My god they did it. The bastards really did it.
"It," in this case, being the just-released New Xbox Experience. "The bastards" being Microsoft." And the thing they did? Well, dear reader, the thing they did is ... it's magnificent.
There's not enough room topside for me to explain why I'm waxing cryptically philosophic about a software update, so click the link below and join me for the thrilling tale of how Microsoft made suicide the least attractive option for my day.
Back to the "it" for a moment: The New Xbox Experience is a dashboard update for the Xbox 360 which was released to the public just this morning. It's free to all Xbox 360 owners and snagging your own personal copy is as simple as turning your console on and agreeing to their long-winded lawyer talk via a click of the 'A' button.
These kinds of updates are nothing new. Microsoft has already altered the Xbox 360 dashboard two or three times -- and that's just the major overhauls. The NXE however, changes so much that it's in a class all of its own.
I don't have time to note each individual change, so let's just focus on the one's that make me hot, ok?
Hard Drive Game Installation
Yes, the PlayStation 3 has been able to do this since launch, but Sony's console has never needed the feature as badly as Microsoft's. By installing entire game discs onto the hard drive of your console -- you do have a large enough hard drive, don't you? -- the system gains the ability to play everything directly from memory. No more spinning up DVDs in a drive with the audio characteristics of a mortally wounded leafblower, no more heating the entire room with the poorly constructed drive mechanisms, and most importantly, no more needlessly shortening the lifespan of your console simply by playing videogames on it.
Microsoft hatched a plan to bring your Netflix rental account directly to your Xbox 360, and it's almost flawless. I say "almost" because while the console offers a large number of movies for download from Netflix's vast vault o' films, not everything they offer is represented. Notably, Sony opted to screw over Xbox 360 owners by forbidding Netflix from offering any of the films created by their studio wing on the service.
Still, instantly downloading high definition movies to your console is pretty rad. I can only hope it's yet another spear in the side of Blockbuster Video.
How I loathe Blockbuster Video.
Taking a cue from Nintendo's "Miis," Microsoft has created their own unnervingly adorable player representations for the NXE. Now players are given the option of constructing a virtual facsimile of themselves that serves as something of an electronic simulacrum -- and even takes part in certain (terrible) Xbox Live Arcade games.
Normally I don't get all squishy over shit like this, but Microsoft's offering is much less idiotic than Nintendo's and (probably) won't be forced down our throats in every game the company creates from now on.
I had my doubts about the NXE back when it was announced at E3. The bright lights, overactive marketing-speak and annoyingly upbeat performance from Duffy certainly didn't help my hangover, so anything the company had announced would have been met with a sarcastic "yay" from me. Now that my head is no longer ringing and I don't have a poppy British blond singing upbeat neo-soul at me I have to admit: Microsoft has really outdone itself here.
Additional Side Note: I'm discovering just how many films Sony has blocked Xbox 360 users from accessing via Netflix. The feature is still awesome and very useful, but I'm fucking pissed that I can't watch Leon and Heavy Metal on my console.