speech recognition software that comes with it, but it is certain that a lot of nice goodies will be coming our way in the future.

Multiplayer.

One of the most important things that a game, and therefore also a console, should be able to deliver nowadays is the Multiplayer possibilities. The Xbox has four ports for controllers to start with. So anyway you can invite three of your friends to play with. There is also an Ethernet card in the Xbox, 10/100 MBit, and that ensures that you can also (in the maximum case, there are no games that support more than four yet) 16 Xbox consoles next to each other, so that you can his 64s can start shooting against each other. In practice this will of course not happen so quickly, after all you have to get 16 consoles and 16 TVs together, but the possibility for a hefty LAN party is there. You can also connect the internet to the Ethernet card. Although there is no official support for this yet, the Xbox Portal is coming, you can already play online. Gamespy has written a piece of software that makes the Xbox believe that it is simply connected to another Xbox, when in fact there is internet in between. This (still) requires a very fast internet connection, which is not really a surprise because the Xbox is only broadband compatible. Multiplayer is therefore (standard) well taken care of.

Conclusion.

What a whole lot of people naturally want to know is, is the Xbox a PS2 beater? Because with full respect for the NGC, the PS2 and Xbox are in the same target group and the NGC is actually not. So the PS2 is now put next to the Xbox on all fronts. If you look at the graphics and the sound, the Xbox wins easily. In any case, the Xbox launch games now look as good or better than the third generation games of the PS2. And with Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, the Xbox also wins the ear of the PS2. I don’t see the ease of use causing any problem with the two consoles and it is therefore more of a draw. The number of accessories of the Xbox can soon compete with those of the PS2, and besides, the Xbox already has a lot of things in it that the PS2 does not have (internet, hard drive). It is sometimes quite irritating that there is no reset button on the Xbox, you just have to turn it off and on. In addition, the power button is a bit too small. The Xbox is of course not that beautiful, compared to the cool looks of the PS2. So the PS2 wins out on looks, that’s for sure. The controllers are very different. The PS2 controller is smaller and easier to use, but the Xbox controller has a great grip and also the strongest rumble motors in a controller ever. So it just depends on your own taste. What is of course very unfortunate for the PS2, is the fact that it has no (standard) internet, and also only 2 controller ports. So multiplayer is not really in it, the Xbox wins big here.

So if you look at the whole picture, the Xbox is a PS2 beater. There are of course always the loyal fans of a console who do go by their own ideas. And the PS2 also already has an installed base that you can tell. In addition, the Xbox is currently far too expensive for a console, and the PS2 has just been reduced in price. Still, I think if the price of the Xbox drops a bit, and the good games just keep coming, then the Xbox can get really big. Above all, and this in conclusion, gamers should also just look at what they want. Do they want high technology with good games? xbox. Do they just want fun games with a tight price? NGC. Do you want to display a different assortment of games than the Xbox? PS2. But there are many more variations on these questions. So you just have to look at what you want, objectively.

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