Nipped and Tucked

Moving on though, the closer you look at the game, the more changes you can see between the two versions. Xbox 360 boasts superior lighting and higher resolution textures on a handful of the backdrops, and the characters have additional self-shadows not seen in the PlayStation 3 game. Speaking of shadows, they're smoother and better defined all-round on Xbox 360 too. Other omissions only found in the PS3 build are somewhat odd too - for example, while mountains are reflected in the water, boats aren't. The waterfall in the night-time jungle scene has an additional specular map completely absent on PlayStation 3. Indeed, the jungle itself is more detailed on the Microsoft console, and blended back on PS3.

It's testament to the design choices Capcom has made that all of these compromises basically have little to no effect on the overall look of the game, as the video just down there hopefully demonstrates.

So bearing in mind the RSX/7900GS connection, how come it's the 360 game that is closer, and indeed technically superior to the arcade version? After all, RSX runs faster than the 7900GS, and has more of those all-important pixel and vertex shader units.

It all comes down to bandwidth - the amount of data that can stream in and out of the graphics chip at any given point. RSX can handle 22GB/s of data, but the 7900GS trumps it with double that. This all suggests that Capcom maximised the strengths of the 7900GS and the lack of bandwidth hurts the PS3 conversion. Transparent textures in particular require a ton of bandwidth. On Xbox 360, this isn't really an issue, most likely due to the 10MB of RAM directly connected to the Xenos graphics chip, which as an effective speed of a staggering 256GB/s.

The bottom line is that console Street Fighter IV is a direct port with tweaks for each system, and it's hardly earth-shattering news that the 360 is better equipped to deal with direct conversions of PC code. Rebuilding the game from scratch to favour both consoles would doubtless be prohibitively expensive, and, looking at the nips and tucks Capcom has made to the PS3 game, it would most likely be a waste of time bearing in mind how well the chosen approach has worked out.

As it is, nothing quite matches a full resolution, full speed video comparison, so for those interested, I'd recommend a voyage over to the author's blog to download the full 720p 60fps video. You'll see that the game never stops moving, never gives you pause for looking at the finer details, and concentrates entirely on the action and the characters - all of which are identical cross-platform. Combined with the 60fps refresh rate, it serves to create the illusion that both games are the same. In short, Xbox 360 gets bragging rights, but PS3 players miss out on nothing substantial - it's still the same 10/10 game.

Final Round! Fight!

As it is, the most noticeable difference between the two versions has nothing to do with the graphics and is all about the more mundane matter of loading times - eight-to-nine seconds per round on 360, double that on PS3. Thankfully the latter version has a ten-minute optional install weighing in at just 2GB, which brings it into the same ballpark loading time as the 360 version running from disc. It's highly recommended that you do complete the install, as playing online against those who haven't done so can get annoying rather quickly. For its part, NXE's 5.7GB install takes much the same time to complete but has little effect on in-game performance.

And so we come to the key component: online play, and once again we find what appears to be a complete score draw. Accurate measurement of internet performance is almost impossible - every game will be different - but just to make things really tough we sought out the worst connections possible on both versions and while the gameplay felt different, it was still playable and the better player always won.

All of which leads us nicely on to the question of which version to buy if you're the owner of both PS3 and Xbox 360 consoles. The technical differences are apparent but not intrusive, and the gameplay is identical; if you're into playing online it all comes down to which friends list you'd prefer to be using. Offline, it's close, but 360 gets the nod.

Over and above that, the only other thing you need to know is that the gloriously ultra-cheesy '80s-themed soft rock fest - 'Indestructible' - sounds just as good on either system, so in the final analysis, everyone's a winner.

Street Fighter IV is out now for PS3 and Xbox 360. See elsewhere on the site for our review.

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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.