Digital Foundry vs. E3: Sony • Page 2

A technical perspective on Vita, its games and the PS3 big guns.

The 3D theme at the conference continued with the reveal of the latest PlayStation Move game from the makers of the lovely Sports Champions. Medieval Moves is all about intelligent use of motion control in navigating through the environments, solving puzzles and making use of context-sensitive gestures in using multiple types of weapons.

Sports Champions was best played with dual Moves, but in this demonstration the team were clearly at pains to show just how well this game would work with just the single controller, and it looked really nice. Response from the Move really wasn't an issue at all, from what we could see.

In terms of the visuals there was nothing spectacular here: texture work was somewhat simplistic with low-res normal mapping, and MLAA appeared to be in use. As the demo level shown was rather dark, aliasing wasn't really an issue on environments, but the player was rendered to a half-res transparency buffer, resulting in some very visible jaggies.

Ken Levine from Irrational Games appeared next, to showcase BioShock Infinite and to further evangelise PlayStation Move, having previously been rather outspoken about his dislike for motion control in general and emphasising that his games are designed for the dual shock.

It's hard to imagine that Levine was being anything other than fully sincere - Move is undoubtedly an excellent controller, after all. But what the presentation lacked was any kind of demo of what the controller will actually bring to BioShock Infinite.

In terms of the game itself, the footage appeared to show little sign of any kind of aliasing, and was also operating with frame-rates often well in excess of 30 frames per second. Sections with the Elizabeth character seemed to be running closer to 60FPS, though the external views with the transit rails saw a dive in performance. There was a sense of something truly magnificent here, but it was obviously rather unfinished and we were left wondering if we were actually watching PS3 footage at all.

BioShock Infinite was announced with PlayStation Move support, and the video - although brief - looked beautiful. But was it actually running on the PlayStation 3?

In another curious state of affairs Sony opted not to show Starhawk gameplay, choosing instead to showcase what looks like a really cool game with just a CG trailer. We did get some fleeting gameplay time at the after-show event though, and while not much was actually happening in the moments we had with it, we were impressed with what we saw. While ground texture detail was relatively low, detail artwork on top was much better, and MLAA seemed to be in play, with its consequential shimmering on sub-pixel edges.

The shooting fest continued with the reveal of Dust 514, which ties in a PS3 shooting game with the existing MMO universe of the hugely popular EVE Online. Details on how the integration works didn't really factor into the presentation, but the overall idea is that EVE players can communicate with PS3 gamers with the COSMOS network, hiring them as mercenaries and taking out enemies on EVE's planets. How the interaction goes beyond that has yet to be revealed.

The gameplay shown at the event was clearly early, very unoptimised and seemed to run at under 30 frames per second with a noticeable amount of screen-tear. Alpha effects in particular caused performance issues, though the introduction sequence showing the size of the game world was handled rather well and looked great.

Not much actual action from Dust 514 was actually shown - the video switched to a cinematic within moments, but developer CCP and Sony had made their point. This was a game that concentrated heavily on the versatility and flexibility of the PlayStation Network in offering a concept that the closed Xbox Live ecosystem would find a lot more challenging to accommodate.

Sony's initial intro video for PlayStation Vita demonstrates the clear technical superiority the handheld has over every other mobile device on the market right now.

The bulk of the presentation swiftly moved onto NGP, renamed PlayStation Vita in another of a long line of E3 non-surprises. Presentations of Uncharted, Little Big Planet and what looked like a very early, very jerky build of Street Fighter X Tekken materialised, firmly establishing that Vita is a hugely exciting, technologically groundbreaking piece of kit.

While Vita isn't quite at current gen console levels of visual quality, it's not so far off - and clearly it's very early days for the platform. Uncharted manages to capture the feel and the look of Among Thieves: it even has the same inconsistent application of 2x MSAA, the same intensive visual detail, and a similar 30FPS update.

The biggest point of differentiation is in the lighting scheme which is far less impressive than Uncharted 2: clearly pared back in comparison, and rather flat. Thankfully, gameplay doesn't disappoint in the slightest when using conventional controls, though the touchscreen elements to the platforming did feel as though the game was playing itself.

WipEout 2048 is looking early, if promising. There's actually a 720p60 encoded video of gameplay to download from PSN, which confirms that frame-rate is something of an issue at the moment - lots of screen-tear and an average update around the 35FPS mark. The game does employ 4x MSAA, and according to the developers we quizzed at the Sony press booth, the PS3's dynamic resolution, which switches according to load, will also be implemented in the game.

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