I just got a copy of Call of Duty 4 in preparation for tomorrow’s VGHVI play session. I figured I should get my fingers used to the game first, so I went to play it tonight; I launched the game, futzed around with the menus, started a game, and it froze. (Soft, not hard, the guide button still worked.) Hmm.

I then rebooted the console, and played; this time, I could start a game, yay. I made it through the tutorial, then started the first mission, and it froze after (or in) the opening cinematic. (A hard freeze, this time.) I’ve now repeated that four times, without a single success.

So: bad disc or bad console? I’m leaning towards the latter: I played a bit of Burnout Paradise a couple of weeks ago (also for the first time, also prompted by VGHVI); the opening cinema was glitchy, and I couldn’t play the game from a hard drive install. (I can’t play CoD4 from a hard drive install, either.) I didn’t see any problems with Burnout Paradise after the opening cinema, and I haven’t had problems with other games, but that combined with today’s problems makes me think that my optical drive is going south.

Fortunately, I’m still within the warranty, even for non-red-rings problems. But this is really the wrong time of year for me to be console-less: there are a bunch of games I’d like to play, most of them are on the 360, and I’ll have time off from work soon. And the fact that shippers will soon be overloaded delivering Christmas presents makes me worried that the turnaround time will be longer than normal, too.

So: crap! Though I’ll muddle through somehow, even if I am 360-less: I can play more Spore, and World of Goo, Aquaria, Persona 3, Yakuza 2, and A Mind Forever Voyaging are all very much on my radar. Heck, maybe I’ll just spend the holiday holed up with Chrono Trigger DS. Or (gasp) read books and/or program! Still, not the way I’d like things to be.

Though I can’t say I’m surprised: I bought my 360 knowing that their quality was much worse than that of any other piece of consumer electronics that I’ve ever heard of. And I don’t regret that, I’ve had good times with it. But I very much hope that Microsoft has few enough interesting exclusives in the next generation that I’ll be able to skip their next console.

I’ll call 1-800-4MY-XBOX tomorrow and kick off the process, I guess: if I act quickly enough, I hope I’ll have it back in time for my holiday break. Whee.

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