Face-Off: Battlefield: Bad Company 2 • Page 2

Modern combat.

Where things are more of an issue is in the level of screen-tear, and it's here that rolling out statistics such as percentage of torn frames doesn't really work. It seems to be the case that DICE has invoked some kind of soft v-sync on PS3. Every other frame is torn, but the tear is mostly in the first few lines of the framebuffer up at the top of the screen, virtually unnoticeable.

Bad Company 2 isn't the first game to do this (WipEout HD, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, and a bunch of Unreal Engine games including DICE's own Mirror's Edge do the same), and it's not going to be the last. Our solution? Disregard the first five lines from the scan. By doing this, we get a result that seems more in line with the gameplay experience: Xbox 360 comes in at nine per cent torn frames, PS3 closer to 16 per cent. In short, while performance is equivalent most of the time, when the engine is really under stress, it's the PS3 version that has more noticeable screen-tear.

This might seem reminiscent of previous Frostbite titles, but it's clear that the issues with environment maps and texture quality seen in the PS3 versions of Battlefield 1943 and the original Bad Company appear to have been resolved.

However, let's not forget, there's a third SKU too: the trusty PC. Battlefield was traditionally a PC franchise, so it's good to see that DICE's first Frostbite-powered outing for computer is absolutely beautiful. While there are some limitations (texture quality looks essentially the same as console), it's clear to see DICE has laboured long and hard to support PC effectively.

Over and above resolution and frame-rate boosts if you have the right hardware, the game supports DX9, DX10 and indeed the new DX11. What this translates to in layman's terms is pretty simple: anti-aliasing, and horizon-based ambient occlusion are omitted for DX9/Windows XP users, while those using Windows 7 and a new DirectX 11 GPU get a useful performance boost and superior soft-shadows.

The new effects are obviously very welcome, but it is interesting to note that the overall advantage of the PC version running with everything set to maximum isn't quite as enormous as you might expect. Here's the PC version up against PS3, but you can see the same video mirrored with the 360 version as the focus on Eurogamer TV.

PC and 360 have much in common, so here we're putting the PS3 version up against the computer rendition, which is running on a Core i7 and GTX295 combo in DX10. Use the full-screen button for HD resolution, or click the EGTV link for a larger window.

The PC version supports dedicated servers, but it's not quite the liberated setup gamers are demanding after the Modern Warfare 2 debacle. Instead DICE and EA have taken control by tying up deals with server hosts. You can have your dedicated server, but it's on their terms, with their providers, at their prices. Quite what this means for user-generated mods remains unknown, but DICE does support a maximum of 32 players whereas the limit is capped at 24 for console plus of course the fact that the game isn't based on P2P is bound please the core audience.

Over and above that, DICE has taken care of PC owners nicely with a sensible, functional user-interface designed from the ground upwards for mouse-users, while weapon response has also been optimised for the preferred keyboard/mouse control combo. All of which is nice to know, but if there's one thing to take from this piece, it's that Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is good. Seriously good. Co-op omission apart, it's actually a stupendously cool game.

Infinity Ward's aim is to go for 60FPS and provide an arcade feel that only the highest frame-rates can give. It's a hugely worthwhile philosophy, and it's obviously paid dividends, but going down that path incurs plenty of technical limitations in the overall scope of the game's make-up.

Bad Company 2 drops down to 30FPS, but in many ways it is leaps and bounds more ambitious than Modern Warfare 2. The destruction model is simply unrivalled: no other game makes you feel so immersed in what feels like an actual warzone: it's the next-gen evolution of Criterion's Black that we've been waiting for and it all takes place in levels with a sense of scale and wonder reminiscent of Crysis.

Remember when Digital Foundry posed the question of whether consoles could run Crysis? Some of the stages in Bad Company 2 answer the challenge much more convincingly than Crytek's own tech demos, and with DICE setting the standard here, I can't wait to see how Crysis 2 measures up in comparison.

From a Face-Off perspective, the beauty of Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is that everything that makes it a landmark shooter is just as accomplished on all three platforms: the most important thing you should take from this piece is that you can buy DICE's latest work in full confidence of getting a great game no matter which piece of hardware you choose to run it on.

In terms of the console head-to-head, which one gets the nod comes down to a couple of factors. First of all, the multiplayer element is obviously of crucial importance. Hopefully you've sampled the beta or the playable demo, so you'll know just how good it is. For those with both consoles, the purchasing decision may well come down simply to which of your friends lists you'd want to experience this game with. Certainly, content-wise, everything is mirrored, as you would expect.

If multiplayer isn't so much of a focus, the decision is harder. It comes down to a small, but noticeable performance advantage and a small smattering of "nicer" graphical implementations on 360 up against a PS3 version that - overall - seems to have fewer noticeable graphical artifacts.

What is remarkable is how well both of them compare with a PC version running on high-end i7 hardware with graphics hardware costing hundreds of pounds. Obviously, being able to ramp up resolution, frame-rate, anti-aliasing and implementing cool effects like HBAO helps make the PC version a far more refined visual experience on computer: mouse and keyboard obviously helps too.

All of this bonus bling, combined with support for NVIDIA 3D vision, triple-screen EyeFinity and what-not, shows that DICE still have plenty of love for the PC audience: Bad Company 2 scales nicely with your PC and your wallet. However, those 720p comparison shots and movies illustrate quite markedly that console owners haven't been left behind much at all in terms of the core experience.

Put simply, for all the effort that's gone into this game, DICE deserves a medal... of honour.

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