First a general observation on the demos downloadable on Xbox Live: it feels counter-intuitive that you can’t download full versions of full-size games. Yes, you couldn’t fit too many on the 20GB HD, but it would be a natural thing to do after the Marketplace having taught us to do so in the case of, well, smaller games. And I do understand that the retailers wouldn’t much like it. Still, it’s fairly easy to say that fully downloadable console games are certainly the future. I wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft released a bigger HD and the possibility of downloading at least their firstparty titles – during the life cycle of the 360.
Next: it is great to download playable demos of the expensive games you’re thinking about buying. The demos are hosted on very fast servers and you don’t have to eye the expensive official magazines just for demo discs. I only have one full 360 game bought, yet I’ve played hours and hours of new stuff and made several decisions to purchase while doing so.
So what sort of impact did the demos make? Basically, they’re better than I expected. Only one let me down in any way and for the most part I was blown away by the visuals. Gameplay’s all right, too, but Ghost Recon is always Ghost Recon and Burnout is always Burnout. You know what you like; a generation shift isn’t going to make you like a genre.
The biggest graphical treat is clearly Fight Night Round 3. I don’t care about boxing, but it’s just hard to fathom that you’re looking at a videogame. There are so few breaks to the illusion – mostly the upperbody stance shifts while blocking. The perfect title to show that your loud box is better than your old box. I need to play the demo more, as I’m not sure if I’m into the gameplay or not.
Experience-wise I was enthralled by Lost Planet. It’s very basic third person run and gun, but the graphics are really something else and the gameplay feels very solid. In the demo’s parking lot you can witness quite likely the best explosions seen in a videogame to date. Extra points for making the protagonist’s feet always touch ground in a most convincing way. No rotating on an invisible disc when looking behind your back, here. Also, I’m a sucker for mecha, and Lost Planet features very tasty walkers. Which can step on aliens. Definitely on the shopping list.
Moving on to even more traditional ground, Call Of Duty 2 is a World War II first-person shooter. I haven’t played any WWII shooters at any length (really!), so it feels like a fresh experience to me. I remember cringing at the jagged outlines at a 360 demopod, but I can’t see them in my CRT TV. Looks very good, sounds very good, plays very well… I can imagine buying this at a good price, sometime. Probably low on replay value, though.
Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter was on the top of my want list initially, but the demo feels like very common business, being a Ghost Recon veteran, myself. It does look splendid and plays well, but I reckon the meat would be in the multiplayer. It’s like Ghost Recon with lots of make-up; familiar, but still good.
I was always very interested in Climax’s official MotoGP franchise, but I never got around to playing it. The MotoGP 06 demo is intriguing. It doesn’t look nearly as good as the titles above, but it does play well. Presentation-wise the MotoGP feel isn’t quite there, at least in the demo. I’m not sure if I’m up to the challenge; just staying on the track feels very tricky, let alone winning anything. I played some 20 rounds and the best I could manage was seventh. I have yet to try out the multiplayer, which could very well be addictive.