For the past year or so, Microsoft have taken a lot of heat as they have attempted to break into the home console market. But their entry, the Xbox, is nothing but a mass of pure gaming goodness. The Xbox is large, heavy, and it boasts more power than any other platform on the market. I’ve often heard people discuss just how powerful the Xbox is, and if games are really any better on it. Make no mistake about it, the Xbox is a workhorse, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that any particular game will be better on the Xbox. It is true though, that all games will consistently look better on the Xbox if the developers take the time to bring it up to speed on the system. Obviously, if a game is a straight port, with no updates, then it will look the same on the Xbox as it did on the PS2 or whatever system it’s coming from. However, the Xbox has the capability to make any game better.

What’s so special about the Xbox that makes a game look and possibly play better? Well, there’s a lot of muscle under that meaty, plastic frame. The Xbox can handle more than the PS2 or GameCube. Need proof? Look at all the games released on the major platforms: SSX Tricky for the Xbox has been given the best reviews out of the three versions, and Xbox Spiderman is better than the GCN or PS2 versions. Still not convinced? Look at Max Payne on the PS2, then check it out on the Xbox. The Xbox version is the clear winner, even rivaling the PC original. Sure, I’ve complained about the large controller just like everyone else, but after months of using it, I can honestly say that I prefer the Xbox controller over the GameCube’s and even the DualShock2. The trigger buttons were the coolest feature ever on a controller, and now the Xbox is the only system that has that feature. Shoulder buttons can be flimsy, and difficult to reach, but the triggers sink into the controller nicely, and they’re in the perfect position. Oh, and thanks to the nice hard drive, the Xbox can rip tracks from your CD collection and play them with compatible games. Also, the Xbox is capable of updating games, as we’re about to see with the DOA 3 Booster Disc.

But alas, no matter how powerful or how cool a system’s functions may be, they are completely useless without good games to take advantage of them. The Xbox had a mind-blowing launch, but lately things have been rather dull. However, take a look at what 2002 has in store for the heavyweight, and you’re sure to see something you like.

To begin with, Xbox owners will finally receive their first big RPG; possibly as soon as this May. The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind will be shipping to both the PC and the Xbox in the next few weeks. The game has been in development for a fairly long time; mostly due to the ambitious nature of the game. Supposedly, you’ll be able to travel throughout the game and interact with nearly everything. The way you treat people will have a dramatic impact on how they treat you in return. Also, the adventure is completely open-ended, meaning you decide the best course of action during the quest. In a traditional RPG, a gang of thieves may attack a village, and it would be your job to stop them. However, in Morrowind, you can actually choose to join with the thieves instead. The game will place a great emphasis on character development, not unlike another killer Xbox RPG… You can read our preview of Morrowind here.

Next on our list, we have Project Ego. And it may just be the biggest game of the year for any platform. If Morrowind is considered open-ended, then I have no idea what to call this game. Simply put, you can actually do anything you want. If you want to slaughter the innocent townsfolk, go ahead; or maybe you’d like to settle down with a nice young woman and start a family–well you can do that too. After all the promises this game has been making, it will sure be interesting to see if the developers can actually deliver. If they do, this will undoubtedly change the way RPG’s are made in the future; I can’t wait.

Morrowind and Project Ego both sound great, but so does this: Star Wars RPG. That’s right, it’s an Xbox RPG bonanza, baby! Yes, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic will be coming to the Xbox. The game is also scheduled for a PC release, but Xbox owners will get it first. Anyone who has seen the screenshots for the game can attest to just how gorgeous this game looks, and with Bioware behind the project, sweet gameplay is a pretty safe bet too. Instead of controlling a character from the Star Wars universe, you’ll get to create your own character and decide what to do from there. Will you be a hero? Or will you choose the Dark Side and become the next Darth Vader?

Don’t worry, if RPG’s aren’t really your thing, the Xbox has some alternatives for you. The upcoming Buffy the Vampire Slayer game is looking really good right now. A beat ’em up through and through, the game looks to deliver the action Streets of Rage style. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a decent brawler on any system–let’s hope Buffy can change that. You can read our preview of Buffy here.

Another great looking action title is Mace Griffon: Bounty Hunter. This game looks incredible, and is said to blend FPS action with flight combat in a seamless manner. The graphics in the game are as good as any thing else out there on the Xbox. If the gameplay can live up to expectations, we’ll have another killer title on our hands for “the box.”

All of the titles mentioned above will be on hand at this year’s E3 event so we can learn a bit more about them. (Editor’s Note: *Fingers crossed*) Well, except for Morrowind which we should all be able to get our hands on before E3. Other great looking titles like Capcom’s Tekki with its awe-inspiring controller, and the sci-fi RPG Duality will definitely be welcome additions to the Xbox library.

The Xbox had a great start, and it looks like it will have a good year in 2002, but sales have definitely slumped lately. Hopefully, these great games can bring sales back up, and make people realize just how good the Xbox is. I honestly feel that if more people would open up to the Xbox experience, then the console would become the market leader. It really is an amazing system. Now let’s just hope for a Halo 2 announcement at E3!

By Ryan Schaefer – 04/30/02

Screenshots for Console Watch 2002: Xbox