If you don't know what the above numbers signify, then you are not a gamer. Those three little numbers have been all over the internet for the last couple of weeks, and with good reason. See, those numbers are the reference for the next PS3 firmware update, live today. Now why is this update so important? Because Sony is finally trying to level the playing field against Live.

The true importance of this update is two-fold. For the first time, we are able to access the XMB while in a game. This is a very significant event. Now, instead of having to leave the game to adjust Bluetooth headset options or check out that message that your buddy just sent you. Part of having access to the XMB is also the addition of custom soundtracks. To me this is very interesting. No, not because I want to use the feature (I don't have any music on my PS3), but because a couple of months ago Ripten reported that Microsoft holds a patent for in-game custom soundtracks. I guess they don't own this method.

Second, (and just as important for some people) is the addition of achievements, or as 2.40 refers to them, trophies. After downloading and installing the firmware update and the update for Super Stardust HD (which took about 45 minutes total) I was able to try and get a trophy. It didn't take me long, I managed to snag the Tokenizer trophy. The trophy message pops up in the upper right hand side of the screen, a little more unobtrusively then the bottom center placement of achievements. Supposedly there is a noise to accompany it, but with the SSHD soundtrack as frantic as it is, I couldn't hear it. Looking at the trophy list itself in the XMB, listed are the names of the trophies and a description of how to get them. After you unlock a trophy a picture and the date and time information from when it was unlocked are added. An interesting feature to add, to be sure. Now taking a look at this update, I have a question. Will this be enough to compete with Live?

Then answer? It's a step in the right direction. There are still several additions that need to be made in order to be on the same playing field as Live. Cross game chat and invites are probably the biggest faults right now. But, I have no doubt that those features will be added very soon. Sony says it's taking it's update cues from the consumer. If there is a feature you want to see, tell them. Tell your friends to tell them. Tell your forums to tell them. Tell everybody to tell them.

Now tell me, what is the feature - that didn't make it in this update - would you most like to see and why?
I've had a little bit of time to test out my 360, about 2 weeks now, and I thought: "Why not do a review of it"? I know I've never done a review for anything here. I have plenty of opinion pieces. I have a couple of speculation articles. I even have a couple of dreaded lists. But I've never, ever reviewed anything before. Here's my first one, don't be too rough on me about it. Now the only question is...What do I think? I like it. Mostly.

First the hardware itself. I like the look of the console. It has some pretty smooth lines and looks nice next to my PS3. I, of course, bought the elite model to match the rest of my hardware. I don't care too much for the chromed out disc tray, the only feature on the case that I think they could do away with. Why couldn't they make it match the color of the console? The controllers are also a good fit with the console. The black and gray color is great and I do like color coded buttons, they really stand out that way. I also like the size of the controllers (in fact, I like the size better then my undeniably great Dual Shock 3). The button placement seems pretty good. I don't understand the offset sticks, but it doesn't effect the gameplay. I like the feel of the triggers and the shoulder buttons. The only problem I have with my controller is the right trigger makes a damn squeaking sound on occasion. On the plus side, I haven't had any problems with the much reviled D-pad, yet.

Upon power-up the machine works very well. The blades come up very quickly and connects to Live just as well. Navigating the blades is easy. I didn't have any problems finding what I wanted. Upon entering the marketplace things got a lot less friendly. The descriptions of the games leave a lot wanting. Another thing I would love to see is previews of the gamer pics and themes before they are purchased. At this point it's a crap shoot. You may like it, you may not. The problem is you won't know until you pay for it. This is an area that I've read a lot about over the last few months that has been identified as a problem. So why hasn't it been fixed? We don't know, but here's one possible solution.

Playing a game in the drive is one area I have a problem with. As soon as I start a game the 360's incredibly loud fan kicks in. It actually drowns out the sound from my TV. But that is a minor annoyance, the sound fades into the background after a while. Games run smooth, with no problems. The controllers are responsive and are comfortable even after using for hours at a time. The hard drive is efficient and relatively quiet. I hear it every once in a while, but it's not as distracting as the fan is. As far as graphics performance goes, Mass Effect looks really good, but that's more to the credit of the developer and not the hardware. I can't compare the graphics to my PS3 because I don't have the same title for both consoles, and honestly, I really don't care. I'll get a game based on the story and gameplay, not necessarily graphics.

I think that covers just about everything. As you just read, I think the 360 is a good console with a lot of potential. It does have one or two...quirks, but nothing that will keep me from playing it. I've played through Mass Effect and I plan on picking up the first Halo game this month. If I'm going to start with the Xbox, I might as well start from the best and the beginning. One of these days I'll have to pick-up the wireless adapter so I can get a dedicated connection for Live. Eventually, I'll see you all online.


I know the old saying about ignorance and bliss. I get the meaning behind it, too. The logic is that if you don't know about something then it can't effect you. For normal everyday events that may be OK. As far as gaming goes, happiness doesn't come from not knowing about games. Happiness comes from playing the games**.

Here's the reason why I say gaming bliss comes from knowledge. As you all know I recently purchased an Xbox 360. That alone opens a whole world of gaming that I just can't get with a PS3. Now I get the opportunity to play games like Mass Effect, the Halo series, the Gears series, the upcoming Too Human, and many other interesting games. There's one other side to Xbox gaming that I never actually considered before. As I looked back through some of the original Xbox titles a few of them caught my eye. Sure, Halo and Fable were up there on my radar, but then I noticed Doom 3 and Serious Sam II. For typical console gamers those games may not mean much, but for PC gamers, they are well known. And that's what caught my attention.

Now here's where ignorance, my ignorance, really kicks in. I had no idea that there were so many PC titles available for the Xbox. Now, I've never been much of a PC gamer, I got my first computer in 2006, but that never stopped me from having an interest in all types of games. As a kid I used to go into the neighborhood bookstore (that's where they sold PC games when I was a kid) and see the games they had there. I don't remember a lot of the titles of the games they sold back then, but I do remember that they looked a hell of a lot better then my Atari 2600 and NES games did. My family never had enough money to get me a computer back in those days, even though they wanted to, I still kept abreast of advances in computers.

As time went by, I became less and less interested in PC gaming. Console systems were becoming more and more advanced, and were cheaper than buying a PC. I eventually bought an N64, PS1, PS2, a Game Gear, Game Boy, and even an Atari Jaguar, all before I bought my first PC. In picking up a computer I bought a laptop that was decent enough to play games on. I did get a couple of games for it, but trying to keep up with PC hardware was something I didn't want to follow through with. So, I stuck with console games. In doing so I thought I was missing out on some great titles that would never see console form. Well, I was wrong. In my ignorance I was unaware of how many PC games were actually available for the Xbox. I initially dismissed the console, due to reasons I don't even remember now, and missed the whole thing.

After picking my 360 I decided to check out all the titles I've missed, and I was surprised. See, for me, a title's age won't effect my enjoyment of it. A great story and compelling gameplay are all that I require. Heck, even the story is optional in some cases. Needless to say, I've got some catching up to do.

**Disclaimer: Happiness also comes from having a family, such as a wonderful wife that allows me to buy all sorts of gaming stuff and continue with this time consuming and costly hobby. Thanks dear, I love you.