To illustrate what I'm talking about, here's a bit of a "before and after". On the left we have Rico standing entirely still. On the right, all we have done is started to run forward a bit, and yet a full-screen blur effect appears to have been added a few frames into the motion. All well and good, except that it doesn't happen all the time. In some places it does, and in others it doesn't at all. And where it does we can't quite fathom out why.
Next up we have two shots taken within seconds of one another. Here in the picture on the left, Rico is targeting a helicopter with the grappling hook: 720p, without a shadow of a doubt. In the right shot, he's hurtling towards the helicopter... and the blur is in effect, giving an effect almost akin to a reduction in actual resolution. Check out the edges on the buildings and elsewhere.
Let's take a look at this set of pictures with a direct Xbox 360 comparison image. As you can see, there's clearly something afoot in the PS3 game that looks distinctly odd. A low precision blur? A dynamic resolution framebuffer? The latter seems unlikely because frame-rate isn't dipping below 30FPS a lot of the time it occurs.
It's all very curious because often the game is completely clean, but this effect does seem to come and go in various sections to the point where we're really unclear why it happens at all. In terms of what this means to the comparison, it's simply the case that the PS3 version of Just Cause 2 drops more frames and at some points gives the illusion of being a considerably blurrier experience than the Xbox 360 version. Thankfully in those sections the whole scene is in motion so the effect is less impactful during gameplay than the shots suggest, but it's still clearly noticeable.
This blur is compounded through the use of quincunx anti-aliasing, a unique NVIDIA anti-aliasing mode that isn't available to 360 developers, which produces superior edge-smoothing to the standard MSAA at the expense of adding blur to the entire texture. As seen in the PS3 rendition of Ghostbusters, sub-HD and QAA don't tend to play nicely with one another and while we're not quite sure what's going on with Just Cause 2, the effect does look occasionally like a case of blur upon blur and not exactly attractive. The obvious question is that if this blur effect is not tied to performance, why not have the ability to turn it off? Why is it there at all?
There's little doubt that it's Xbox 360 owners that get a smoother, clearer game. Whether it's the blur or something else, there is also the sense that texture quality gets a bit of a bump on 360 too. The problem is that the tearing does look really off-putting at times. In the above performance video, ten per cent of the 360's output consists of torn frames, but the stat alone doesn't account for context because appearance of screen-tear isn't uniform: it only happens when the engine's under significant load, and when that happens, there's typically lots of explosions, enemies attacking, that kind of thing. Losing image consistency when arguably you need it most makes for a much more impacted experience. It may sound weird but while PS3's performance drop in similar situations is self-evident, perceptually, it feels more solid: almost the reverse of where we've seen the effect in other games with similar tech specs (for example Resident Evil 5).
All told then, each version has its own definite strengths and weaknesses in terms of both frame-rate and image quality. It really does come down to pure performance and crisper visuals up against the luxury of v-sync.
However, one of the most welcome bonus features in the game is reserved for the PS3 version only: video capture. It's a feature I'd personally love to see incorporated into far more games (if not all of them) and the seamless integration within Just Cause 2 is excellent. Simply visit the options screen, turn it on and away you go. Alternatively, you can get the game to keep your last 30 seconds of action in RAM at all times, so if at any point you see something cool going on, you just pause the game safe in the knowledge that the moment has been captured.
From the options screen you can either dump the video onto the XMB, or you can upload it directly to YouTube. The latter option is a stroke of genius: no more fiddling about with capture cards, no more encoding, no more mucking about on PC - the entire procedure is completely seamless. Both options appear to incur an encoding time, but it's very quick, though the upload times to YouTube can and will vary dramatically depending on internet conditions and the size of the clip.