LEGO Star Wars III: Clone Wars
|Xbox 360||PlayStation 3|
|Surround Support||Dolby Digital||Dolby Digital, 7.1LPCM|
It's all change for one of gaming's most beloved franchises. While Traveller's Tales has experimented with many different tweaks to the gameplay formula of its LEGO titles across the last few years, its engine tech has remained relatively static – always targeting 60Hz gameplay but never consistently managing it, despite a relatively simplistic graphical style that allows the developer to bring out these games across a vast range of different platforms.
LEGO Star Wars III marks a sea-change in the formula – this is a game that looks to exploit the graphical potential of the HD generation of consoles, providing more ambitious level designs with a hell of a lot more going on within them. The increase in visual quality compared to previous efforts really is quite remarkable and its feels like this could be the start of a new era for the franchise.
Let's begin proceedings by taking a look at the head-to-head comparison movie, where we can get some idea of the scale of the changes and how they look on both platforms.
As seen in past releases, LEGO Star Wars III maintains a native 720p resolution on both formats. Anti-aliasing is also unchanged from previous games: 360 owners get 2x MSAA, while PlayStation 3 has to make do with a blur filter implementation instead. The hated 'jaggies' aren't really an issue for either version, but we do see the PS3 build presenting a smoother image at the expense of blurring intricate detail. The fact that anti-aliasing only seems to be done on certain render passes on 360 further accounts for this difference - fewer edges receive adequate coverage.
Outside of this, there isn't much to separate the two games at all. Texture detail is like-for-like, while texture filtering appears slightly higher on the 360 in certain areas though both games seem to use a combination of bilinear and anisotropic filtering. In other areas we see what appear to be minor graphical oddities or rendering bugs - the odd missing or glitching shadow on 360, for example.
Onto the various engine changes which power the graphical make-up of the game, and we can see that there have been some serious upgrades coming into play. The lighting system, for one, has been massively improved, transforming the look of the series.
The construction of the game's environments also benefits from other specific improvements. Scene complexity has been upped dramatically, geometry-wise, and along with higher-quality texture maps the overall sensation is of a game that is far more ambitious in its settings, the number of characters it can render on-screen and also in the quality of the basic art assets. It feels like a game designed explicitly for the HD consoles.
There is a cost for all these upgrades, however. Previous LEGO titles have targeted a 60Hz update, which often fell short and tore badly, but more recent offerings have also featured a v-sync setting that kills the tearing artifacts but locks frame-rate at 30FPS. This choice is now gone – the game targets 30FPS as a baseline, and can even dip below that.
For 60FPS die-hards, the change may be a bit of a blow, but it's the right move for the series. Input latency was never great on the old games, and the controls still feel just as responsive at 30FPS. Tearing is much reduced, and per-object motion blur adds to the game's fluidity. The visual improvements and the increased ambition in the settings and visuals more than make up for the drop.
And as you can see, the results of the performance analysis are pretty good, with the game only mildly deviating from its target frame-rate either during the cut-scenes or in situations where engine is really put under stress. LEGO operates like many other console games – there's no tearing when the frame-rate is at 30FPS, but when it dips below, v-sync is lost. Thankfully the amount of times this happens is fairly minimal, though at these times it's clear that the Xbox 360 game has the advantage.
In conclusion, LEGO Star Wars III: Clone Wars marks a coming of age for the series graphically while still managing to entertain with fresh, new ideas and its trademark humour. Visually it's a close match across both formats, too, though the PS3 version's blur filter does feel somewhat rough and imprecise, killing off a significant amount of fine detail.
Ultimately, as the majority of the game's audience isn't likely to care about - let alone really notice - such issues, it goes without saying that LEGO Star Wars III: Clone Wars is recommended on both formats, but for the discerning adult, the 360 version edges it by a nose.