Hands-on with Microsoft's Xmas Line-up

Written by Ryan Garside

October 12, 2006 | 17:52

Tags: #2 #360 #6 #evo #fuzion #launch #of #pro #review #war

Companies: #christmas #games #gears #microsoft

I was fortunate enough to spend most of today in a penthouse apartment overlooking the Thames whilst playing a bunch of upcoming 360 titles. There’s some really great games shimmering on the horizon for 360 gamers, so read on to get my views on how complete they are and whether they will live up to the hype.

Gears of War

Gears of War is being billed as the flagship of the second wave of 360 titles. The Microsoft employees who were there openly admitted that the initial plan was to launch Gears of War on the same day as Playstation 3 (late November) - however, due to the PS3 launch problems, that will now not be the case. Microsoft ran through a demo of how the in-game engine works and then set up a multiplayer game for us to kill one another in.

I have to say I was really impressed with the graphics. The smoothness of the camera flicking from standard view to shakey-cam when you’re running is a neat trick – it gives you a feeling of being there. My initial feeling was that the aiming wasn’t that great but after a few minutes adjusting to it I started to really like it. The game is as much about finding decent cover as it is about your aiming skills.

The multiplayer game that we played was just a simple case of team-deathmatch. It played well, although wasn’t amazing with only two features really catching my eye. The first is the ability to chainsaw your opponents. It’s a simple button hold melee attack when you are up close but the animation is really well done, with the person you’re attacking splitting completely in half and the screen ending up splattered in blood.

The other interesting idea is that when you get shot, you can tap the A button to keep yourself alive, if your team-mates reach you before a gauge fills up they can revive you.

Apart from that, Gears of War multiplayer offered little other than brilliant looking graphics to differentiate it from any other deathmatch multiplayer.

Viva Pinata

Having not seen this game before I was a little uncertain as to what I would be getting. Viva Pinata is a game due out in the next couple of months with the target audience being 6-12 year olds, a Microsoft spokesperson told me that the aim is to make the Xbox 360 appeal to a wider audience.

It’s quite difficult to explain the concept behind Viva Pinata. Think The Sims, Pokemon and Theme Park all rolled into one. You manage a garden in which the aim is to populate it with small animals. The park has a sort of ecosystem and so to bring in more animals requires tweaks and tinkering to the environment.

It’s very open ended and Microsoft hope that in conjunction with the Live service people will be able to customise and trade the animals they entice into their garden. It’s really easy to play and I had good fun with the mini-games. Microsoft is hoping that this could become the ‘next-big-thing’ with kids and is working on creating a kids TV show to run alongside the game.

Pro Evolution Soccer 6

Pro Evo was running alongside FIFA 07 at the party and I have to say it doesn’t look as nice. The graphics are, as would be expected, a bit of a step up from the previous generation’s offerings but it isn’t as dramatic as you might expect. FIFA looked a lot smoother but with football games, gameplay is everything.

Pro Evo 6 shouldn’t disappoint fans of the serie: everything feels pretty solid and the core elements of the gameplay don’t really seem too different from previous versions. One area which was a little annoying is the gamepad, the game still feels like it would play more comfortable in the hands of a Playstation controller. Most play using the analogue stick on the 360 and it doesn’t quite feel as good as Pro-Evo on the D-Pad. Look out for our review when it is released later this month.

Fuzion Frenzy 2

I completely missed Fuzion Frenzy 1! This game really caught my eye, it’s a party game for four people with a huge variety of mini-games to challenge one another at. It was by far the most popular pod with people itching to have a go at the games. I can proudly say I am the king of the sumo game.

Fuzion Frenzy 2 reminded me of Super Monkey Ball. It gives the gamer the impression that it would play very well after a night out at a club when you’re all a bit drunk. One thing that did concern me was that despite some of the games being brilliant, some were absolutely dire. Hopefully when the game is released in December they will have been tightened up somewhat.


So, all in all the 360 is looking like it’s in a pretty strong position going into Christmas. There are a whole host of other titles waiting in the wings as well so the overall feeling has to be that Microsoft's lineup is looking pretty impressive. We also saw the HD DVD drive which is set for release November 24th. Microsoft said that it doesn't expect demand to be too high for the drive, as the device is only worth buying if you already own a HDTV (about 5% of the population). The device will be launched alongside two other peripherals, the wireless headset and a Microsoft steering wheel.

What’s your thoughts on the Microsoft Christmas line-up?

Gears of War

Viva Pinata

Fuzion Frenzy

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