Double-buffer with v-sync is an ideal set-up for ensuring the fastest possible response from a 30FPS game, however, it is important that the rendered frame completes within the allotted 33.33ms of processing time. If the engine runs over-budget, it has to wait for the next vertical refresh before the frame can be displayed, which can serve to emphasise the drop in performance in comparison to the more common technique of dropping v-sync and allowing screen-tear. In this double-buffer, v-sync scenario, if frames are continually over budget, frame-rate can drop to a consistent 20FPS, which looks poor and impacts controller response: you see that occasionally in the performance analysis video.
Thankfully, in the case of EDF: Insect Armageddon, such situations are few and far between and the performance drops only occasionally intrude on the gameplay experience, as Christian Donlan noted in the 8/10 Eurogamer review. However, what we did notice is that the Xbox 360 game appears to have noticeably laggier controller response when the engine is under the heaviest load - something we didn't notice when playing on PS3.
Multiplayer is a crucial component of EDF: Insect Armageddon, and Vicious Cycle have pushed the boat out here by supporting side-by-side split-screen on both console platforms, in addition to online co-op for three players during the campaign, plus a six-player option for the relentless survival mode. Bearing in mind the occasional performance issues in single-player mode, we were really happy overall with the split-screen: response seemed fine, and the game manages to sustain much the same frame-rate too.
There are compromises of course: LODs are far more aggressive, both in terms of geometry and shadows, and some of the pop-in is rather noticeable. Also worthy of comment is that the PS3 version also supports multiple account logins in split-screen mode, similar to what we saw recently in the Uncharted 3 beta, with the in-game XMB put to use in choosing the user account for the second player.
Let's be honest here - Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon isn't exactly the most technologically advanced video game we've spent time with this year. Middleware masters such as Crytek and Epic won't be losing too much sleep over the challenge presented by Vicious Engine 2: this game is often rather unattractive with remedial geometry, plain textures, basic lighting and just about adequate animation. Physics stand out as being one of the game's strongest points (buildings disintegrate in a very satisfying manner), but this is hardly going to trouble the state-of-the-art engines out there.
However, the engine works well in channelling the full resources it has at its disposal into generating a very specific, extremely satisfying experience quite like anything else you've played since... well, the last EDF game. That it can maintain its performance level as well as it does bearing in mind the multitudes of insect vermin being rendered at any given point is simply marvellous, and while the basic make-up of the visuals is technologically lacklustre, there many moments which do look pretty sensational: an oncoming ant stampede through a narrow city street, the creatures emerging from the dust, with buildings collapsing in their wake is just one example of a wonderful stand-out moment. The realisation of the bosses in particular is pleasing, particularly in the manner of their demise, with the game especially adept in bringing enormous alien hardware crashing down to earth in an extremely satisfying manner.
In terms of the cross-platform analysis, visually these games are very, very close indeed - as you would hope for, bearing in mind how basic the graphics are. Overall presentation in terms of the picture quality is perhaps slightly cleaner on Xbox 360 owing to the use of traditional multi-sample anti-aliasing rather than the PS3's quincunx solution, but in most other respects, PS3 seems to take the lead with a series of small advantages: performance seems a bit smoother, controller response seems to feel crisper when the engine is under stress and the LOD management appears to result in marginally less pop-in in the single player mode (though both versions do have their issues here).
By most of the technological criteria here, it's a PS3 win but the margin of difference is probably irrelevant to all but the most devout image quality fanatics: only the difference in controller response really bothered us and even this only occurred very occasionally. Far more important to the purchasing decision is the fact that the multiplayer options are so crucial to getting the most out of the experience. While PS3 commands a small technological advantage, if your friends list is mostly on Xbox LIVE, you certainly won't be disappointed with an Xbox 360 purchase.