Xbox 360 vs. PS3 Face-Off: Round 22 • Page 4

Tekken 6, DiRT 2, NFS SHIFT, Brutal Legend, Il-2 Sturmovik, Operation Flashpoint.

Brutal Legend

One of the most consistently entertaining games released recently, Brutal Legend's game environments and basic concepts are so far out there that it practically demands a strong engine to realise them all effectively. The good news is that the tech is more than up to the challenge, and aside from a number of small performance differences, the game more than holds its own on both HD console platforms.

Take a look at the comparison video, and it's fairly evident that any superficial differences are effectively a non-issue.

There's clearly a very cleverly designed engine in play here, with Double Fine's solution capable of producing excellent visuals in both a streaming linear fashion as well as in an open-world environment. The fact that this is the team's first game, and that the conversion work between the two console formats is so good, is another excellent sign of things to come.

Only a handful of minor graphical and performance differences separate the two versions, though the 360 game is the more solid performer.

Yes, there are differences, but they are slight on a technical level. To the human eye, performance between the two versions is very, very close indeed. First up is resolution: both versions run at detail levels slightly below 720p. My Digital Foundry colleagues peg the Xbox 360 version at 1200x720, while the PS3 game is slightly lower at 1152x720. The reduction in horizontal resolution does serve to amplify the jagginess and both versions seek to lessen this somewhat by applying a very selective blur. Essentially the edges only are targeted, leaving texture detail levels intact. It's definitely a superior solution to the more frequent technique of simply blurring the whole frame-buffer, but it's still no match for proper MSAA.

Otherwise, in terms of performance, the two games operate very closely indeed. Both aspire to run at 30FPS, but both will drop v-sync in order to do so. The tearing is noticeable and more likely to occur on PS3, but the percentages are low enough that overall image quality is not unduly impacted. Frame drops under 30FPS are possible, and again, the PS3 will drop lower, but it's not a deal breaker. Other than that, aside from minor, almost indistinguishable differences in terms of texture filtering, shadowing and reflections, there's nothing to tell these two games apart, aside from the PS3's 1.5GB mandatory installation, which yields little, if any, advantage in terms of shorter loading times.

Overall then, this is accomplished work from the Double Fine team.

Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising

While purists will bemoan the mainstream approach taken with Il-2 Sturmovik, the self-same champions of hardcore PC gaming are unlikely to find much to fault with in this particular first-person shooter [oh I wouldn't be too sure about that chap - Ed]. Even in the default, "regular" difficulty setting, Operating Flashpoint: Dragon Rising is as hard as nails. Flashpoint is true to its roots: brutal and uncompromising.

It's just a shame that the same level of zero compromise has not been extended to the quality of the PlayStation 3 version of the game, which is undoubtedly one of the worst I've looked at this year:

Dragon Rising isn't exactly a graphical star on 360, but the PS3 game is undoubtedly inferior in comparison.

Things don't look so bad on Xbox 360. It's hardly a game rich in diverse detail, but the graphics do their job well enough - it's native 720p, the 2x MSAA works nicely, and there's no real sense that you're being visually short-changed in any way: it's solid. PS3 on the other hand is a world apart from what is seen in the Xbox game. Environmental foliage is significantly pared back, texture quality likewise. The result is a release that looks significantly sparser on PlayStation 3. This wouldn't be so much of an issue were it not for the other indignities the graphics have had visited upon them for their trip across to the PS3.

In many senses, the game looks sub-HD on the Sony platform, but actually it isn't - it is indeed "proper" 720p based on our measurements. Quincunx anti-aliasing combined with lower-quality textures explains why the visuals are significantly blurrier, but only up to the point. Weirdly, and astonishingly, it appears that an additional, subtle blur filter has been added on top. Texture filtering has been downgraded too, resulting in a very ugly look on ground textures in particular.

The final insult concerns the level of screen tear visited upon the PS3 version. Yes, it's there on Xbox 360 but once again it is barely there at all, and difficult to detect by the human eye even when it does manifest. On PS3 it is effectively your constant companion; however, it's impact is offset by the relative slow pace of the game. Fast motion makes tearing much more evident perceptually, but there isn't much of this in Flashpoint, so in that sense the game feels a bit more solid that it actually is.

Regardless, factoring in all the compromises and downgrades, this is one to avoid for PS3 owners.

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