Xbox 360 vs PS3 Face-Off: Round 19

HAWX, Fiddy, Wheelman, Wanted, Red Alert 3, Godfather II, Battle Fantasia.

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.

Special thanks to my Digital Foundry collaborators MazingerDUDE and Alex Goh for their observations in putting this feature together.

Previous Face-Offs:

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.

We'll go out on a limb here and say that the difference is plane.

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.

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