The Godfather II
It's interesting to note that the conversion work for The Godfather II is a pretty close match to the quality of review the game has earned across the board, ranging from poor to not bad to quite good. EA's PlayStation 3 performance has been much improved in the last 12 months, but there's a very real sense that this particular developer has reverted to previous form.
As per the norm, actual game content is identical cross-platform, and while there are many technical differences that give the Xbox 360 version a tangible advantage, it has to be said that the pacing and style of the game is such that the PS3 version's shortcomings do not have a massive impact on the game experience - only in fast action sequences do you really notice the difference. However, the detriments to the Sony code are at the same time predictable but also rather odd.
First up is image clarity. The good news is that both versions are v-synced, but native resolution is strange. It's the standard 720p on Xbox 360, with no anti-aliasing. On PS3 however, there is a very slight reduction in resolution: what looks to be a 1200x720 resolution, resulting in a subtle blur and the occasional upscaling artefact.
Of far more impact is the frame-rate. The Xbox 360 is more consistent in achieving the target 30fps, while performance on PS3 is somewhat more variable. The game's initial escape from Cuba level, with its combination of indoor and outdoor settings, is as good a test as any to see how performance fluctuates on PS3, while by and large, the 360 version is solid.
Technically speaking, both games are actually pretty sound compared to some of the competition. Saints Row 2 is a technical disaster in comparison to what EA has achieved here. On both platforms, graphical quality is consistent, and often pleasing, if rather lacklustre compared to the standards-setting technical achievements of GTAIV. So it all comes down to the gameplay then. Kristan's review essentially wrote off this release, but I saw it as quite a decent progression of what was achieved in the previous game, if not anything like an essential buy.
Wanted: Weapons of Fate
We've heard a lot from game-makers and PRs about development 'leading' on PS3, with little in the way of actual evidence in the end product, but here's a game that clearly does show a bit of love for the Sony platform, being clearly and demonstrably the better release on PlayStation 3.
Make no mistake though, Weapons of Fate isn't exactly a technical showcase. It's running at sub-HD resolutions on both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 - 1120x640 to be precise, and with no anti-aliasing to smooth off the edges, combined with a rather dark and icky colour palette, things can look rather rough in places.
The usual gamma differences aside (few developers seem willing to calibrate the output of their games to be like-for-like), there are other ways to tell these games apart. Just like 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand, the PS3 game is v-locked, whereas the 360 code has an often alarming amount of screen-tear. The other major difference is the inclusion of more apparent specular maps on the PS3 version, giving a polished sheen to surfaces that isn't present in the 360 game.
So, mandatory 1.9GB install aside, it's a clear technical advantage to the Sony console here - it's literally shinier, has more coherent image quality and unlike 50 Cent, this doesn't seem to be any less responsive on PS3 than it is on the Microsoft box. Which is kind of ironic in a way, because response really is this game's biggest issue.
People complain about the analogue 'dead zone' in the control scheme of Killzone 2, but that's akin to keyboard and mouse levels of precision compared to what's going on here. It takes an absolute age to build up momentum in movement, and then suddenly it becomes ultra-fast. You can adjust the joypad sensitivity to compensate - but only to a certain extent, the change in momentum is still jarring. Even after extensive tweaking, the control system on both versions of the game just doesn't feel right. All things being equal, for a game of this ilk, I'd sooner replay Dark Sector on either platform.
Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3
EA went very public in claiming that PS3 owners would get something special from the enforced wait for their version of Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3, but at first glance this 'Ultimate Edition' doesn't seem to be hugely different from its 360 predecessor. Indeed, it's pretty clear from the synchronised video feeds that the differences are basically skin-deep: a wholly unnecessary blur filter has been removed from the 360 version, colour balance has been brightened up a touch, and shadows are slightly better defined on PS3.
Claims that the PS3 code would take advantage of 1080p prove to be somewhat off the mark. The actual in-game visuals don't benefit at all from switching your PS3 to full HD mode. Indeed, bearing in mind the level of screen-tear here (also in 360), frame-rate would most likely be completely crippled if the detail level was more than doubled. However, the game does produce an upscaled 1080p video output, and it kicks in even if 720p is enabled on your XMB - something of a rarity these days and proof that the developers would rather you play in this mode. So is there any tangible benefit at all to doing so?
While gameplay can be handicapped by opting for native 1080p, there's no reason why the video sequences couldn't have been remastered for the Ultimate Edition. In producing these features I'm constantly amazed at how generally poor video sequences tend to be on PS3, bearing in mind the machine's incredible storage potential and the fact that it is the one of the best Blu-ray players money can buy. Often, they're only just as good - sometimes worse - than they are on 360, but very rarely do you actually see the gigabytes of spare space on the BD being used for superior-quality video.
1080p resolution video then? It doesn't look like it. In like-for-like tests, PS3 actually ends up looking slightly worse - edge detail is smooth on 360, but rougher on PS3. It's especially obvious where the characters have been blue-screened onto the backgrounds. Compression artefacting is again equally obvious on both versions, though colour balance looks marginally nicer and brighter on PS3. If the video sequences are 1080p, a bloody awful job has been done in gaining any extra detail from the increased resolution. A closer look at the picture quality reveals that the same distinctive upscaling algorithm as used in-game is being used on the video sequences. It does the job, but Xenos' scaler does it better on 360.
Mitigating this disappointment somewhat is an embarrassment of riches added for PS3 owners in terms of additional content - videos of the girlie photoshoots, behind-the-scenes featurettes, trailers, 'bloopers', tactics and strategy videos, tons of artwork and even the original soundtrack. Obviously good stuff, but still not quite enough to justify 'Ultimate Edition' billing, especially when, in terms of actual game content, there's barely anything here of value that wasn't in the original release. It's basically exactly the same, barring the addition of a handful of new multiplayer maps. Even the bizarre limitation of only playing co-op with people on your friends list has made it into the PS3 code, despite everyone complaining about it the first time around.
EA deserves some kudos for actually making use of the Blu-ray space by at least tossing together a goodly amount of extras (though the 3.7GB mandatory install isn't quite so welcome), but calling the PS3 version 'Ultimate' in any respect is stretching credibility when game performance is basically identical.