Grand Theft Auto IV: PS3 vs. Xbox 360 Special

Including high-def video split down the centre.

Even without the Eurogamer comparison feature, the internet has been set ablaze by GTA IV PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 face-off discussions. But mere digital incendiaries are not enough for a release of this magnitude. It's time to go nuclear.

The biggest game of the year deserves the most in-depth face-off piece yet produced by anyone, anywhere, so we've massively upgraded the scope of our coverage and the amount of 'assets' you can view. There's still the same 720p and 1080p 24-bit RGB screengrabs taken from both versions of the game of course, this time using the new Digital Foundry TrueHD capture station, so why not take a look with the first of our galleries, featuring general gameplay shots?

Comparison videos appear to be all the rage, even though they're mostly low-res blur-a-thons that demonstrate absolutely nothing, so we decided to take a different approach. Our vids are encoded in supreme quality h264, but more than that, we've zoomed in on the action so you can actually see the difference. Unless otherwise stated, one pixel in the Eurogamer player corresponds to one pixel on your HDTV. Most of the clips are run at 50 percent speed too, again making the job of comparison that much easier, with more bandwidth dedicated to picture quality.

On top of that, there's an extra-special bonus too. Every video is embedded into the article, but there's a full-size, higher resolution link to the same material over at Eurogamer TV, offering a good 30 percent more screen area, with each clip reframed to make the most of the additional digital acreage. Use these if you want to link to our vids 'elsewhere'.

A sampler of what is to come can be found right here:

Highlights

As there's a colossal amount of stuff to discuss, argue and insult each other about, we've broken down the feature into these areas:

The Basics

I think the most important thing to say right from the get-go is that there's absolutely no doubt in my mind that Grand Theft Auto IV is a 10/10 game no matter which console you own. Having spent the last six days of my life playing both versions simultaneously, painstakingly matching up the gameplay and recording over 500GB of video captures in the process, everything in Tom's original review stands regardless of the platform you're playing it on. As one leading developer said to me the other day, "I think this game, like Crackdown before it, changes everything." Quite.

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Yes there are some significant differences between the two games which we'll be going into in more depth later on in the feature, but it's important not to lose focus of the most important issue - that this release is an astonishing achievement. Content is king here, and until the extent of the Microsoft-exclusive DLC becomes apparent, the two games serve up an equally superb range of entertainment.

Even in terms of internet functionality the games are like for like. Similar to Burnout Paradise, the two games share all the usual online gaming accruements - the same levels, the same options, and very similar levels of performance, although obviously Xbox Live's servers have been coping better than the GameSpy equivalents behind the scenes at the PlayStation Network.

It's also clear to see that Rockstar has tried its level best to get the most out of both systems. Case in point is the Sixaxis support on the PlayStation 3 version. Regular readers of these features will know that I generally tend to find the motion sensor to be too imprecise to be worth bothering with, but at least here there's a sense that the programmers have tried to get the most out of it. There's a tutorial you access via the mobile phone that teleports you to the airport and lets you try out bikes, boats and helicopters - all of which offer Sixaxis support. Also invaluable is the way you can get the game to auto-calibrate Sixaxis each time the motion sensor is engaged, with the current position of the controller judged to be 'neutral'. This shows that some thought has gone into the control scheme, and there's no chance of your chopper suddenly lurching into the sky because your joypad isn't absolutely level.

Whether you actually find the motion sensor control to be anything other than a novelty remains a matter of personal taste. In terms of GTA IV, I find it decent enough with the boats, a trial with the bikes and short-lived and unintentional entertainment with the choppers. I honestly don't think that 360 owners are missing out on anything special by not having the same control system in their game.

Rockstar also makes use of the PS3 hard disk, with a mandatory 3,339MB installation of game data that takes around seven minutes. This doesn't do much for the initial loading of the game, which takes around 100 seconds on both systems, but certainly helps with mission loading, shaving a few seconds off each time a new task is initiated. There are also improvements in texture streaming as you navigate around Liberty City, but the advantages are barely perceptible.

Finally, a nice little touch is that the PS3 version of the game has much higher resolution versions of the various TV shows available to view in Niko's apartment. Additional camera angles are also included to show off the extra resolution - a cool bonus, somewhat reminiscent of a similar feature in Starbreeze Studios' PS3 conversion of The Darkness.

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