Bionic Commando: Bling Wars

Capcom's Bionic Commando on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 appears to have received mixed reviews, but the reaction from the Digital Foundry team members pretty much mirrors Tom's critique - the game's great fun and well worth a punt regardless of the console platform you might happen to own. However, we can't completely ignore the wailing and gnashing of teeth about the v-sync problems in the Xbox 360 version, so DF team member MazingerDUDE took an involved look at the game on both console platforms to get to the bottom of the performance differences.

As you might expect, Bionic Commando is based on the same Diesel engine that powers GRIN's other recent cross-format title, Wanted: Weapons of Fate, so many of the comments and complaints levelled at that game in Face-Off 19 are equally relevant here. The most disappointing aspect is that the native resolution remains at sub-HD levels, specifically 1120x640, on both platforms. Additionally, the Diesel engine's lack of v-sync on 360 remains in effect on Bionic Commando, whereas the PS3 version benefits from improved image coherency thanks to zero tearing whatsoever.

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Resolution, frame rate and basic tech info on Bionic Commando can be found by clicking through on the shots above.

The tearing issue is an important factor - this is no Resident Evil 5 where the torn frames accounted for around five per cent of the video output. Just like Wanted, the lack of v-sync is a virtually ever-present factor, and the tearing can appear pretty much anywhere on-screen - typically the more towards the centre of the screen it is, the more it is noticed by the human eye. This factor alone may skew owners of both consoles towards the PS3 version, especially as frame rate seems like-for-like, by and large.

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Lack of v-sync is the biggest issue with the 360 game, but it does have some visual advantages in other areas...

The Xbox 360 version does have some unique properties though, with the inclusion of SSAO (screen space ambient occlusion), lacking from the PS3 build. These 'contact shadows' are subtle, but serve to add a lot more depth to the scene. Alongside the v-sync, overall it's probably the most noticeable difference between the two games.

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The inclusion of SSAO appears exclusive to the Xbox 360 code.

Onto lighting: Bionic Commando appears to employ the NAO32 pixel format on PS3, allowing for the inclusion of HDR, which can dramatically transform the appearance of a given scene when deployed. Its weakness is the lack of alpha channel (hence a heavy flickering artifact on the blinds in the second shot). The Xbox game on the other hand seems to use the more conventional FP10 format, only offering a medium dynamic range, but alpha is available to the developers.

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Proper HDR lighting is only found in the PS3 version.

As we saw before in Wanted: Weapons of Fate, the Diesel engine manages to make its pixel shaders work harder on PS3, resulting in superior normal map and specular effects on the Sony console. By way of some compensation, it seems that GRIN has retooled some of the textures on the 360 version, as seen in the bottom set of pictures in the last gallery, where more detail appears to be resolved.

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Details and lighting definitely favour the PS3 version of Bionic Commando, but GRIN compensates on 360 with additional texture detail in some areas.

It's rare that we see so many differences in a cross-format title, so Bionic Commando is indeed well worth this more in-depth coverage, but in terms of the most impactful effects, it's definitely a case of SSAO versus v-sync. PS3 has the latter, 360 the former... Full video breakdown, more comparison shots and the final verdict forthcoming in Face-Off 20...

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About the author

Richard Leadbetter

Richard Leadbetter

Technology Editor, Digital Foundry

Rich has been a games journalist since the days of 16-bit and specialises in technical analysis. He's commonly known around Eurogamer as the Blacksmith of the Future.

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