Moving on, comparing game performance even in the same areas isn't quite so easy in Vanquish - a game where the combat situation changes dynamically from second to second. However, there are some segments where we achieve something close to like-for-like action and there is of course one glaring difference that is immediately apparent.

Exactly as per the demo, Vanquish is v-synced on PlayStation 3 but operates with the more common soft v-sync on Xbox 360, whereby torn frames are introduced when frame-rate drops below the target 30FPS. What we see in the first section of gameplay, which is synchronous at least to begin with, is that the PlayStation 3 matches the performance and does so without the need to drop any more frames than its 360 counterpart. There does appear to be a weakness with screen-filling explosions though, where it seems that the Microsoft platform commands a small advantage.

To get a better idea of game performance in what we would hope would be nigh-on identical conditions, Vanquish does nicely offer up a range of extremely cool QTEs - effectively cut-scenes with some minimal gameplay involvement added to the mix via the odd stick waggle or button press. Often spectacular and clearly based on the in-game engine, they allow us to more accurately measure how extreme load can impact the performance on both platforms.

What we see is fairly remarkable - the exact same elements cause effectively identical performance issues for both iterations of the engine. However, the key difference here is that the Xbox 360 game tears and drops frames while the PlayStation 3 maintains v-sync throughout. While there are the occasional places where the 360's performance isn't so badly impacted in effects-heavy scenes, the overall effect is much the same - and indeed just about the only real difference we see here is where the clips drop out of sync and PS3 has a colossal explosion to deal with that doesn't appear to be quite so apocalyptic on the 360.

Many people have noted that the screen-tear from the demo game isn't really noticeable on Xbox 360, when clearly our graphs show that it is a consistent factor in the game's visual make-up. There are many explanations for this - the difference in human perception being the first, rather obvious port of call. However, equally obvious is that torn frames are only really noticeable when the two different frames within the image are markedly different. Vanquish's gameplay tends to involve locking onto a target and wearing its energy bar down. In these cases, where you are concentrating fire, the screen isn't moving so much, and the off-set between the two frames being displayed isn't so different. In these cases, the tear likely goes unnoticed. Similarly, when the game drops into bullet-time, the slow motion effect also helps to minimise the difference between the two images in the framebuffer.

When it comes to the big, screen-filling explosions and the set-piece QTEs, that's when the screen-tear is most noticeable, and it does become a factor. In an ideal world, we'd have wanted both versions to support v-sync, and while there's no doubt that the PS3 version benefits from implementing it, the overall impact to the 360 version isn't as bad as you would think. Check out the demo on Xbox Live and see what you think - the overall effect is identical in the final game.

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The impact of screen tear varies dramatically from scene to scene. The fact that you're mostly concentrating fire on a single target at a time makes the two 'torn' images fairly close in look, meaning that the tear itself is very difficult to pick out. V-sync is better of course, but the high levels of screen-tear in some areas of the 360 version are not quite the disaster you think they might be.

Controller response is something we talked about in the demo showdown, with the sense that the Xbox 360 game felt a little crisper than its PS3 counterpart. Low-latency controls are something of a must for a shooter and Vanquish is a title that often slips below its target 30FPS, which means there is the potential for additional lag. The fact that Vanquish PS3 doesn't tear at all and effectively matches 360 performance might also suggest a triple-buffer set-up, which again has latency implications.

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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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