While our most recent Chronicles of Riddick face-off once again saw Xbox 360 emerge victorious in our ongoing comparison features, this more comprehensive roundup of recent releases suggests that maybe, just maybe, the balance of quality is starting to shift three years into the lifespan of the current-generation consoles. Taken as a whole, neither machine can claim victory over the other in this collection of games, probably the first time this has happened since our coverage began over two years ago. A sign of things to come, or just a factor of the specific games chosen? Only time will tell.
As is the norm, for the more interesting games you'll find embedded comparison videos. The combination of insane-level h264 encoding combined with slowing the video down to 50 per cent speed all but eliminates macroblocking, making for streaming vids that do actually show the difference. Couple that with our usual 24-bit RGB screenshot comparison galleries and you're all set with the very best possible assets to back up the critical comment.
Onto the line-up then, a seven-strong collection featuring the best of the most recent cross-platform releases.
- Tom Clancy's HAWX
- Battle Fantasia
- 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand
- The Godfather II
- Wanted: Weapons of Fate
- Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3
Special thanks to my Digital Foundry collaborators MazingerDUDE and Alex Goh for their observations in putting this feature together.
- Round One (Ridge Racer 6/Ridge Racer 7, Def Jam: Icon, Fight Night Round 3, Virtua Tennis 3, NBA Homecourt, Need for Speed Carbon)
- Round Two (Call of Duty 3, F.E.A.R., Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2007, World Championship Snooker 2007, NBA 2K7, NHL 2K7, Enchanted Arms, Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII)
- Round Three (Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Double Agent, Sonic the Hedgehog, Marvel Ultimate Alliance, Tony Hawk Project 8)
- Round Four (The Darkness, Spider-Man 3: The Game, The Godfather, Madden NFL '08, NHL '08)
- Round Five (Virtua Fighter 5, SKATE, Transformers: The Game, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Colin McRae: DiRT, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, SEGA Rally, FIFA 08)
- Round Six (Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, NBA Live 08, Need for Speed ProStreet, Stuntman Ignition, WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2008, The Simpsons Game, Conan, Assassin's Creed)
- Round Seven (Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, TimeShift, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2, Tony Hawk's Proving Ground, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, Blazing Angels: Secret Missions of WWII, Medal of Honor: Airborne, Dynasty Warriors: Gundam, Bladestorm: The Hundred Years' War, LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga, Clive Barker's Jericho, John Woo Presents Stranglehold)
- Round Eight (Burnout Paradise, Cars Mater-National, The Golden Compass, Beowulf, Ratatouille)
- Round Nine (Devil May Cry 4, The Club, Pro Evolution Soccer 2008, FIFA Street 3, Juiced 2, Turok)
- Round Ten (Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas 2, Blacksite: Area 51, Army of Two, Conflict: Denied Ops, Lost Planet: Extreme Condition, Dynasty Warriors 6, Lost: The Video Game)
- Round Eleven (NFL Tour, Dark Sector, Soldier of Fortune: Payback, SEGA Superstars Tennis, MX vs. ATV Untamed, Turning Point: Fall of Liberty, Condemned 2: Bloodshot, Viking: Battle for Asgard)
- Round Twelve (Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, Race Driver: GRID, LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures, Overlord: Raising Hell, UEFA Euro 2008)
- Round Thirteen (Unreal Tournament 3, Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Conspiracy, Top Spin 3, Iron Man, Battlefield: Bad Company)
- Round Fourteen (SoulCalibur IV, Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, Kung Fu Panda, Beijing 2008: The Official Videogame of the Olympic Games, Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, FaceBreaker, The Incredible Hulk, Madden NFL 09, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09, NHL 09)
- Round Fifteen (BioShock, Dead Space, Pure, Midnight Club: Los Angeles, Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed)
- Round Sixteen (Baja: Edge of Control, Mirror's Edge, Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway, Fracture, Guitar Hero: World Tour, FIFA 09, Quantum of Solace)
- Round Seventeen (Lord of the Rings: Conquest, Tomb Raider: Underworld, Prince of Persia, Saints Row 2, LEGO Batman, The Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon, Golden Axe: Beast Rider, SCORE International Baja 1000, Legendary, Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, Shaun White Snowboarding)
- Bonus Rounds: (The Orange Box, Grand Theft Auto IV, Fallout 3, Call of Duty: World at War, Far Cry 2, F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, Street Fighter IV, The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Athena)
Tom Clancy's HAWX (4.9GB)
After writing the original Eurogamer review, and quite enjoying it, it was great to come back to HAWX to give it a second viewing on PlayStation 3. Ubisoft has worked hard on its recent cross-platform efforts, and while HAWX isn't quite up to the quality of the excellent Prince of Persia conversion, it does show that the company is continuing to make efforts in getting good performance from both systems.
As you might expect, game content on both systems is identical (even the DLC updates are like for like) and the only real differences are in terms of frame-rate and graphical bling.
Both versions of the game aspire to 60fps gameplay, both dropping frames significantly in the heat of the action. Based on like-for-like clips, the 360 game appears to have a small advantage, but when the engine is really tested during gameplay - where no direct like-for-like comparison is possible - the sense is that similar to Prince of Persia, the games have been optimised so that certain scenes will be rendered faster according to the strengths of the host hardware. One thing that I did notice in playing the demos, and which has made its way into the full game, is that the cockpit view on 360 introduces a substantial performance hit. It's unlikely that you're actually going to be using this in-game because it's hard to see anything, so not an issue, but a curiosity nonetheless.
In terms of the direct measurable stuff, the PS3 code has a longer view distance, resolving more scenery, but it's at the expense of 'pop in', whereas the Xbox 360 game gradually fades in the new environmental details. Other differences come down to lighting and anti-aliasing. The 360 release looks ultra-crisp, thanks to utilisation of its top-end 4x multisampling AA, whereas the PS3 game invokes a horizontal blur. It's a bit ropey really and does very little to actually smooth off the edges. Additionally, the impressive bloom effects on the 360 game are also significantly dialled back on the Sony console.
In all though, it's just graphical effects that separates the two games - and while 360 looks better, in terms of playability it's a score draw, and if I were reviewing the PS3 build today, it would still earn the same 6/10 score. It's a fun game, particularly online where you really do get the sense you're a small player in a massive warzone. However, the overall lack of depth remains somewhat at odds with the core values of a great Clancy game.