Nail'd

Xbox 360 PlayStation 3
Disc Size 3.4GB 3.4GB
Install 3.4GB (optional) -
Surround Support Dolby Digital 5.1LPCM, 7.1LPCM

While this game isn't set to be released in the UK until February next year, it's already generally available in the USA and elsewhere within the EU, so we couldn't resist the opportunity to snaffle a couple of import copies for a preview look.

Why? One word: Techland. The Poland-based developer makes its own games on its own terms using its own proprietary tech, the Chrome Engine. While the firm's most recent release, Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood, wasn't the greatest first-person shooter we've ever played, it was certainly enjoyable and playable while being very distinctive in terms of look and feel - something that applies equally to the developer's latest offering: ATV-based off-road racer Nail'd.

The publisher bills this as the fastest off-road game ever made, and it's undoubtedly the case that the sheer speed of the game is quite remarkable. However, equally noteworthy is the sense of scale. Jumps are absolutely colossal, draw distance is vast and the amount of time you spend "grabbing mad air" is almost insane.

The Nail'd gameplay experience is very much built around the bespoke tech, but the question is, how do the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game measure up? Let's kick off with the head-to-head movie.

Interestingly, just like Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood, we see two different approaches to the setup of the framebuffer, with neither console offering full, native 720p. The PlayStation 3 game appears to be running with the same 1152x640 resolution that we saw previously, upscaled to 1280x720 with native resolution HUD elements overlaid on top. The Xbox 360 on the other hand retains 1:1 pixel mapping with no scaling, but has black borders top and bottom, giving us as a native resolution of 1280x672.

As you can see, the visuals appear to be a little "squashed" vertically in comparison to the PS3 version of the game, but the resolution increase is self-evident and helps add an extra layer of precision and detail to the proceedings. Course layouts and track details are identical, save for the odd bit of foliage which has been omitted from the PS3 version. Otherwise, the games are effectively much the same. There is a hint of higher resolution shadowmaps on the 360 version, but this may simply be a knock-on effect of the lower-res in general on the PS3 game.

The Chrome Engine employs its own custom anti-aliasing solution on both systems giving an MSAA-style effect but without the memory and bandwidth requirements of the "real thing". In the case of the Xbox 360, this means that Nail'd achieves something pretty close to native 720p with anti-aliasing that doesn't require tiling out the 10MB of ultra-fast eDRAM directly attached to the Xenos GPU.

So does this result in a performance advantage to the Xbox 360, or does the reduction in resolution on the PS3 version help even things up? Let's take a look at some action from the game.

It's not just the make-up of the framebuffer that is unchanged from Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood - there's the performance too. Techland has opted to pump out as many frames as it possibly can from its bespoke engine, resulting in an enormously variable frame-rate, and a vast amount of torn frames. The overall result is of a game that definitely lacks visual consistency and can be prone to judder.

The PlayStation 3 version of the game runs at a lower frame-rate in addition to the resolution deficiency but similar to Call of Juarez II, it also has a reduced level of screen tear. While there is a feeling that the visual consistency is improved a touch, the juddering effect is more pronounced.

While neither version of the game is without its faults, the improved clarity gives the Xbox 360 release the edge, so if you have the choice of console, that's the one to get. However, as an overall package, while the insane speeds and stunts in Nail'd set it apart from its competitors, we'd still recommend checking out Black Rock's brilliant Pure first.

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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.