South African Xbox 360 buyers guide

Xbox 360 console With the recent announcements of the Arcade and Value bundles on the local South African gaming market I thought a buyers guide might be useful. So I’ve taken the liberty to summarise the various console offerings for those considering buying a new console and perhaps dispel a few common misconceptions about various aspects of the Xbox 360 console itself.

Essentially the product offerings can be split into two categories based on the type of user – family and enthusiast. Family users are expected to not really be too concerned about the technical aspects of gaming like Xbox LIVE and backward compatibility and more about a gaming experience suitable for the entire family. Enthusiasts would be the more avid gaming fanatic that has a high-end sound system and wants to play with friends over Xbox LIVE.

How you hook the console up to your display or television is important. All consoles are able to deliver standard definition and high definition video to your display and all consoles include composite (standard A/V) cables. If you have a high definition television then you will want to use with the component HD AV able, HDMI or VGA.

One thing I must point out immediately is this misconception about HDMI. I believe that Microsoft opted to not put an HDMI port on the first Xbox 360 consoles due to the HDMI specification not being finalised as well as poor adoption for the standard by the industry at the time. However as more televisions on the market are supporting the HDMI standard, newer revisions of the Xbox 360 console hardware have an HDMI port. This means that if you have an HDMI enabled television you might want to consider a console that has an HDMI port on it. If you want to use a VGA or LCD computer monitor then you can purchase the VGA cable accessory (R399).

The family offering revolves around the Core model and the newly announced Arcade bundle which is a special for the 2007 festive season only. The new Arcade bundle features the new HDMI port however it must be pointed out that it does not ship with an HDMI cable; this must be purchased separately from your favourite audio visual shop. Included in the bundle are two full titles on disc as well as five arcade games which should cater for the entire family. For R300 extra the Arcade bundle is a very worthwhile option if you were considering a Core and would like an HDMI port, a wireless controller and some games to get you started.

When it comes to enthusiasts there are four product choices. What sets them apart of the Core and Arcade are the additions of a hard drive, a high definition enabled audio video cable and an Xbox LIVE wired headset. The removable hard drives are available as an accessories (20GB R999 or 120GB R1999) as well as the component HD AV cable (R399) so a Core or Arcade console can easily be upgraded at a later stage but it will cost you almost the same as buying an Elite console. Note that the Halo 3 Special Edition console will only be available until stocks run out and the Value bundle is a 2007 festive season special as well.

The Elite console is really the ultimate console for the extreme enthusiast out there. Its got a whopping 120GB hard drive and it comes with an HDMI cable (R250) and a Play & Charge kit (R199) in the box.

SKU ERP Features
Core R2699.00 Composite AV cable
Wired controller
Arcade bundle
(limited stock)
R2999.99 2 bundled games
256MB memory unit

5 bundled arcade games
Composite AV cable
HDMI port
Wireless controller
Pro R3699.00 20GB hard drive
Component HD AV cable
Ethernet cable
Wired headset
Wireless controller
Halo 3 Special Edition
(some stock still remaining)
R3999.00 20GB hard drive (branded)
Component HD AV cable
Ethernet cable
Halo 3 Gamer Pics and Theme
HDMI port
Play & Charge kit
Wired headset (branded)
Wireless controller (branded)
Value bundle
(limited stock)
R3999.00 20GB hard drive
4 bundled games
Component HD AV cable
Ethernet cable
Wired headset
Wireless controller
Elite
(black console)
R4599.00 120GB hard drive (black)
Component HD AV cable
Ethernet cable (black)
HDMI port & cable
Play & Charge kit
Wired headset (black)
Wireless controller (black)

One thing worth noting is that all Xbox 360 consoles are technically capable of running all Xbox 360 games on the market. However in order to be able to run older original Xbox 1 games or to connect to Xbox LIVE for an online experience, an Xbox 360 hard drive is required. In addition all consoles can be used with both wired and wireless controllers regardless of what is included in the retail box. Up to four wired (R329) or wireless (R399) controllers can be connected at any given time and and are available separately as accessories. If you but wireless controllers I highly recommend buying a Play & Charge kit (R199) which makes a wireless controller rechargeable from any USB port. If you have multiple wireless controllers you can buy extra rechargeable battery packs (R149) and use recharge them with the cable from the Play & Charge kit.

[tags]Xbox 360,South Africa,buyers guide[/tags]

So what is Halo 3 actually like?

Halo 3 bubble shield If I only had one word to describe my experience of the game so far, it would be awesome.

After spending 3 days playing the Halo 3 multi-player maps at rAge last weekend, Andre (aka Mailowl) invited me to join him and Leon (aka UltraVan) for some co-op campaign action over Xbox LIVE. So on Monday night we started the co-op campaign on normal difficulty and managed to complete 4 or 5 missions in about 3 hours. We decided that we had better make this a nightly effort until we finished and upgraded to heroic last night and tonight to complete the campaign. It was beyond amazing. I don’t want to spoil it for others but the last two missions had me lost most of the time.

I don’t often play first person shooter style games and I certainly don’t ever feel the urge to complete the campaign. However playing co-op just makes the game so much more enjoyable. I think its the social aspect that I like the most not to mention it helps to have others playing with you that can fill in for your lousy shooting/aiming skills.

Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw as usual has a particularly interesting Zero Punctuation video review of the game over here, copied below for ease of reference. Thanks to Robert Scoble for the link.

[tags]Halo 3[/tags]

rAge 2007 round-up

Master Chief visits rAge 2007 After three very busy days rAge 2007 is now over, if you missed it, then you missed out. Once again the Xbox 360 console dominated the consoles at the exhibition with almost every stand featuring at least one.

It was quite a shock to not see an official presence for Sony’s PlayStation 3 console. Yes there were a few consoles tucked away on various stands of which the most interesting was the one on the Megarom stand with a preview build of Haze on it. I must say I wasn’t too impressed with it, sure the graphics looked wicked but the game-play was jerky and not what from a next generation console title.

The Nintendo Wii console seemed attract a bit of attention as was to be expected. I can’t help wondering how long it will be until the novelty will wear off. At times during the show I found myself laughing at how funny kids and adults looked waving that Wiimote around. I even gave it a try with Pirates of the Caribbean and got quite annoyed with the seemingly delayed response to my actions; it was more irritating than cool. I suppose its great for bowling, boxing and other sports titles but it doesn’t really do it for me in general.

Halo 3 multi-player on the Xbox 360 stand On the Xbox 360 front, the highlight of the show was definitely Halo 3, which dominated the Microsoft stand with both co-op single-player watchtowers and an 8-player multi-player Slayer setup seeing a constant stream of players eager to discover the Halo franchise for the first time. Considering that Xbox LIVE is not officially available in South Africa, yet, it was an awesome demonstration of the Xbox 360 system link (LAN) functionality as I believe most people were not aware that Xbox 360 consoles could be networked together.

This year we got to see some very cool new games and pre-release games such as the highly anticipated sequel Project Gotham Racing 4 (PGR4), which garnered much interest from the crowds passing by. The game now features more cars, weather conditions and the addition of motorcycles. If you enjoyed PGR3 then you should definitely consider picking up a copy of PGR4 when it releases in October.

The MiDigital stand had numerous games on show including Virtua Fighter 5 and a preview of the awesome new game TimeShift.

Guitar Hero 2 on the NAG stand Megarom show-cased the Call of Duty 4 Multiplayer Beta running on Xbox LIVE as well as a preview copy of Assassin’s Creed which was demonstrated twice daily on the big screen for all to drool over. A preview of Guitar Hero 3 with a wireless Gibson electric guitar proved to be immensely popular but not as popular or loud as Guitar Hero 2 on the NAG stand.

Nu Metro had a preview of Kane and Lynch available to play. I must say that graphics didn’t seem that amazing however I won’t dismiss the possibility that the game might receive some spit and polish before being released and surprise us all.

MINI 37 - Arcade Racer On the PC front I was quite surprised to find local game developer, Luma, showcasing their new racing game, MINI 37 – Arcade Racer, developed for MINI South Africa. Tracks in the game are currently based on the South African A1 Grand Prix circuits and I understand that some episodic content is in the pipeline.

The game is currently nearing development completion and will be available as a 120mb free download from their web-site. If you prefer to conserve your bandwidth it will also be made available on the November 2007 NAG magazine cover disc.

Its really awesome to see a local game developer succeed and I can’t wait to see if Luma can take this PC based game to the next level as perhaps an XBLA (Xbox Live Arcade) title in the near future.

Overall an awesome exhibition with plenty to see and do. I predict that the Xbox 360 console will do extremely well this festive season considering the awesome assortment of titles that will be on the market.

[tags]rAge,Xbox 360,PlayStation 3,Wii,Megarom,Nu Metro,Luma,Halo 3[/tags]

Telkom in the dwang for claims

image It looks like Telkom is in a bit of a pickle over its recent “Do Broadband” advertising. A post on MyBroadband details the complaint from a consumer that says its false advertising.

Mr Moorad lodged a consumer complaint against Telkom’s “do” broadband campaign, arguing that the advertisements claims of being suitable for ‘movies, gaming and music’ is misleading.

According to the ASA website, the complainant submitted that the advertising states that one can “do” music, movies and on-line gaming, but only affords the user 1GB. “This is misleading as a DVD-quality movie is at least 4GB and online gaming needs at least 20 GB monthly to play daily.”

While I agree that the “do movies” claim is a little bit of a stretch as I doubt Telkom would promote torrents and illegal movie sharing. They must surely be referring to paid movie downloads, I can’t think why a consumer would want to pay for a highly compressed movies that are sub-DVD quality, can you?

I however don’t agree that to “do on-line gaming” you need at least 20GB monthly of bandwidth. Is Mr Moorad downloading the games before he plays them or maybe he is playing Battlefield 2. As an Xbox 360 gamer I regularly play on Xbox LIVE and its common to work on about 150MB per hour for serious online gaming including voice chatting. So 20GB equates to about 136 hours of online gaming per month which I believe is more than excessive. So the 1GB is quite capable of at least 6 hours of serious online gaming; or perhaps a whole month of online Sudoku.

In its submissions to ICASA, Telkom clearly stated that “Telkom’s ADSL service was never intended for bandwidth-hungry applications, such as gaming or online trading.”

This I find highly amusing to read. Telkom has clearly been caught out in its statements. Its time for the left hand to start talking to the right hand, and oh, while they figure that out, can they sort out the service delivery issues etcetera etcetera…

[tags]ASA,Telkom,ADSL,Xbox 360,Xbox LIVE[/tags]

Wanna win a copy of Halo 3 Legendary Edition?

TXL Halo 3 competitionEvery serious gamer out there should already know that the most anticipated game of the year, Halo 3, is launching worldwide next week. It launches on the 25th of September 2007 in the United States and South Africa and Europe will get it on the 26th of September 2007. With apparently over 4 million pre-orders this is certainly not a small release.

To coincide with the local release, the kind folks over at The Xbox Lounge are running a competition to win a limited edition copy of Halo 3 Legendary Edition valued at over R800.

Entering is simple, just SMS the keyword halo3 and your Xbox LIVE Gamertag to 35357 (e.g. halo3 CraigN). You can enter as many times as you like and each entry will cost you R3.00. The prize will be awarded at the end of September.

[tags]Halo 3,competition,The Xbox Lounge,TXL[/tags]