Xbox 360 vs. PS3 Face-Off: Round Eight • Page 3

Burnout and friends!

Beowulf

Let's be clear here: Beowulf is an immensely derivative, predictable release. Indeed the biggest surprise I had putting this piece together was that it took original reviewer James Lyon a whole five paragraphs before he mentioned God of War. Yes, Beowulf is essentially Ubisoft's attempt at recreating Incognito Inc's classic game on Xbox 360 and PS3, decked out as it is with the same level of mega-gorey hack and slash, broken up with a range of Quick Time Events and even a spot of rhythm-action.

It also happens be the first game I've ever played where one of the bosses essentially rapes you into submission. But have no fear, the rapist in question is a supernaturally beautiful woman, surrounded by a posse of equally sexy would-be rapists, and you're a bloke - fuelled by 'carnal power' no less - so that's alright then.

Beowulf's lone attempt at offering something new is the inclusion of squad-based mechanics. A combination of shoulder button and d-pad are used to dole out commands which fundamentally boil down to 'come over here and move this object', 'follow me' or 'please try harder to kill the enemy'. The inclusion of Beowulf's band of axe-wielding maniacs also serves to shoe-horn in - rather bizarrely - rhythm-action gameplay elements. Yes, singing Conan-style anthems (or rather pressing or holding buttons on the d-pad) is the key to rowing your way through a tempest, moving large objects blocking your way and annoying boss characters so much they literally jump out of the woodwork and attempt to kill you.

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Of all the lacklustre movie tie-in games I've played in the last six months (and unfortunately that includes all of them), Beowulf is actually one of the better and more worthwhile efforts. Mostly because when the developer has used God of War elements in the game, it's made a pretty decent fist of it. Unfortunately, an ill-advised attempt at motion blur serves to give extended gameplay sessions an added 'bonus': migraine-inducing motion sickness; the first time I've experienced this in 28 years of gaming.

On the whole though, Beowulf is a technically sound, attractive-looking game, and although there are signs that the PS3 version has been marginally cut down with some toned down special effects, the gameplay and content are identical cross-platform, and the overall sensation (aside from nausea) is that you're getting the same package and performance level regardless of the console you own.

Whether you should be bothered tracking it down and adding it your games collection is open to debate; the original 5/10 Eurogamer score is bang on the money. Despite the prestigious voice talent and the decent graphical quality, there's no doubt that Beowulf is essentially God of War Lite with a borderline useless squad system and musical button-pressing elements tacked on. But as movie tie-ins go, Beowulf is a clear cut above most of the dross I've covered in this and previous face-off features, with just enough of the basic God of War DNA in there to make it worth a rental. There's room in every collection for a mindless, violence-fuelled hack-'em-up, but in this case, THQ's Conan is the better buy on both consoles.

Ratatouille

Unfortunately, Ratatouille has much in common with the other Pixar game we've covered in this feature. Just like Cars Mater-National, it features decent-enough representations of the core characters from the movie, but all the entertainment, witty dialogue and great sight gags have been brutally excised making this basically a platform game featuring talking rodents. Unlike Cars though, there is at least an air of competence about the whole production.

Yes, it's a platform game, but at least the rat's eye view of the human world offers up some pleasing gameplay elements; as James Lyon pointed out in the original Xbox 360 review, finding the ways and means of accessing every area of each level to collect all the token has a certain charm about it, and the in-game mechanisms for reaching some of the more difficult-to-reach areas can also be fun too.

While undoubtedly aimed at the kids market (again missing the point of what Pixar's movies are all about), at least Ratatouille doesn't patronise its audience in the same way as other games 'targeted' at the kids market. For a start, while it's not the hardest game in the world, working your way through the levels isn't stupidly easy either. Even in the tutorial stage, the game doesn't provide you with all the answers, instead forcing you to start thinking for yourself and tackling some of the puzzles with zero assistance.

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However, the game's jumping mechanic is fundamentally flawed and this, combined with your character's too-slow walking pace, does hamper the basic gameplay. Progress is Ratatouille often depends on pixel-perfect jumping and this proves to be almost impossible in places due to the lack of visual cues as to where you're actually going to be landing. In the end, mastering such sections essentially boils down to trying and re-trying until you eventually fluke the required manoeuvres. Not good.

In general, Ratatouille is a mediocre release, featuring nothing that is particularly noteworthy or genuinely impressive, but little that's actually offensive. Although it's clearly a cut above upscaled PS2 fodder like The Golden Compass, gameplay is very old-skool indeed. However, there is at least that air of competence around the whole thing, and this extends to the cross-platform development. Aside from the typical difference in colour balance, there's basically nothing to tell the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of Ratatouille apart.

Indeed the only element that makes the PS3 version stand out over the 360 game is the d'oh-inducing Sixaxis tightrope mechanic. Yes, Ratatouille is yet another example of a game that thinks that wobbling the controller about to negotiate a thin platform is somehow fun, or worthwhile in some way. Clue: it isn't.

It's difficult to argue with the original 5/10 Eurogamer score, and that goes for both versions of the game. Despite the Pixar-esque graphics and the accurate character representations, both Ratatouille and Cars Mater-National are both guilty of having a complete absence of the sparkle and magic that makes the CG movies such a joy. So in the case of this game, you're left with a platform game about some rodents and who gives a rat's ass about that?

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