Once more Eurogamer returns to the front-lines of the next-gen console war, as we present our latest batch of cross-platform games available on both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, and put them to the test. Which titles are better on which console? More importantly, where there are differences, is there a fundamental effect on the gameplay?
As is the norm, there's a range of comparison screenshots accompanying each game, acquired digitally and losslessly at full 24-bit precision from the HDMI ports of the Xbox 360 Elite and the PlayStation 3 respectively, courtesy of a Digital Foundry HD high-definition capture box. Not too much we can add here other than to say that every pixel of each console's video RAM can be extracted, meaning there's no better way to judge the graphical capabilities of each game on each console - short of mailing you all a disc.
So, onto the roster of software up for discussion then - another gaming mixture that once again encompasses the good, the bad and the fugly of cross-platform development.
There's still a mountain of software sitting about here awaiting inspection, so expect comment and criticism on the likes of Transformers: The Game, Medal of Honor: Airborne, Stranglehold, and a slew of others soon.
I know that this game has its flaws. As Kristan points out in the Xbox 360 review, the AI is a little weak and there's very little in there that's fundamentally new. But what can I say? I love this game, I adore its style and the way its bespoke engine makes it look and to a certain extent feel quite unlike any other game on next-gen platforms. In fact, aside from the disappointing online mode, my only real criticism of it is the fact that your in-game character, Jackie Estacado, walks as though he has two-ton anvils strapped to his feet. If ever there was a game that would've benefited from a 'run' button, it's The Darkness.
Loading up the PlayStation 3 version, I was instantly immersed back into the magic. First impressions generally seem to back up the overall opinion of 'the internet' that it's a match for the Xbox 360 rendition, albeit with better quality videos streaming onto the many in-game TV screens dotted throughout the maps, such is the undoubted storage POWER of the Blu-ray disc.
However, the reality of the situation is that while gameplay is virtually identical, it appears that Starbreeze Studios has compromised the PlayStation 3 version in a number of respects. The one thing that is immediately apparent is the omission of motion blur as you pan around - not necessarily a bad thing in my opinion (I disliked it in Perfect Dark Zero) but Starbreeze's implementation of it on The Darkness was pretty good; it certainly makes a difference in the game's opening car chase sequence and makes a good fist of papering over frame-rate inconsistencies. Over and above that, there's a signature lack of anti-aliasing (more on this later) and a definite reduction in texture detail. The occasional lighting effect here and there has also been changed and where they have been, they look less impressive on PlayStation 3.
The comparison gallery highlights pretty well both similarities and differences, but what it can't show is that the frame-rate also suffers a little in comparison to its 360 twin, which itself tends to struggle with the game's more complex environments. Loading times are a few seconds longer too. The 360 version's Achievements are perfectly replicated on PS3 in the form of 'Accomplishments', but obviously there's no running points total on your PSN profile to attach them to, and as yet, no PlayStation Home to show them off in trophy form. This opens up an entirely new discussion on how powerful Achievements are in extending replay value on a game, but I think that's best left to you guys to mull over in the comments section.
The Darkness on PS3 also takes a stab at supporting 1080p too, whereas the 360 version leaves all the scaling work to the ATI GPU. And this is where the lack of anti-aliasing really does make a big impact. I've never really been one to moan too much about 'jaggies' but in this case, the effect appears to be somewhat emphasised by the scaling method Starbreeze has employed, and the lower resolution textures are also far more noticeable. My recommendation - if indeed you have a 1080p HDTV - would be to adjust the XMB to 720p and let your display have a stab at the scaling. Chances are it'll look better. The Xbox 360 scaler, on the other hand, always performs well when presented with an anti-aliased image to work with. Once again, I'll let the screenshots speak for themselves.
OK, so it's lost a little of its graphical sheen, but regardless of the format you choose to play it on, The Darkness is still one of the best games I've played this year, and that's 100 per cent to do with the atmosphere, the design and the action it offers, so I'd still highly recommend it on either platform regardless of the visual differences.