X-Men Origins: Wolverine
X-Men Origins: Wolverine does much to endear itself to me right from the off. Forget the concept of a mandatory installation, Raven has instead opted for a stealth approach which sees the game gradually fill up to around 1GB of your hard disk space as you play. If you don't have a large enough buffer for this behind-the-scenes streaming, the game tells you, but crucially doesn't stop you playing.
The more I play Wolverine, the more I like it, to the point where I think perhaps the 5/10 score was harsh. Sure, it's short-lived and repetitive, but it captures the essence of the character perfectly and builds a memorable gameplay experience around that. Marvel's most infamous mutant is essentially an almost unstoppable killing machine, and Raven's notion of inserting that creation into a God of War-esque game is a stroke of brilliance. There are two things that stand out for me with this game: firstly, and perhaps rather bizarrely, it's the way that the easy mode is the default difficulty setting.
Sure, you can rip that to shreds, but that's kind of the point. That's Wolverine, that's what it's all about. It makes killing joyously simple to the point where you end up devising more interesting ways of carrying out the job to amuse yourself. Over and above that is the way that the game powers you up and equips you with powers and skills that allow you to handle practically any combat situation, and handle it with style. Again, classic Wolverine.
The good news is that with some notable, but minor, exceptions, the game is essentially like-for-like on both console platforms, perhaps not so surprising bearing in mind that Raven licensed Epic's Unreal Engine 3 for this eye-wateringly bloodthirsty death spree.
Raven's work with this Wolverine tie-in shows a utilisation of the Unreal Engine 3 technology that compares very closely with the recent UE3-driven Wheelman project. In-game action is very close indeed between the two platforms, and certainly from a gameplay perspective both versions feel almost like-for-like. Also in common with Wheelman, both versions aspire to a 30FPS refresh rate but do have trouble sustaining it, though 360 clearly gets closer to the ideal.
In-game and cinematic performance mirrors what we found in the playable demo, which we covered in more depth over on the Digital Foundry blog (worth checking out simply because the comparison video we produced there is absolutely mental). In short, rather bizarrely, the PS3 version runs more smoothly during certain cinematics, while the Xbox 360 rendition generally tends to perform better, and with far fewer torn frames during the actual gameplay.
You'll see minor lighting differences, plus the Microsoft platform once again includes anti-aliasing absent on the PS3 build - all of which combines to give the Xbox 360 a marginal, but tangible, technical victory in this particular comparison. But in terms of the more important factor - the bloodthirsty thrill of the commandeering the world's most finely tuned killer - that's equally as enjoyable on either platform.
Red Faction: Guerrilla
Not since Criterion's Black has a game been so focused on the joys of rampant, unadulterated destruction, and with that in mind Volition deserves kudos for what it has achieved here - Red Faction Guerrilla is a tremendous technical achievement that is at times staggeringly impressive. What is the all the more noteworthy is just how much of an upgrade Guerrilla appears to be when stacked up against the studio's previous cross-format release, Saints Row 2.
Let's just say that SR2 has its issues - eye-rending screen tear, sub-HD resolution on both platforms, frame-rate issues, certain effects pared back on PS3... it wasn't pretty. Red Faction is a leap forward on almost all counts, but perhaps most pertinent is the clear evidence that Volition has performance-tuned the game to run almost identically cross-platform, and while the core experience is pretty much the same, there are plus and minus points to both of the conversions.
First up, the good news after the disappointment of Saints Row 2 is that the resolution is back up to 720p on both platforms, and in a game like this, with all that intricate detail, that's something of a relief. Xbox 360 gets superior edge smoothing in the form 2x multi-sampling anti-aliasing, up against the PS3 version which has none at all. However, the bloom effects and overall lighting do a lot to take the edge off the landscape detail edges in particular so the difference is nowhere near as pronounced as it can be in some games.
The Xbox 360 leads the way in other areas too - a higher-resolution blending buffer gives better definition to the explosions and other transparent alpha effects compared to the lower-res PS3 buffer. In a game where blowing things up is part and parcel to the fun, you'd think it would have much more impact than it does, but the impact is barely noticeable (even Killzone 2 uses the same lower-resolution buffer technique). The Microsoft platform also benefits from higher resolution ground textures, but really the difference is barely noticeable. Other than that, the only other real point of differentiation is the hard disk utilisation - a mandatory 1.65GB on PS3, with an optional 6.5GB on 360 via an NXE install.
Probably the biggest issue I have with the game concerns the lack of v-sync. The tearing is pretty bad here to the point where in most cases every other frame is torn, making a huge impact on visual consistency, especially during those outrageous explosions. The HD video shows the entire 60Hz output of the consoles, slowed down to 50 per cent speed, with no frames dropped in the encoding. In short, you don't miss anything, so you can judge for yourself just how much of an impact this has. However, as it is, both versions are equally afflicted.
In common with the best cross-platform multiplayer games, the choice of which version to buy should you happen to own both machines really comes down to where your friends list is. Guerrilla is excellent fun online, and getting the most out of that experience is more important than minor differences to visuals.