In October of last year, I bought an XBox and a game, NHL 2005, to keep the winter blues away. More like because I was bored on weekends and needed something to entertain myself. Andy, whenever it was, bought Dead Or Alive 3 and a controller (mostly so he could come over and play, and that's not a complaint), and a little more than a month ago, colleagues of mine pitched in to buy 2 more controllers, making the total 4, and another game, Halo 2 (mostly so they could come over and play, and that's not a complaint).
Last month, I finally broke down and signed up for the two-month preview of XBox Live, which lets you play online games on EA's servers. I started with Halo 2, and that was, shall we say, a mistake, because the dozen or so times I played, I came last each time. Most were 8-player games, one was a 2-player game between myself and goodness knows who. You can buy headsets, plug them into your XBox, and talk into the game. One of the games was a team matchup, and I remember vividly somebody saying, using their headset, saying, after I fell into a bottomless hole, "Don't kill yourself, Magnus". (My player name for XBox Live is Magnus78, celebrating both my Icelandic heritage and the year of my fortuitous birth.) I don't plan on ever doing that, simply because every second word is a swear word. My win-loss percentage is less than .500, but at lest it's better than .000.
(Percentages in sports, when it comes to wins versus losses, and also in baseball when it comes to "averages", are expressed in terms of a fraction of 1. So they're less percentages and than they are ratios. A true sports fan will roll their eyes if you point that out to them, so don't bother.)
There is this weird bug in NHL 2005 where if you have the right player—for me it's Chris Neilsen who evidently plays for the Vancouver Canucks, the only team I ever play with—you can score almost every time if you shoot a slap-shot from the point to the left of the goalie. I haven't tried it at any other spot, but it was pretty annoying when I lost 7-2, 4 of the goals coming that way against me. This paragraph served no other purpose than to tell you how annoyed I am about that loss.
The point of all this is that after being a little skeptical, and after being dominated so thoroughly in Halo 2 and instead turning to NHL 2005, I'm giving serious thought to paying the 80 bucks for a yearly membership. XBox Live isn't as smooth as playing an offline game, but that's to be expected, because having to push data in and pull out adds to the processing requirements of the system. There are a few times that I wasn't able to connect to EA's servers, but they've been few and far enough between (and late enough at night, meaning there aren't a lot of gamers playing anyway, meaning a longer-than-usual to find someone to play against) where it doesn't really matter.
As for NHL 2005 the game itself, I will probably buy the game annually like Darren. I've been a fan of the series since it achieved perfection with NHL '94 for Super Nintendo (though some contend it was the Genesis version), and though having just won against an online opponent 3-2 in overtime, all my goals being garbage goals, may influence this opinion, NHL 2005 for XBox comes mighty close.