I recently faced a rather depressing problem with my crystal edition Xbox. Having not used it for several weeks, I turned it on with the intention of watching a DVD. Only to discover the machine would not power on, the front power LED would illuminate for a few brief seconds and then go out. For all intense and purposes the Xbox appeared dead. Now I was left to unravel what had happened to cause the console to stop working. Several hours searching forums online and I discovered the original Xbox like it’s successor, suffered from design faults. Unlike the 360, the original Xbox does not suffer from the red ring of death, however the fault is just as bad.
Like any product, Microsoft produced the original Xbox in the most cost effect way available. One means of keeping the cost down is by using cheaper surface components. This is fine if your product is only intended to have a short operational life span. Introduced in 2001, the Xbox is now 13 years old, the first of what is now three generations of console to bare the name. Microsoft are more interested in the Xbox One and to a lesser degree the 360, leaving the original Xbox to the care of the retro gamer. Who must find ways to keep the console ticking when components begin fail. One of the most common failures is bad capacitors, which plagues all revisions of original Xbox motherboard included the last revisions, such as the crystal edition Xbox.
In part two of this article I will cover how to replace these bad components and hopefully bring my crystal Xbox back to life.
In a recent update you might have seen I had bought two new games for the original Xbox; Robocop and Dungeon & Dragons: Heroes.
One of these games turned out to be a great buy, while the other one was a massive let down. Can you guess which was the winning game? Well if you where wishfully hoping it was Robocop, you’re bang out of luck. Seldom have I had the misfortune to play a game so full of promise, which instead manages to disappoint at every opportunity. I would even go as far as to say ET on the Atari 2600 is better, purely for the comic value. Yes that’s right, you heard me invoke the name of ET!
Produced by Titan Software, Robocop looks like it has the potential to be a good game, that is, until you boot up the Xbox and take one glance at the menu. The options are sparse and the music is, well, terrible. It reminds me of an old 90s dance tune. I would highly recommend anyone to select the inverted controls before attempting to play a level. I’d say it makes the game easier to play, but then I’d be giving the game more credit then it deserves.
The games comprises of eight levels, each made up of sections Robocop must traverse while attempting to complete his primary and secondary objectives. The levels in Robocop are huge, and I mean ridiculously so. It can take up an hour just to finish one level and that’s if you know what your doing. This might be bearable were it not for the fact the game does not have mid level saving. So the only way to save your progress is by finishing the whole level. It is almost unthinkable why the developers did this on a console fitted with a hard drive. Back in the days of the NES, Amiga it was common practice, but then levels did not take a mind-numbing 50 minutes to complete.
Now a word on the levels. As I’ve already stated, they are annoyingly extensive. They are also teeming with bad guys with terribly AI, who are armed to the teeth and take 6-8 shots to kill. Ammo is always in short supply, add to this the fact Robo’s weapons, of which he has 3-4, are pretty feeble. You’ll find yourself dying a frustrating number of times. Enemies also have the unfair advantage of shooting through walls and being able to shoot from jokingly long distances. Who needs a hunting rifle with night scope, when you can pop off shots with a pistol from half a mile away? As I mentioned the AI is laughable, play Halo or Ghost Recon and then play Robocop, you will feel the urge to laugh and probably cry. Another factor to the levels is the difficulty, which goes from passable on level one, to absurdly hard on level two, which also happens to be the biggest level of the entire game. You will be confronted with a limited supply of ammo which is dwarfed by the number of enemies that are scattered around the environment. Half of your time will be spent trying to find ammo or energy, yes Robocop is no longer impervious to bullets like in the movies. He now must replenish his energy at regular intervals. I can understand the logic behind this, I really can, an impervious Robo would be like running around with the cheat mode permanently switched on. However the balance of enemies vs supplies is tipped against the players favour even in easy mode. I played Robocop for several days to prepare for this review and I assure you it was a struggle. I found myself torn between my love for Robocop the character and wanting to find some good in the game and the fact the game sucks.
I’m not even sure it is worth covering the sound effects, which are terrible (big surprise!). You will be treated to some of the most cringe worthy one-liners. With Robocop uttering such unfamiliar phrases as “Oh yeah” and “Bullseye” the voice acting for Robocop is terrible. From what I gather it was done in house, with the developers lending their voices for several if not all the characters. Like the rest of the game, the sound is just appalling.
The graphics are sadly nothing to get excited about, resembling something that would look more at home on a Sony Playstation 2. For the original Xbox they are surprisingly bland, colourless and poor. Levels suffer with video glitches, flickering and characters becoming trapping inside walls. Robocop has several view modes, one of which is the almost completely useless thermal vision. In theory it gives you the ability to see enemies through walls, in practice is barely comes close to performing as intended. Half the time it will not show anything useful, leaving you to stumble across enemies.
Playing Robocop is an exercise in futility, which leaves you feeling annoyed, frustrated, and betrayed. Mostly because the box cover looks deceptively good, leading you to think the game will be as well, that is until your take it home and try playing it on your Xbox. Ten minutes in and the illusion evaporates faster than water on the pavement during a heat wave. This is one game to neglect from you collection. Playing it will result in the overwhelming desire to throw your controller at the television. So my advice would be to not play it, or buy a back up TV.
Yesterday I picked up two games for the original Xbox.
Dungeons & Dragons:Heroes and Robocop. After looking
online, I’m not expecting much from the latter, movie tie-ins
rarely work well. As the Xbox is now very much a retro console, it
seems only fitting to do a review on the good and not soo good
games of the original Xbox.
Over the past week I found myself playing more on my original Xbox then on my PS3 and 360 combined. Why you might be asking? Well the simple answer is Halo and my partners younger brother coming to visit. More the gamer then I ever will be, I thought he would scoff at my suggestion of playing on an original xbox. As it turned out, he had never played Halo and was curious what all the fuss was about. Thus we began our epic multi-player co-op campaign.
If your reading this and wonder what the heck is Halo, I can only recommend you seek out a copy and play it on a 360. If you dont own a 360, the original Xbox sells for nothing these days and is a worth addition to gamers collections. The console might be 10 years old, but the games are still good and worth playing.
On loading up Halo with its classic opening suite, it’s easy to see why it blew gamers away and why Microsoft used it to launch their first console. Hard to believe that originally the designers of Halo had intended the game to be a top down shooter for the PC and Mac! This is one occasion we really do need to thank Microsoft. Where it not for them, we probably would not have the killer FPS we all love today.
Playing Halo, I couldn’t help but be impressed with how well the game holds up 12 years on from it’s launch. The graphics still look sharp and environments feel immersive and organic. Two player on Halo sets a standard which I can only hope other game designers have adopted since. The co-operative mode of Halo allows two players to not only play side by side and if your friend is not around. You can continue where you left off and play the game in single player mode. Using the same save point for the single player and two player modes of play simply blew me over. I spent the past week playing Halo with my partners brother and managed to finish the game over two days. Roughly a days worth of playing if you combined it all together.
After completing the game, it took about 30 minutes before Halo 2 ended up in the Xbox. All I can say about that is holy cow! I thought the original Halo was pushing the console to it’s limits, clearly I was mistaken. Some how Bungie squeezed out even more from the Xbox and made a sequel that is not only as good as the original, but improves upon the graphics and game play.
The PS3 and Xbox 360 are already facing the inevitable passage of time and the rapidly approaching dawn of their replacements, be it the PS4 or Xbox 720. Here are ByteMyVdu there will always be a special place for the under dog, the forgotten piece of hardware most people throw away and forget about. The Xbox may not be as memorable as say the Super Nintendo or Megadrive is to many people, but it remains a console worthy in any gamers collection. While the original xbox might be a bulky looking thing, with about as much aesthetic appeal as a toaster, it has still managed to out lived it’s rivals. The Playstation 2 has not aged well and the Nintendo Gamecube survives thanks mainly due to a faithful following of Nintendo fans, who have to own anything and everything branded Nintendo. The original Xbox doesn’t survive on looks, but thanks to the hardware inside and the quality of games which where produced for it.