XBOX REVIEW: XBOX LIVE ARCADE
I wrote a preview for the new Live Arcade service that Xbox started in November. At the time I was waiting for a disc from Microsoft and for the service to get off the ground. I am glad I waited since now that gamers who pre-ordered Mechassault 2 also received the Live Arcade disc with MS. Pac-man. At first I talked with Vaughn about the service and had doubts. I really thought it was more of a way for Xbox to get more money from those who already pay for the service. I was lucky (thanks to a friend who got an extra disc that included more games on it for free) to play some of the other games without having to pay for them. It also gave me a chance to find out and help clear up a few rumors about the service itself. You place the Arcade disc in the Xbox and it will not update the dashboard as first thought. It is a menu driven system that will save any game or demos to the hard drive. Every time you want to use the service you need to place the disc in to connect to the Arcade service. You will see what is new and several categories including one called "your games". Under this slot is the games you already have or the demo version, which are free to download. Of course the demo will not have all the features. It's a way to see the game and play it before buying the game and then finding out it stinks.

The system is easy to navigate through. It also has a wide range of games. You can get classic arcade games and new online multi-player games, card games and family games. Xbox is adding new games to the service each month. You can buy a game that will support 4-player online play, but every person needs to buy the game unless you are playing with friends at home. So far it sounds decent, right? Well, it is a nice service and in many ways reminds me of the Sega channel on cable years ago. Yes, I just showed my age. Once upon a time you could hook up your Genesis 16-bit system up to a cable and buy games. It works the same way only faster and a bit more expensive. The games are set in price from $9.99-19.99 depending on the game and the features. I played the full version of the multi-player game Fuzzy Fever, a puzzle game that is interesting enough. It supports 4-player online, the catch? It's $19.99 billed right from your credit card and downloaded into the hard drive. I just think that is steep for one game. I can see the service appealing to those who don't have the knowledge of playing some of the classic games on their computer or the time to set it up. It may also be appealing for those who want a family night around the Xbox, but it could get expensive. I also had a chance to play MS. Pac-Man that came with the first disc and it is true to the arcade version in every way. I also played the Namco pack that features Dig-Dug, Pole Position and Galaga. Again, true to the arcade versions but expensive.

I think in time the Arcade service will offer some worthwhile games that will be exclusive to the service itself. Yet, right now I would say use caution and take advantage of the free demo feature. You can play the game for a time limit and get a feel of the game, and then if it is really worthwhile you can purchase the game. Downloading the demos and games is quick and it is simple to know what you are picking. You would be asked "are you sure you wish to buy the game?" and the price will pop up. It is certainly not going to be for everyone yet, in the future it looks like there may be some cool games added. My best advice is if you have younger children, use the parental option that prompts a code before a premium purchase is charged to your credit card. A quick call to Xbox also confirmed in case of a hard drive error or your Xbox needs serviced, you will be able to call Xbox and re-download games you have already been charged for. The overall service is a nice idea and has potential. I still think it needs time to prove it can offer more than classic games or budget-style games.

Preview By Chris

There is a new feature available for those who have Xbox Live. With Xbox Arcade each month you can play demos and then if you wish to buy them, you can download the full version right from the dashboard. The new service will remind some of the popular Game Zone site for the PC world. A wide range of family and classic games are going to be available and this new feature has already started. You will need the Arcade disc that will update your Xbox live dashboard and add the new feature. The price for the disc is $ 4.99 and includes the full version of Ms Pac-Man...um, yeah.Okay-so the game is already out on several collections.

For those who do not buy those classic collections, it may be worth it to them. The Xbox Arcade will also feature board games and seems designed for a family night of fun or at a party. Microsoft has announced that over 40 games will be available by the summertime. It seems it will also have a few enhanced features like a larger chat lobby and allow you to increase the number of friends you can have on your list. It's not a bad idea, however, looking at it from a reviewer's and a gamer's perspectives, I have to admit the price structure for some of the games is a bit high. The bundles are priced better and start at $9.99 - $19.99. That is not bad for several games.

Now the question is will gamers or the one who pays the credit card bill pay $19.99 for a board game? I guess we will see. I do like the fact they plan on adding Poker and a few card games. Those types of games would be great to use to host a night for the guys with friends who live far away or even in another state or country. One other question is what if you have problems with your Xbox and you have to replace it or exchange it? Will they charge you again to download what you have already paid for? I had a few Emails and also some of the players online ask about this very same thing. I am sure they will keep track and offer some sort of policy for the games already paid for. Microsoft is now starting to include the Arcade disc in with the Xbox live starter kit minus the free Ms Pac-man game. They are also going to start airing ads for the service. It may be a really good thing. Then again it could be very easy to start downloading games and end up with a high credit card bill since the service will charge right to the credit card you have on file. Of course there is a setting so that parents or the owner of the account will need to enter a code to enable the purchase.

We try to bring anything new to your attention and let you in on it. If you want the Arcade disc, you can call Xbox direct or go to the web site and click on Xbox live and read the info about the new service. I personally do not have the service yet and I am going to wait for a while and see what others think. If we get a chance to try it out, we will let you know our thoughts on it.

Games and Bundles available:

Bejeweled and Alien Sky
Guardian and Fuzzee Fever
Galaga, DigDug, and Pole Position
Hamsterball, Feeding Frenzy, and Marble Blast

Games to be released later:

Monopoly
Risk
Casino Pack Including 5 Card Stud and Texas Hold Em
Chess
Backgammon
Hearts
Spades

Each Bundle or Game to range from $9.99-$19.99

Click For Media
System: XBOX
Pub: Microsoft
Released: Nov 2004
Players: 1 - 2
Review by Chris
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
3.5
GRAPHICS
3.5
CONTROL
4.0
MUSIC/FX
4.0
ONLINE
4.0
VALUE
3.5