Xbox 360 vs. PlayStation 3: Round 28 • Page 4

Splatterhouse, Nail'd, Blood Stone, TRON: Evolution and The Force Unleashed II.

TRON: Evolution

Xbox 360 PlayStation 3
Disc Size 5.9GB 4.8GB
Install 5.9GB (optional) 1965MB+ (dynamic)
Surround Support Dolby Digital Dolby Digital, 5.1LPCM, DTS

TRON: Evolution is a game that offers very little that is new, exciting or genuinely surprising, but what it undoubtedly gives the player is a solid enough platforming experience, dressed up in stylistically accomplished visuals that are easily handled by Epic's Unreal Engine 3 middleware.

With the odd exception over the past few years, UE3 has mostly delivered as a cross-platform development environment that brings pretty much the exact same game into being on both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 with very little in the way of differences. Historically, Xbox 360 owners have tended to benefit from a slightly higher performance level and some bonus visual effects, but it's fair to say that the gap has narrowed and it is with titles like TRON: Evolution that the differences remaining - such as they are - are borderline irrelevant.

However, developer Propoganda Games has added a couple of juicy PS3-exclusive morsels, such as PlayStation Move support along with an implementation of stereoscopic 3D for HDMI 1.4 displays and we'll cover those a bit later. To get some idea of just how close the game is, check out the requisite comparison movie.

Unreal Engine 3 contains this game very nicely - the developers had a specific vision that relied far more on artistic direction than on pushing the rendering prowess of the engine. Both versions operate at native 720p with no anti-aliasing (the mostly nerfed 2x MSAA often found in Xbox 360 UE3 titles is definitely omitted here, thus matching the PS3's framebuffer set-up).

As it is, there are just one or two differences in the look of the game. The shiny floors appear to contain higher-resolution reflections on the PlayStation 3, while the pervasive bloom/glow effect is clearly more powerful on the Xbox 360. This is small beer really, because the overall look and feel is remarkably close between the two versions of the game... So what about the performance level?

The performance analysis reveals a game that is doggedly locked to 30 frames per second on both platforms (though later on we did find some scenes that kicked in a little tearing on both platforms, but nothing that really affects enjoyment of the game) which is somewhat rare for an Unreal Engine 3 title. It suggests that the stylised visuals Propaganda has opted for are not really taxing the Epic middleware too much - a good example of how accomplished art can still create a sweet-looking game without having to push system resources to the bleeding edge.

This is borne out by the fact that the developers felt confident enough to add stereoscopic 3D support exclusively to the PlayStation 3 version of the game. There doesn't appear to have been any attempt to pare back the visual content - it's still native 720p with no anti-aliasing - suggesting that the "untapped power" was deployed on rendering bespoke views for each eye. It's clear, however, that the spare resources aren't quite enough to cover off the additional load that 3D places upon the game without impacting the performance.

In 3D mode, the performance is somewhat variable, offering anything between 20FPS to 30FPS at any given point, and there is a noticeable amount of tearing too. Here's a second performance analysis where the same scenes are analysed in both 2D and 3D modes. As the tearing is basically non-existent in the 2D mode (certainly in these scenes), we've eliminated it completely from this analysis, leaving just the 3D tear data.

As the internal make-up of the framebuffer is essentially two 720p images top and bottom, the tearing descends from left eye to right eye. Midway through the graph (at around the 15FPS line) is where the tear shifts.

With the 3D mode active, it is fair to say that the game is still playable, if somewhat jerkier and there is something of an odd feeling when screen tear kicks in - mostly because at any one time the tear is only visible to one eye at any given point. In Gran Turismo 5 (and indeed the E3 demo of the new MotorStorm game) it is almost unnoticeable. However, here, similar to WipEout HD, it is a different story, manifesting almost like a kind of flicker mostly in the left eye. Very odd, and combined with the lower frame-rate, a bit off-putting.

There's also a real feeling that the 3D effect is a little pointless. You'd expect that the stylised visuals and the often-expansive draw distance would add a majestic scale and sense of depth to the cyber city, but you'd be wrong - it is a strangely flat experience. On the plus side, the game is one of few that does allow you to adjust the parallax (basically adjusting the "strength" of the 3D effect, as you can with the slider on the 3DS) so this may help some, but overall the 3D effect in TRON: Evolution just failed to impress on our setup.

The PS3 exclusives don't stop here, however. Upon booting up the game, the familiar PlayStation Move instruction screens crop up, indicating support for the motion sensing peripheral. However, once you start the game, it becomes evident that the Move implementation is almost non-existent, kicking in only when you get to the light cycle stage. It is at this point that you abandon the joypad, grab the Move, and hold it horizontally. You then turn the Move left or right to control the cycle.

It sounds bad. It is bad. In true, the light cycle is sluggish and annoying to control even with the DualShock, and the Move implementation makes a poorly realised control scheme become borderline unplayable. There's also the nagging feeling that there is absolutely nothing being attempted here that couldn't have been tried out using the existing Sixaxis motion sensor, though the chances of that being any better than the Move implementation are somewhat remote. The idea behind the motion control support is just fundamentally flawed.

So, with 3D support that adds little and is basically a short-lived technical curiosity, along with a motion sensor implementation that actually makes the game worse, the best way to play is with a standard pad and in conventional 2D - exactly as you'll be doing with the Xbox 360 version of the game anyway. With the ground effectively levelled, it's safe to say that there is very, very little to separate the two renditions of TRON: Evolution. Barring minor graphical differences, it's the same game.

It's difficult to recommend this as a full-price title (despite the decent 7/10 TRON: Evolution Eurogamer review score) but it has to be said that this game was the surprise package of the Face-Off roundup. Unspectacular, but solid and entertaining regardless and well worth investigating once the crazy online discounting kicks in.

As for which version to buy - they're both equally as good. Owners of 3DTVs may wish to add to their 3D software library by trying out the stereoscopic 3D mode exclusive to PS3, but otherwise, either version of the game should provide equal levels of enjoyment.

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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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