The very first European Xbox's have arrived in the UK, and we've managed to get hold of one so as we can provide you with all the best coverage and reviews before the launch date.

The machine is a UK retail version, the very same as you'll be able to pick up from your local high street retailers from March 14th.

Later this week we'll be kicking off our Xbox Launch Fortnight, which will feature all the launch build up, news and reviews of the biggest launch titles, and will see the start of our Xbox coverage.

First impressions:
Hard Drive - Seeming more important and useful than we'd have though, and really providing some enhanced features which have never been possible on a console before, such as Project Gothams virtual radio station system which allows you to rip cd tracks to the Xbox hard drive and then include them in the radio station playlist.

Dashboard - Xbox has a stylish front end system, known as the Dashboard, and provides all your console management features, including Memory, Music and Settings. The music playing features seem quite lacking, with no special full screen visulisation to watch whilst your music pumps out of the speakers. Where the music functions are good though is the CD ripping feature that can make an mp3 of tracks on your CD's in 4x speed time and can be used in games which allow you to personalise the soundtrack.

Date/time setting - One annoyance is that you have to set the date and time everytime that you switch on your Xbox after it's been disconnected from the power supply. Quite why a small battery, as used in PC's and other consoles, couldn't have been included to power the clock, we simply can't work out. Obviously Microsoft want the Xbox to be always on much like your VCR or Set Top Box would be, making it into a real home entertainment device rather than just a console that you get out and plug in when there's nothing on the TV.

Size - Xbox is considerably larger than other consoles, it's taller than the PS2, and about the same size as a large VCR. This isn't particularly a problem, although it does mean that you'll need a fair amount of space to locate the machine, unlike a PS2 which can stand vertically and take up a minimal amount of space.

Pad - Since the Xbox was first shown, the gamepads have been cause for much annoyance, with many people saying that they're too large. Infact, Microsoft have just announced that they're bringing out smaller pads in America from consumer feedback. After a day of playing the three games that were supplied with our Xbox, we don't really see a problem with the pad, other than the two small black and white buttons which seem a bit hard to reach, and also the right hand Thumb Stick which seems a bit tall and can be hard to move your thumb on to quickly if you're flicking between the buttons and the thumbstick.

Graphics - We've been playing Project Gotham Racing, Halo, and Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee. All three titles appear to have amazing graphics, full of depth and all at a very high resolution. Project Gotham has some great lighting effects, with reflections on the shiney paintwork of the cars. Xbox doesn't seem to suffer from the 'jaggies' problem that many PS2 titles have, and so far we can't see any downfalls with the Xbox graphics.

We'll be having full reviews of Project Gotham Racing, Halo, and Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee later this week, along with full coverage of other Xbox titles, right here on GamesPaper.

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