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Review: The New Xbox Experience for Xbox 360

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A lot of things are riding on this UI redesign for Microsoft and the Xbox team, but more importantly it’s quelling the frustrations that many of us have had to deal with since the beginning of time. The blade interface was a good start, but it was frustrating at times and it certainly deterred me from perusing the Marketplace. Streaming via Netflix has been rumored for almost a year and that feature will finally be unlocked come November 19th. I still think the whole avatar feature is childish, but I was once asked whether or not I made characters in my own image (like in Madden or whatever), which promptly made me shut my mouth.

The Xbox and Microsoft teams began working on NXE this past spring and seeing what they’ve accomplished in such a short time is pretty amazing. Most will be content with the addition of Netflix, virtual parties and creating their own avatars, but I’m most excited by the fact that we no longer have to wait for the spring or fall updates to unlock new features.

Video after the jump. I’m no Doug Aamoth and I apologize in advance.

The Marketplace is no longer a never-ending maze. Everything you could ever want to purchase whether it’s a game related theme or new map pack is accessible from just about anywhere in the dashboard. You don’t have to go the Marketplace to do it. If your favorite game is Gears of War then you can see what’s available for download from your games library. It’s simple and more streamlined. Of course, you will be redirected to the Marketplace channel, but the point is that you don’t have to go there to begin with. You can also search for items in various ways, but the inclusion of an alphabetical search is key. I can finally redeem codes and/or purchase content from my computer without having to be at home. Everything begins to download once I turn on my Xbox and sign into Live.

The Party feature is also fairly neat for many reasons. The 8-way party chat is great because you don’t all have to be playing the same game in the same room at once. You can all be doing different things and still be connected. The Photo Party feature is perfect friends and family because you can all share photos at once. Photos can be uploaded to the party over your wireless network, USB drive and/or CD/DVD. I like being able to snag certains photos and bringing them back up to the forefront. Sometimes those embarrassing photos you don’t want people to see get uploaded. You can also upload screenshots or share new maps with your cronies if they’re too cheap to shell out for them. It’ll be interesting to see how this feature evolves through time.

The Netflix feature can be seen in the video demo and it’s pretty straightforward. HD streaming will begin on the 19th as well. Woohoo!

Lovers of the blade system should know that you can still access a variation of it by pressing the Guide Button. This is a quick way for gamers to jump from one area to another while they learn the new dashboard system. It also gives you vitals like controller battery life, your Gamerscore, who’s online, etc.

Ripping games to the hard drive has made a huge difference in my overall happiness because I no longer have to listen to the thunderous fans of my Xbox. The actual difference was measured at 7db (this figure came from MS). Games load a lot faster, but I wish I didn’t have to have the disc in the drive simply because I’m lazy and don’t want to swap out discs when my ADD kicks in.

The next addition may or may not have been mentioned, but you can delete zero score games that you or someone else played once on your account so that it doesn’t affect your Gamerscore.

I’m pretty stoked on the New Xbox Experience, but like some of my peers have said, “it’s just a UI.” But it’s a UI that makes the overall experience that much easier to navigate and it can be updated on the fly. And don’t worry about the servers crashing on the 19th, MS assures me that it won’t happen.

If there’s anything else that you guys want me to check out or film then leave a comment and I’ll be sure to get to it this week.

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