Despite some reliability issues, the Xbox 360 boasts utility that any gamer can get excited about, even PS3 and Wii owners. We list the top 6 things that Xbox does better than the rest...
We play for the games, that's for certain. But when a console optimizes the play experience beyond the norm with a wealth of customization, choice, interactivity, options, and access, it's all for the better. Microsoft seemingly understood this when designing the Xbox 360 to compete with the establishment (read: Sony and Nintendo) by providing extended features to an evolving an increasingly wired gamer. Two years after its release, we examine six things the Xbox 360 does better than the PS3 and Wii.
Despite being released a full year ahead of its contemporaries, the Xbox 360 is still home to the most integrated system when connecting with friends across town or around the world. Using a global identification system, Xbox 360 multiplayer transcends individual games and is easier to manage than other consoles thanks to an accessible system that tracks invites which can be accepted, rejected, or later deleted.
PS3 Friend management works, but doesn't feel as integrated as the Xbox 360. And while Wii Friend management isn't as broken as conventional wisdom dictates, it is game-specific and requires a level of tolerance when entering impossible to remember 12-digit codes. Advantage, Xbox 360.
Unless you're in the same room with friends, multiplayer communication becomes an issue when taunting, planning, or collaborating. Given the increased difficulty when meeting up with friends locally, Microsoft wisely included a robust communication system that includes voice chat, text messaging, and an answering machine that can be accessed at any time. What's more, you can keep conversations going independent of the games being played by either person. And if you want to be a gamer hermit during online play, you can: simply turn off all communication and notifications before hand.
While the PS3 supports both voice and text messaging, its sporadic and isolated availability, not to mention an inability to communicate continuously, leaves something to be desired. The Wii, for its part, only supports preset text messages on select games for cave-man like communication -- better keep a cell phone handy.
Perhaps one of the most overlooked features of the Xbox 360 is the ability to play your own music with sound effects while playing games or using the Dashboard. Accessed via the Xbox 360 Guide menu, players can create a custom tracklist and adjust the playback levels for any game type, including Xbox Live Arcade titles, downloadable demos, and disc-based games. If you want to listen to Muse while playing Burnout Paradise, you can. If you crave the soulful crooning of Paolo Nutini while blasting space amoebas in Geometry Wars, the 360 won't deny you. More options for importing music on the Xbox 360 would have been nice (audio CD or fewer than 20-track MP3 CDs are the only 2 choices), but at least the option exists.
The other two consoles have all but ignored incorporating this feature. While the Wii supports custom game soundtracks, it's on a game by game basis, currently supporting only two titles. No PS3 game (to our knowledge) supports player-approved music.
Unlike the PS3, the Xbox 360 doesn't treat downloads as two separate events, i.e. file transfer then file installation. The entire process on 360 feels much more automated thanks to minimal user prompts. When downloading content, you simply select and confirm. The Xbox 360 automates the task, including what we assume to be either a background installation or no installation at all for game demos.
The PS3, on the other hand (and Wii to a lesser extent), requires a lengthy download period, followed by a lengthy installation period, all while forcing the user to manually step through the process. In addition to smoother downloads, the Xbox 360 lets players add up to five files to a download queue, then "turn off" the console and walk away. In actually, the Xbox 360 enters a more energy efficient stand by mode to finish downloading before powering off on its own. Nice!
As consoles become more functional, convergent, and complex, the user interface becomes that much more important. Thankfully, the Xbox 360 Dashboard and Guide Button offer a clean, navigational, and inviting experience. At any point in time players can access a desired destination with one or two clicks at most. Menu access and game library organization are superb, as is the Xbox 360 Marketplace for demos, videos, and additional purchases. When using the 360, you'll feel in control after only a brief period of initialization.
Though the design of the PS3's Cross Media Bar is elegant, the interface feels haphazard and absent-minded. The Wii's interface is functional, but adding multi-page "channels" (as Nintendo calls them) can clutter things over time. In short, the Xbox 360 offers the most cohesive interface around, though all is not lost for PS3 and Wii.
As if all these features weren't enough, the Xbox 360 takes things one step further by allowing online account management of user profiles (i.e. Gamertags), system settings, friend invites, play history, cross-platform communication between console and computer, and just about anything else you can think do with the Xbox 360's interface.
PS3 only affords the ability to manage basic settings online in addition to a download list, and the Wii supports no web integration whatsoever. With Xbox 360's web connectivity, it feels like you're never really away from your console. We're sure Microsoft did that purposefully to increase loyalty, and it works.
Nintendo and Sony, take note.
DISCLOSURE: No, this editorial wasn't sponsored by Microsoft. And yes, the Xbox 360 has its share of problems.