Ever since the Xbox 360 launched last year, there were plenty of not-so-secret rumors about a Web-cam-style video camera for the system that would allow Xbox Live users to video chat in real-time with one another. This same camera would also be Microsoft's answer to Sony's innovative EyeToy camera, which goes with a number of gesture-based games that have come out for the PlayStation 2, with more undoubtedly planned for the upcoming PlayStation 3.
The Xbox Live Vision camera for Xbox 360 has finally arrived, and it currently comes in two bundles. The entry-level version retails for a modest $40 and includes an Xbox 360 headset, a one-month trial for Xbox Live Gold, and a free download code for Xbox Live Arcade game UNO. The $79 Xbox Live Vision Gold Pack adds a year-long Xbox Live Gold subscription (which enables online gameplay with other 360 users), 200 Microsoft Points that can be spent on Xbox Live Marketplace content, and another Xbox Live Arcade game, Robotron 2084. TotemBall, the first game to require the Xbox Live Vision Camera, was originally slated to release with the camera, but it was slightly delayed and is now a free download.
From a design standpoint, the Xbox Live Vision camera is a pretty nice piece of gear. It matches the Xbox 360's coloring, it tilts and swivels nicely, and it's meant to propped up on top of your TV or any flat surface. The early review sample we received didn't have any way to adhere the camera to a surface, but chances are you'll end up wanting to move it around anyway, depending on whether you're sitting or standing.
Setting up the camera was easy. You must have a subscription to Xbox Live Gold, and your Xbox Live system software must be updated to the latest version. Ideally, you plug the camera into the USB port on the back of your Xbox 360, but if you already have a USB wireless adapter connected to that port, you'll have to go for one of the two front USB inputs. If you have only wireless controllers and you think it's ugly to have a cable sticking out of the front of your Xbox 360, we feel your pain, having pointed out this design flaw in our review of the Xbox 360.
Once the camera is plugged in to a USB port, you're good to go, and if you look closely, you'll notice that image on the camera is projected onto the background of the Xbox Live menu system, creating a cool shimmering water effect--this effect is most noticeable on the system's default theme. To see yourself and adjust the picture settings, you select Xbox Live Vision from within Xbox Live menu system. You'll find options for fluorescent lighting and dark vs. light back walls. Tweaking the settings will indeed impact the picture, but we found that it was easier just to leave the camera on the Automatic lighting adjustment setting, which yielded perfectly acceptable results.