A game like F1, processing up to 24 cars on-screen, is bound to be a nightmare to budget when it comes to rendering each frame. While the game naturally "thins out" the traffic the more you play, the load of the scene on system resources will vary massively - especially during online racing. The tests suggest very strongly that it's the PS3 game that will cope better in these situations.
Offline, probably the best way to really stress the engine is through the replay mode: fixed cameras are used that should give us more of an indication of like-for-like performance, plus we get much closer to parity in terms of the amount of cars on-screen at any given point. In fairness, neither version acquits itself spectacularly here - replays in EGO games have always been affected by very noticeable screen-tear and even with the dialled back post-processing in F1, the frame-drops and lack of v-sync are still present.
Although the results are much closer to parity this time around, there's still a sense that in these stress tests it is the PS3 game that tears less often and operates with a slightly higher average frame-rate, but we're mostly dealing with fractions and the overall impression is that in this section of the game at least, the performance is like-for-like. It would be logical to assume that more of the optimisation effort went into the gameplay.
In the crucial in-game analysis though, the advantage of the PS3 version is clearly measurable, though what this translates to in terms of gameplay isn't actually that much of an advantage. The 360 might tear more, but the frame-rate itself is still mostly like for like, and the visibility of the tearing itself isn't so apparent - much of it will be in the area occupied by the skybox towards the top of the screen, so pretty much unnoticeable in many cases. We saw the same thing with DiRT 2 - more tearing on one platform (in that case, PS3), but a very close gameplay experience regardless.
In terms of overall image quality, it's fair to say that the Xbox 360 version has a noticeable edge through the sharper, more refined anti-aliasing technique employed - the QAA blur is by far the most noticeable difference. However, there are some other differences you can pick up that show that Codemasters did need to conduct the odd bit of nip and tuck. In this shot, for example, the main road texture is clearly of a lower quality compared to the 360 game (which, in turn, isn't quite as sharply defined as it is on PC).
The wet weather conditions also throw up some interesting comparisons. The surface water is almost exactly the same between the PC and Xbox 360 versions of the game, to the point where the puddles collect in the same areas on the track. Not so with the PS3 version, where the allocation is different and the effect itself appears to be a lower precision (the reflections in the water are almost certainly of a lower resolution).
Water implementations are often compromised or pared back on the PlayStation 3 versions of multi-platform titles, but the actual effect in-game on F1 2010 is still very impressive - and it seems to be the case that instead of settling for a second-best effect on what is a crucial part of the game, the coders put the effort into a bespoke solution that still does the business.
Where the PS3 opens up a commanding lead against the Xbox 360 version is in the range of supported steering wheel hardware. Bearing in mind the popularity of Gran Turismo, it's no surprise to see a range of GT-compatible hardware included, though curiously some hardware that works with Gran Turismo 5 Prologue only appears to be officially supported on the PC version of F1 2010.
Codemasters cites this as the range of hardware officially supported on each platform, but also points out that other wheels may just work anyway, or will have compatibility officially added at a later date. However, in the here and now, this is the lie of the land:
|Racing Wheel||PC||PS3||Xbox 360|
|Fanatec Porsche 911 Turbo / Turbo S / GT3 RS Wheel||Yes||No||Yes (Turbo S)|
|Logitech Cordless Rumble Pad 2||Yes||No||No|
|Logitech Driving Force EX/RX||No||Yes||No|
|Logitech Driving Force GT||Yes||Yes||No|
|Logitech Driving Force Pro||No||Yes||No|
|Logitech Dual Action||Yes||No||No|
|Logitech Drive FX Wheel||No||No||Yes|
|Logitech G25 Racing Wheel||Yes||Yes||No|
|Logitech G27 Racing Wheel||Yes||Yes||No|
|Logitech MOMO Racing||Yes||No||No|
|Logitech MOMO Force||Yes||No||No|
|Logitech Rumble Pad 2||Yes||No||No|
|Microsoft Xbox 360 Controller||No||No||Yes|
|Microsoft Xbox 360 Wireless Racing Wheel||Yes||No||Yes|
|Microsoft Sidewinder Force Feedback Wheel||Yes||No||No|
|Sony DualShock 3||No||Yes||No|
|Thrustmaster RGT Force Feedback Clutch Edition||Yes||No||No|
|Thrustmaster Ferrari 430 Force Feedback Racing Wheel||Yes||No||No|
|Thrustmaster Run'N'Drive Wireless Rumble Force||No||Yes||No|
|Thrustmaster Dual Trigger Rumble Force||No||Yes||No|