Xbox 360 Arcade Review: Geometry Wars

Every console needs a showcase title, and rather oddly, for the Xbox 360, that could be the $5 Geometry Wars. While photo-realism is a wonderful thing, rainbow colored particle effects can be just as impressive. This dual analog shooter shows why the majority of your time spent with the Xbox 360 could be in the Live Arcade.

The concept of basing an entire game around a graphical special effect is a dangerous one. In the case of Geometry Wars, that's ok. There's no need to dive into a story or look for an explanation. You're trapped inside a small square and a variety of shapes are attempting to kill you. That's it, and it feels like something Asteroids wanted to be back in 1979, but the limited technology didn't allow for it.

Geometry Wars carries with it the subtitle of Retro Evolved. That's perfect as this is a video game based around nothing but high scores. The Achievement Point system makes sure you try some different things. However, aside from that, you'll need to keep your wits and pay close attention. This is the style of gameplay that makes you feel like a professional as you glide through armadas of foes thanks in part to the smooth controls that only analog sticks could provide.

While the hardcore crowd may frown, this is a title all about the graphics. Every connected bullet produces an array of colored sparks. It's a dazzling showcase of the systems power, and it never once enters into a 3-D world. It's also the game's sole downfall.

Buried beneath the graphical splendor is the gameplay. Death usually comes from the blinding display of sparks that cover your ship and every enemy. Nothing is more frustrating than losing 20-minutes of record setting playtime due to a small blue block clipping your ship because you were never able to see them enter the fray.

Still, Geometry War's scoring system makes up for it, and brings with it the hook that every Xbox Live Arcade game should: addictiveness. The longer you're alive, the higher your scoring multiplier. Coupled with the intensity of the game, this creates the mix of elements that combine to make this the guaranteed classic it is. You're not staying alive to see what comes next. You're weaving between shapes to secure the right to blast them away with a 10x bonus attached.

While the demo system for the Live Arcade will end up hurting titles that don't quite work out as planned, that feature is in place solely to introduce more people to games like this. Geometry Wars is brilliant, and for the meager $5 price tag (which also secures you a copy of the original title from the first Xbox), it's the easiest no-brainer for the Arcade. Some form of multi-player would make this the ultimate twitch shooter.

(**** out of *****)

Comments (6)

It's a dazzling showcase of the systems power

Meh. I don't know. Looks pretty much like Battle Girl on any old PPC Mac to me. And I actually prefer Battle Girl, controls better with the mouse.

Now that is an old game I have not played in a while. But I have to say, Battle Girl doesn't hold a candle to Geometry Wars on the 360. Have you seen the video of the game posted at Joystiq? Link.


You're right, of course, Geometry Wars does look better than BG. My point was that it doesn't really showcase the 360's power because technologically, it's the same as Battle Girl with a few transparency effects and particle effects thrown in. It has a similar amount of objects on screen as later levels of Battle Girl - maybe twice or three times as many at most. It does look great, but I doubt it pushes the Xbox too much. Two dimensional particle effects aren't really too hard on today's chipsets.

Games like PGR3 are on a totally different level than Geometry Wars, as far as system power usage is concerned.

Oddly enough Geometry Wars has been reported to use two cores - one for the background, one for all the objects. I am not sure about PGR3, who knows if it uses more then one core.


It's a bit odd because it would probably not need two cores. On the other hand, it's not *that* odd since in Geometry Wars, the background is pretty much independent from the action, so it's easy to run this in two threads even if it's not strictly needed.

Also, CPU speed is most likely not what's holding games like PGR3 back. It's the graphics card. I'm sure the 360 has no problem calculating all the stuff in PGR3 using one core. However, rendering the action into these high-res pretty graphics is the hard thing. It's also where PGR3 shows the 360's weakness: PGR3 isn't capable of rendering in full HDTV resolution. Instead, it renders a smaller picture and upsamples it to full HDTV res.

I was just about to say the same thing about PGR3 and upscaling HD, which I think is pretty stupid. It is some oddball number too, not true 720.

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