There's no doubt about it, 2004 was a banner year for Microsoft's Xbox. From the very beginning of the year to the absolute end there were quality products for both the online and offline community, and promise of bigger and better things to come. But this might be the last good year for the Xbox, since all indication points to a 2005 launch of Microsoft's next console.
Still, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves, Microsoft still has a few games worth looking at even if a new console is just around the corner. Rare will finally have a chance to shine with the Conker remake, BioWare has Jade Empire for RPG fans, and who needs Gran Turismo 4 when you can have Forza Motorsport? 2005 could be a defining year for Microsoft, and right now is just the calm before the storm. I guess we'll just have to check out their website and see if there are any indications of what will happen there.
"Sorry to bug you, but am I holding this thing right??"
Look and Design:
The Xbox website has a very simple, yet specific look. The curved top not only features a load useful features help for navigating, but also has a distinct look that you will recognize anywhere. Outside of that, the front page is actually a little cluttered, which seems to contradict the whole simple look of the top. On each side of the page you see large pictures promoting the same game, yet in the middle we get a list of the other top sellers. Below that we see some of the upcoming games, titles with online trailers, and much more. If it were laid out better it would actually be fun to look at, and only then would I classify it as helpful.
Thankfully the other sections manage to look better than the front page. The Discover Xbox page has an especially attractive banner and nice layout, and the Xbox Live page manages to have all the info you could want. Ultimately the look the Xbox site is pleasing to the eye, even if the front page is kind of an eye sore. Of the three console websites, this Xbox page is easily the best looking and easiest to navigate. But maybe I'm getting ahead of myself.
Navigating the website is actually extremely easy, thanks to that navigation bar we mentioned above. This thing features all of the links you could want, and even a few that have no place being there. It also gives off the impression that the Xbox site is much larger than it actually is. This is Microsoft's first console after all, so it will take a few more years until they actually have the depth a company like Nintendo or Sega should have.
One thing that makes the Xbox site just a little bit different from the rest is the addition of some funky Xbox Live features. For example, you can check if your friends are online, if your system is online, and much more. Couple that with a community and you have a website that caters to just about everybody connected to their service. Of course, this doesn't affect a lot of gamers, but it's still a nice feature to have.
Now you too can listen to Ja Rule whine about his relationship problems while you play Dead or Alive Ultimate!
Let's get one thing straight, the Xbox website is not a news powerhouse. It appears as if Microsoft feels their talents should be used elsewhere. But don't be scared off, there actually is info to be had ... it's just not frequently updated. You can read about the Spike TV Game Awards nominees, and then who won. You can read about the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show. And you can get real excited about an oddly placed Xbox Live coupon packaged in the new Ja Rule CD, if that's your kind of thing. But unlike Sony, Microsoft doesn't feature news about third party companies.
That's it, this is our final review. And it's Christmas . so quit reading this and get to playing your new games or watching those DVDs you unwrapped. I'm telling you, quit reading this, we're all done and happy to be finished. (But if you are going to stick around and keep reading, then I would like to take this time to thank you for reading all 31 episodes of our Christmas special. Now you have to wait another eleven months for us to start all over again, but I assure you, time will pass quickly. Just look at 2004, it feels like we were just in 2003. Good god, where has the time gone. Anyway, I'm getting the sign from the producer to wrap this up, so again I want to thank you for taking this journey with us, and if you have any comments or questions I look forward to hearing them.)
FINAL GRADE: B+
(Important Note: This review was written in 2004. As is the case with websites things tend to change and get moved around. We've decided to cover major companies who should have a presence on the web for many years to come, but the actual reviews of the layout may not be relevant for more than a month to a year. Having said that, we're hoping this article was still interesting, and if not, at least you go this extra little paragraph of explanation that you wouldn't normally get on the other websites.)