The Cutting Edge Page 2

Gaming in the Extreme

by Gene Newman

Dead or Alive 3, the head-to-head fighter game, was onscreen. Two warrior princesses were battling it out in a demo. Rather than interrupt their squabble, I just relaxed into the couch to admire the setup. Simply watching this canned action was more entertaining than Jean Claude Van Damme's entire career. (I know that's not saying much.) They were fighting on a beach, with skies as blue as sapphire, sand beneath their feet, and death-defying maneuvers at their disposal. I was thrown into a trance, hypnotized by the artistry. And I hadn't even started playing yet.

Having already taken care of all your computer needs, whether you wanted it to or not, Microsoft has now decided to go after your entertainment system. And the Xbox isn't some innocuous little device that can be hidden on a shelf. This 8-pound-plus black box of gaming obsession is intended to be the nerve center of all your entertainment needs.

Switching on Xbox is like booting up a computer, only quicker. A commanding explosion of green dances towards your face. Everything about Xbox is sturdy and strong, begging you to put aside all the stuff that makes people so mad at Microsoft for controlling 89% of the free world. So I popped in Project Gotham, a car-racing game, and started whirling around a pedestrian-free Manhattan to get a feel for the equipment. The sound raced around each corner of the room, and the image was so clear that I could almost have been looking out the window at the Midtown streets below.

Bill's New Toy More than a year ago, when Billy Haircut (a.k.a. William Gates) raised Microsoft's Jolly Roger over the gaming industry with the news of the Xbox, most gamers sighed at the thought of a new system and clutched their Sega Dreamcast and Sony PlayStation 2 (PS2) consoles in their carpal-tunnelized grips. But much has changed since then. The Dreamcast has gone the way of every other star-crossed Sega gaming platform. And when PS2 was introduced, most average folks couldn't get hold of one even if they put their mothers down as a deposit. When it did finally become available to the unwashed masses (you and me), the gaming world stood still. PS2 was hailed as the next-generation gaming console, providing play that could be outdone only by top-of-the-line PCs. However, with the Xbox, Microsoft is not only making itself at home in Sony's gaming territory but trying to steal the deed to the kingdom.