The downside of the video capture option is that the encoding itself is pretty inefficient - 2mbps of bandwidth is used, which is pretty much equal to the size of Eurogamer TV's HD encodes. Video is reduced in size to 640x360, and frame-rate is lowered to 25FPS, making the capture look a bit jerkier than gameplay itself. A base-level rendition of MPEG4 is used (certainly not h264) which - curiously - looks really ropey and jerky when viewed from the XMB, but somewhat smoother when watched on your PC. Bearing in mind the bandwidth usage, quality isn't great though, but crucially it's good enough.
While the implementation could be better, the inclusion of the feature itself is hugely welcome. Just Cause 2 is a game where miraculous, brilliant things happen at any given moment. It's a game where the physics engine can be used to carry out all manner of madness, both intended and unintended. It's an experience where experimentation within the game world can be hugely rewarding. The ability to easily share these moments with the rest of the world on the platform where 40 per cent of the world's streaming video is served from is nothing short of brilliant. To give you some idea of the quality, here is a sample capture I created, uploaded and encoded from within the game.
So why isn't this feature available on other platforms? Incorporation into the PC build might have been nice, but the PC hardcore already have tools like this instantly at their disposal - FRAPS for example. With regards the Xbox 360, there's nothing from a technical standpoint that prevents this feature from being included. Rather, it's all about the constrictions of the platform. The Xbox 360 doesn't let you dump files onto the video partition on the hard disk, and even if it did, you wouldn’t be able to copy them off for sharing elsewhere. Live's status as closed platform means that direct YouTube integration simply isn't allowed - something that really needs to be looked at. A system like Halo 3's could work, but it would entail the creation of infrastructure to support it: servers and tech that could one day be unplugged. Just Cause 2's implementation on PS3 is easier, simpler and forever.
Speaking of exclusive features, the PC version has them too. For a start, the renderer is significantly enhanced with a range of extra features that allow it to scale from very modest hardware right up to top-end rigs. Similar to Battlefield: Bad Company 2, virtually every element of the renderer can be pushed up to 11 to provide a console-bettering experience. Screen space ambient occlusion can be added, shadows can be much softer and more realistic, draw distance, texture filtering and anti-aliasing can all be ramped up to levels that put the console version to shame.
Here's how the game compares running at 720p up against the Xbox 360 build. The same video with the PS3 version in place of 360 can be seen here. Similar to Battlefield: Bad Company 2. it's definitely a case of the law of diminishing returns when it comes to overall image quality with the longer draw distance and smoother shadows being the main gains. However, over and above the increased prettiness, clearly the ability to run a game like this, with all its intricate detail, at higher resolutions and smoother frame-rates is a big draw.
The PC version of Just Cause 2 also has the ability to switch in CUDA code for vastly improved water effects, which look superb. The only downsides here are firstly that people with ATI cards don't feel any of the love, and also that having the feature enabled incurs a hit on frame-rate all the time, even when there is no water on-screen. Still, if you have the GPU time to spare, it's worth engaging for a more pleasing look.
The sheer flexibility of the PC version makes it the one to have if you have the choice (and at least a decent enthusiast level GPU and dual core processor), though extensive tweaking and configuring of the game to match your system is a bit of a pain and I had real performance issues with v-sync engaged. There are no Achievements either, unlike the 360 and PS3 versions, where all gamerscore and trophy accolades are similarly aligned cross-platform. The PC game is also open to modification too. It's early days yet, but already there's a so-called "BoloMod" that's worth checking out for its interesting tweaks on JC2's grapple-gun. (Correction: Steam Achievements are in the PC version, plus save games are synced via Steam Cloud, meaning you can run the game in multiple locations and maintain your progress.)
Avalanche really need to be congratulated for the scalability of the PC engine with its many enhancements, but more than that, the fact that they aren't making us wait months on end for the SKU itself (hello Capcom/Ubisoft!) is something to be lauded. However, there is an unavoidable sense that Just Cause 2 is - at its core - a console game, so we return to the tricky topic of which one gets the nod should you own both platforms.
The good news there is that Just Cause 2 is a great buy on either machine and I'd instantly recommend it to both PS3 and Xbox 360 owners. For those able to take their pick, the choice of which version to buy is too close to call: no odd blurring on 360, higher frame-rates and crisper imagery - but often distracting tearing. For its part, PS3 is blurrier and occasionally jerkier but solid in its v-sync finery and blessed with that superb video capture mode. Objectively it's a tie. Subjectively, in my own time post Face-Off, I've found myself playing the game more intensely on PS3...