Not ready to open your wallet for next-gen? No worries — you can still enjoy HD gaming on your current console — if you have the right cable and choose the right games. When you are ready for next-gen, rest assured the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 offer genuine hi-def video output for every game, right out of the box. And while Nintendo’s Wii won’t offer HDTV resolutions (boo!), it will offer widescreen for some games, including the launch title Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.
To get widescreen from your prior generation consoles — Xbox, PS2 and the early model Game Cube — you’ll need an optional HD cable for playing in true HD. The cable plugs into the component video ports on the back of your set — they’re the trio of red, green, and blue RCA type jacks.
But be warned, not all games offer widescreen, also known as 16:9, resolution. Check the back of the box, or better yet, check out the useful website HDTV Arcade to lookup which games offer which resolution and widescreen or not (hdtvarcade.com). Another useful site is Pro-G (www.pro-g.co.uk), which sometimes offers a “Technical Info” link that says whether a title has 16:9 widescreen.
Once you’ve connected the HD cable, go to your console’s video settings menu an select the appropriate HD resolution and widescreen. Ditto for the audio settings if you’re connecting your console to a surround sound receiver — you need to let your console know you’re now playing with better sound, too.
As for what to play, here’s my totally biased list of ten widescreen favorites — some of which can be picked up for as little as $10 bucks if you go for a used copy.
SPLINTER CELL DOUBLE AGENT (Xbox 360, Wii, Xbox, PS2, GameCube)
My personal most-anticipated game of the year for the Xbox 360 (with versions coming for the PS3 and Wii), non-next-gen wannabe spies won’t be left out in the cold thanks to widescreen on the PS2, Xbox and GameCube versions. Also: Don’t miss the prequel, Splinter Cell Chaos Theory, which plays wide on the Xbox and can play on the 360, too. My favorite game in years, till Double Agent.
BURNOUT REVENGE (Xbox 360, Xbox, PS2; Burnout 2 for GameCube)
My favorite crowd pleaser, Burnout Revenge turns people who don’t play video games into shouting, screaming, jumping-out-of-their-seat converts as the swap paint in this all-out racer.
BLACK (Xbox, PS2)
From the same maker of Burnout Revenge, it’s no wonder explosions and tons of shattering glass in this first person shooter look so dang beautiful and sound so ear-splittingly real.
SSX 3 (Xbox, PS2, Game Cube)
Once again, a game that pleases non-videogamers and real-world snowboarders alike, carving the sparkling snow is fast, fun and breathtaking.
SHADOW OF THE COLOSSUS (PS2)
You’re jaw will drop when you face your first insanely gigantic boss in this beautifully barren yet well paced adventure that’s a big change from all that have come before it.
GOD OF WAR (PS2)
Easily one of the best, most heart-pumping PS2 action adventures ever, antihero Kratos powers his way through the Greek mythology world filled with amazing weapons, moves, scenery and sound.
X-MEN LEGENDS II: RISE OF APOCALYPSE (Xbox, PS2, GameCube)
The Xbox version is the way to go, with your gaggle of super-heroes saving the world with great widescreen graphics and super surround sound.
KING KONG: THE OFFICIAL GAME (Xbox, PS2, GameCube)
Again the Xbox version looks the greatest in this feels-like-you’re-in-the-movie adaptation of the big-screen version. The only gripe: It’s too short.
MADDEN NFL 07 (Xbox, PS2, GameCube)
Not a footballer myself, this one’s a nod to my lifelong armchair quarterback in the sky, my dad, with the lineup going to Xbox 1st, PS2 2nd and GameCube 3rd as far as which looks best when it goes wide on your HDTV.
TONY HAWK PRO SKATER 4 (Xbox, PS2, GameCube)
A long-border in real life, I get my trick kicks from the years-old but still hands-down sporting Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4, which gives up widescreen on all platforms.