Along with wireless controllers, upgradeable firmware has to be one of the best things to come out of this generation. The 360 and particularly the PS3 have come on massively since their launches, far beyond the days when a CD player and memory card manager were the best you could hope for. The ‘New Xbox Experience’ is the biggest update yet, completely overhauling the old dash – a good interface stretched thin as more functionality has been crammed in – keeping the bits that worked well and stealing cherry-picking a few ideas from the Wii and Sony’s XMB.
First of all, Avatars. I don’t care for them, and I don’t like the visual friends list because it’s a lot more unwieldy than the text-based version. They don’t have the personality of Nintendo’s Miis, which would justify such a prominent implementation, and once the novelty wears off I just imagine that they’ll just become more screen furniture. But hey, they might not do it for me but they don’t hurt, so whatever.
What I’m really interested with are the two features that are most clearly aimed at gamers like me: installs and system-wide parties.
I hate the forced installs that that are so common on the PS3 – I had a bit of a rant about it here – but the handful of PS3 games that have an optional install that lets me shave off a few seconds of loading if I want to but can also be popped in and played immediately cut a happy medium, and that’s fine.
What the NXE has done is expand this feature to almost every single game on the 360, past and present. Every game can be played completely from the disc, but since I have that lovely 120GB drive and am not inclined to download movie rentals, I can now play with loading times ranging from a few seconds saved to dramatically improved, and, most importantly, without my 360 sounding like a jet engine. The NXE actually makes late-night 360 gaming when everyone else is in bed viable. Never thought I’d see the day. Continue reading New Xbox Experience