1. In seemingly direct opposition to The Thing I Cannot Talk About, the New Xbox Experience knows exactly what it is and offers some exciting features that I have already been able to take full advantage of.
2. One of those features is the ability to play games off of the HDD. I spent a considerable amount of time earlier this afternoon installing the games in my current rotation, and all of them loaded faster and even seemed to play a little smoother. Fable 2 benefited incredibly well from preloading; menus were readily accessible and the sluggishness that I'd mentioned before was pretty much completely gone. The initial load-up for GTA4 is noticably shorter. It's been noted elsewhere and I must agree: everything on The Orange Box loads very, very quickly. Saints Row 2 feels a lot smoother (and the 360 itself is much, much quieter). And Fallout 3 is quick and responsive and rock solid.
3. Fallout 3 deserves its own section. I hadn't gotten very far - maybe 1-2 hours out of the Vault, maybe level 4 - and I realized that the character I'd created was totally out of balance with the way I'd decided I wanted to play, and I wasn't having any fun; it didn't help that Gears and Fable and other titles then appeared and so it was easy for me to put it on the shelf and forget about it. I think what happened was that I took the "Oblivion with guns" comparison literally, and maxed all my stats in strength and melee, which is absolutely useless in Fallout.
Having finished Gears last night, though, I decided to re-roll, concentrating on weapons, stealth, medicine and hacking - either I or the game conveniently put a save point right before I left the Vault, which allowed me to change everything - and now I'm having a ball. Stealing items lowers my Karma score, which is fine since I've already decided to blow up Megaton. It's still hard for me to be a real asshole in conversations - mostly because I don't want to lose any potential side quests in doing so - but at the very least it's nice to steal items with impunity.
4. Back to the NXE. I don't really care about Avatars, at least not in their current form; there's nothing to do with them. I do care about the Netflix thing, though, and I was able to sync up my account with absolutely no hassle. The problem, though, is that the number of streamable movies on Netflix is pretty low, and the selection is pretty weak; if I have 200 movie title in my queue, only 20 of them are streamable, and I can't say I'm terribly excited to watch any of those 20. BUT. The option is there, and hopefully Netflix will get its act together and get more movies available online.
5. Oh, and as for Gears... it seems odd that I should be writing so little about such a big title. It is what it is, basically; it's Gears of War 1, but better. The story is still ridiculous but it doesn't really matter, because the gameplay is so astoundingly solid. It looks great, it feels great, the campaign is well paced and presents a nice challenge. It probably won't be in my top 3 candidates for Game of the Year, but there's not a lot to complain about.