EA Black Box's revolutionary take on the skateboarding genre was sufficiently brilliant enough for its dual-SKU debut to comprehensively out-sell the last Tony Hawk game on all of its myriad platforms, sending the erstwhile market leader into hiatus for a comprehensive rethink that has still yet to emerge from Activision. However, Skate's supremacy wasn't quite so complete on PS3, where the conversion's frame-rate issues were sufficiently dodgy for an online petition to be launched on EA's own forums - a petition, which in common with many others, achieved nothing.
Bearing in mind how 'challenged' Black Box's latest Need for Speed is on PS3 (more on that later), I approached Skate 2 with some level of trepidation. However, as it happens, while it is still a noticeably inferior product on the Sony console, there's nothing game-breakingly bad about it as such.
Both versions of the game are running at 720p, and there does appear to be some sense that Black Box is aware of the importance of the frame-rate. A lot of the ker-azy post-processing effects from the first game have been dialled back, and refresh rate is smoother. Indeed, based on gameplay from the demo, it looked as though the 360 version would be running at a perceptual 60fps (a COD4 theory where the game runs at full speed for most of the time, with the frame drops being largely inconsequential).
Analysis of the final game shows that - as is pretty much always the case with EA games - the content level is identical, but yes, frame-rate is the still the dividing factor. It's massively variable on both platforms, but just as before, the 360 version clearly has a noticeable, tangible advantage, and that makes it the game that's more satisfying to play.
But does it make PS3 Skate 2 a write-off? Not really, but playing it definitely leaves you with the sense that it is a game that is being held back by the inadequacies of the code powering it. Bearing in mind the leaps and bounds made in the quality levels of just about all of EA's non-Black Box PS3 output, it is somewhat inexplicable that Skate 2 should be compromised at all.
Silent Hill: Homecoming
Bearing in mind the embarrassment of gaming riches we enjoyed in the last quarter of 2008, it was probably a wise move for Konami to relocate the European release of Silent Hill: Homecoming to February of this year. If a classic like Dead Space can't compete against the franchise heavy-hitters in the most ultra-competitive time of the year, what chance would this have?
What Homecoming offers is classic survival-horror franchise gaming - a nostalgic look back to the older games, featuring plenty of old-skool puzzles to wade through, along with a more refined combat system. I would say that the introduction of HD visuals for the series would be another key selling point, but weirdly, you only get those on the Xbox 360 version of the game.
If the difference isn't obvious enough, I entreat you to check out the screenshot gallery, where the instant switcheroo makes the situation even more obvious. What's happening here is pretty straightforward: you're getting the more usual 720p on Xbox 360, while the PS3 version of the game appears to be upscaled from 1024x576 - much closer to standard-def PAL resolution than HD, and a 50 per cent detail-level increase in favour of the 360. The difference is compounded still further by the fact that developer Double Helix has blighted the PS3 game with a honking great blur filter. So in essence, a game that's already being blurred due to upscaling loses even more detail thanks to an additional layer of blur introduced to the base image.
Further issues with the PS3 build include a lower-tier lighting model (check out just about any close-up of the main character) and the complete absence of any kind of Trophy system whatsoever. Homecoming is a game that rewards a second playthrough with a combination of bonus weapons and extra Achievements, but the latter part simply isn't factored into the PS3 version. This suggests that while the game was originally released in Q4 2008 in the USA, actual code completion was sometime prior to that, otherwise it would have had serious issues in getting past Sony's own quality control mechanisms where Trophy support is now mandatory.
It's not all bad news though, and the silver lining here isn't particularly difficult to find: the additional graphical bling 360 brings to the table is compromised to some extent by an uneven frame-rate. Being v-locked, it fluctuates between 20fps and 30fps in any complex scene, whereas - thankfully - the lower resolution PS3 code is locked at the higher refresh rate. That being the case, the Sony console is running the more playable experience, but some might argue that the cost of that performance increase is too high a price considering how much has been pared down.