Xbox 360 Backwards Compatibility

To give Microsoft their due credit, when they said that the 360 would be able to play ?top-selling Xbox games? I took that to mean a few of the big ones, maybe 20 or so, and certainly nowhere near this many. Considering that they have to be emulated and aren?t simply being run on a hardware chip like the PS3 will probably do and the PS2 does, over 200 games is an impressive selection. Now I know that the list will be added to over time (once again to their credit, the new emulation profiles will be free downloads) but I can?t be the only one who thinks they?re missing some of the best games on the system while having dross like Barbie Horse Adventure and Kabuki Warriors on it.

They may not have set the sales charts alight but Sega?s Jet Set Radio Future and Shenmue II should be given life on the next generation – it?s not like they sold any less than some of the crap there. No sign of any of the Splinter Cells? Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy is only a couple of months old but it?s not playable. MechAssault was the early XBL killer app, and Return to Castle Wolfenstein kept me on Live for hundreds of hours – both AWOL. The Burnout and Project Gotham Racing games aren?t there either, presumably to encourage people to pick up the new 360 titles that should be there around launch. Those are just out of my collection so I?m sure there are others that other people are missing.

Still, it?s a far better list than I expected. Here?s hoping that they add some more of the AAA games.

Splinter Cell 4

While checking my newsreader today I was naturally drawn to the screenshots of Splinter Cell 4, which is looking rather impressive, and considering how good Chaos Theory was I’m definitely interested.

What really blew me away here was that I thought those screenshots were from the Xbox 360. I noticed that they weren’t in 720p and that they looked quite poor on some sites, but I just assumed they were leaked or something because the texturing and lighting was so nice. Imagine my surprise then, when I found out that those shots are from the Xbox version. I can only assume that the 360 one is just going to look fantastic (if not completely next-gen), and I really can’t wait to see how phenomenal one written from the ground up for the 360 – presumably Splinter Cell 5 – will look. Hopefully the apparent change to the gameplay and setting won’t be detrimental and won’t just try to turn into a clone of Chronicles of Riddick, no matter how good that was.

No PS3 Region Coding?

The latest Sony rumblings to be doing the rounds is this story that the PS3 will be dropping the traditional region coding from the next gen games, citing the fact that the worldwide HDTV standards will mean no PAL/NTSC compatibility problems, even if most TVs have been compatible with both for several years now. As nice as it would be though, I just can’t see it happening.

The first thing is that Sony have a nice thing going with the UK prices (call it what you want, but I’m going to call it ‘price fixing’), so why on Earth would SCEE give up on people handing them £40 a time to let them go and give SCEA £25 for the same thing a few months earlier. Just look at the hissy fit they threw over the whole PSP import story – suing stores that sold imports, preventing foreign retailers from sending them to the UK, etc. Letting the machine play imports would just make it look like they were endorsing it. Good for gamers of course, but they’re not going to risk their bottom line like that.

It’s not without its benefits for Sony to take this course of action, however. Although it’s been illegal to chip a PS2 in the UK since last June (BBC: UK bans PlayStation chipping) it’s not too tough to get it done, as I did back in December. I’m a good lad who uses it for imports but if the console could natively play them the only reason anyone’s going to get one is to play pirated games, giving Sony complete impunity to go after people who were doing it and getting it done. If you look at most modchip sites they pretty much only push the capacity to play imports, so how do they market it without admitting the most common purpose?

What would be nice is if they take a leaf out of Microsoft’s book with the original Xbox, where although the vast majority of games had region coding, MS let developers choose to leave it out which a surprisingly high number chose to do. By allowing them to ditch it when they want to stuff that’s unlikely to ever make it over here could be region free, allowing us to jump online and order it. That would go towards avoid our missing out completely on great stuff like Katamari Damacy while also skipping odd decisions like bringing out a special edition of Xenosaga II when the first game never even reached the UK.

So is this another pie in the sky Sony idea to add to the list of things like ‘Reality Synthesizer’, ‘Emotion Engine’, 1080p on two displays, 120fps games, home entertainment hubs, Toy Story in real time, special export licences because of supercomputer status, and the Killzone 2 trailer? I’m betting so, but it would definitely be nice.

Dreamcast 360?

I hate to rain on the 360 parade even though I can’t wait for mine, but this article provides some very interesting questions. There certainly are a hell of a lot of parallels between the upcoming Xbox 360 and the Dreamcast and although I couldn’t put my finger on it before, I’ve been feeling recently that there seems to be a curious lack of the excited chatter that surrounds most launches like I haven’t seen since the Dreamcast. Maybe I just haven’t been paying attention, which is a theory which seems to be supported by the number of preorders this thing was attracting (140 in two shops alone) irrespective of supply issues, but the article is nonetheless worth a look.

One thing that has to be asked, however, is whether or not Dreamcast 2 is necessarily a bad thing. Commercially maybe, but creatively I still maintain that the DC is the second best console of all time behind the Super NES. Even if the PS3 manages to overshadow the 360 in the way that the PS2 did the DC, as the article says the new Xbox will have Halo 3 which, judging from the state of the story at the end of Halo 2, will be worth the price of admission alone. Besides the fact that Microsoft has near-unlimited funds to pour into this thing, and when the chips are down even a colossus like Sony struggle to stack up against MS.

Time will have to tell on this one. For now I’m just going to look forward to my 360 and I’ll look forward to the PS3 when that turns up as well.

Four Weeks To Go!

Updates have been slightly sparse recently for a couple of reasons. Partly because there’s not a huge amount to talk about but also because I’ve been so busy – my gaming time has been split between slow progress through Shadow of the Colossus (good news that Ico is being re-released in Europe so I’ll be able to pick up a new copy for a reasonable price) and World of Warcraft (almost got my Tauren Warrior to level 20) – but also I’ve got some articles to work on and assignment season is upon us at university.

With that out the way, I’d also like to point out to the handful of UK gamers who have managed to track down an Xbox 360 for launch that it’s out four weeks today, so we’re on the final stretch. My order is pretty much finalised as the premium console, the Advanced SCART Cable, Project Gotham Racing 3 (hearing rumblings out of Highbury that the framerate is unreliable but theirs isn’t a finished build), Call of Duty 2, and maybe Ridge Racer 6. Can’t wait!