The original Xbox came through with more than a splash — it came through with a wave of power. The big powerful console was the closest a console could be to a gaming PC at the time, which allowed console gamers to feel competent when in conversation with a PC gamers debate. PC gamers will highlight that they have always been and will always remain ahead of the console market. We all understand that but gamers buy consoles for different reasons and the Xbox brought power to the console market not yet seen before as well as the ability to play music whilst gaming.
Yes playing music whilst gaming was massive for console gamers back in the early 2000s when this was yet to come to console games. A controller, that for many was the revered controller as a slightly heavier, slightly chunkier design and feel. Which for me was reminiscent of the infamous Dreamcast, which I lost many hours playing Sonic Adventure. But for me, the number one thing that impacted me and my view of gaming, the flourishing industry and what helped contribute to a heightened love for gaming, was the moment I was enchanted by Halo.
I have to thank Microsoft and Bungie for that moment. I first played Halo with my friend Connor when we were the tender age of 11, cruising along Friar St and rolling into the then HMV store. We were fortunate, two little boys rolling into the store and being pleasantly surprised that the Xbox had no queue. As most parents will attest too, Gaming consoles are like magnets for children, and for us, this was the new Xbox we had heard so much about. So we jumped on Halo, and I and Connor had spent over 4 hours glued to the spot playing through the story of Halo: Combat Evolved — making the most of our half day.
Yes, this was when in-person co-op (sofa play) was still prevalent. (Industry professionals, please don’t ever relieve us of this joy. Thank you.) The game was truly enchanting, the graphics, the aesthetics were stunning — better than what I was used to at the time. The mechanics and physics of the game, the story and a soundtrack which resonates with my ears like the Star Wars anthem. This immediately endeared to the console, along with the built-in ‘multi-tap’ allowing 4 players to immediately play.
The built-in hard drive which at the time was equivalent to your Dropbox or cloud storage because space seemed limitless. School home and Xbox was the routine for a very long time. I got right into Splinter Cell, Half-Life 2, Star Wars: Republic Commando, Def Jam Fight for NY, Burnout Takedown, Fable and for me one of my favourites franchises to this day, Rainbow Six. For those who don’t recall, there was much life in the franchise before the critically acclaimed Rainbow Six Siege. The tactical shooter, was a far cry from the wet n wild style shooters I was used to, and it quickly engaged me.
Splinter Cell was one of my favourites after Halo, lurking in the shadows and using real precision and tactics drew me in. The realistic quality of the graphics again reflected the power of the Xbox. As I write this it dawns on me that a lot of my favourite franchise today actually started out life on the Xbox, such as Splinter Cell and Rainbow Six.
The Xbox 360 also stormed into the world in 2005, peacocking with graphics that console gamers had yet been blessed with. I remember King Kong being one of the launch titles to run in tandem with the movie release and being inspired by how amazing the lighting, weather effects and the fur of animals within the game looked.
Then, of course, brought the next wave of Halo games, since the evergreen classics such as Mario and Crash Bandicoot as a child, there hasn’t been a game franchise which has intensified by admiration for gaming like the Halo series. I won’t get into the debate of which is the best one, but for me, the first two were my favourite and the one I dedicated the most time to as a carefree teen. Classics such as Red Dead Redemption which has left a highly anticipated buzz around the sequels release Red Dead Redemption 2 later this year, was accompanied by games such Bioshock, Mass Effect 2, Fallout 3, The Orange Box and Burnout Paradise.
Could it be an Xbox tribute without mentioning Left 4 Dead and most importantly Gears of War? Gears of War was for me the first game which brought a truly cinematic feel to gaming just through movement and mechanics alone, let alone a gripping story and relatable and enthralling. I remember first running a mission and the feeling on the pad and the movement of the camera added to the immersive feeling I believe they were trying to create and succeeded in doing so. The physics in the game were heightened at this period, and no other games were close.
Then came the horsepower of Xbox One, Xbox One S and Xbox One X. Focusing on the ‘X’, Xbox has again released an ultra-powerful console which not only boasts raw horsepower, it has unrivalled online capabilities and matchmaking prowess, which is expected being born of tech and computer heavyweight Microsoft. As cloud gaming becomes more prevalent and gaming SaaS (software as a service) continues to rise, the cloud prowess and hardware expertise could see Xbox fair extremely well.
The backwards compatibility of the console is always a positive, as many gamers (and buying family and friends) appreciate all of those old games not becoming obsolete or downtrodden as the new console is out. The controller is meaty, just as many gamers like it and not only is the hardware powerful, the UI and UX of the Xbox are so sleek, so smooth, so fast it’s like drifting around on Forza Horizon in a Ferrari 458 Italia. With ironclad exclusive franchises in the light of Halo, Gears of War, Forza, Dead Rising, Quantum Break and more, we eagerly anticipate more top exclusives entering the party this year with Crackdown 3, State of Decay 2, The Last Night and a game to adventure exploration days, the Sea of Thieves! Just like Sony PlayStation and Nintendo, we’re super grateful for all the quality contributions of Microsoft Xbox to the industry.