On the PC version, the game decided that the optimal configuration for our machine was to run everything bar ambient and post-processing effects at the Very High level. We invoked 4x anti-aliasing and turned v-lock on, simply because we expect that level of image quality with the hardware available. Overall performance at 720p was a mildly impressive 35fps average. That would've been fine if the game allowed you to peg performance at 30fps, but it doesn't, only offering 60fps and 50fps frame-caps. Despite the resultant judder, the game still looked and moved considerably better than the console versions as you might expect bearing in mind the processing and memory advantages of PC hardware.
Both console games are capped at 30fps, but unfortunately the only way they can achieve this is by turning off v-lock altogether. Both versions have pretty bad screen-tear 'episodes' and frame-rate - weirdly - takes a big hit on internal scenes. However, 360 gets closer to maintaining 30fps, with a 10-to-15 per cent performance advantage over PS3 in challenging, like-for-like scenes.
Screen-tear is the big dividing factor here, though. In our collection of test scenes, 360 on average typically tore less than 10 per cent of the console's 60Hz output - fewer than six torn frames in a second, as an average. On PS3, that zooms right up to 30 per cent, 20 torn frames. In the worst case scenario we measured, we saw screen-tear at 14 per cent on Xbox 360... a figure that ballooned all the way up to 43 per cent on the same video from PS3.
In short then, the PC version, armed even with moderately good hardware, is the clear winner in terms of refresh rate. Xbox 360 leads the way on console, while PS3 performs well enough in general gameplay, but does so with a tangible (but not terrible) impact on image quality.
The Map Editor
While Far Cry 2 is at its most impressive as a single-player experience, there's no doubt that the online side of the equation has had a lot of thought put into it. Taking centre-stage is the map editor, and for once this isn't solely the preserve of PC owners. The PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of the map-maker are nigh-on identical. It's easy to navigate through the various functions with the joypad, but we have to admit that actually creating maps using this interface felt very cumbersome.
However, the map-making community on both PSN and Xbox Live is a testament to how good these tools are to those with the patience to work the joypad. Ubisoft has created an easy-to-navigate map-making community that allows you to download maps, make whatever changes you want and publish your own works online. Our own experiences with user-generated content are hardly positive, but on both PS3 and Xbox 360 you're always just a couple of button presses away from genuinely impressive maps. Sorting the content by user popularity and according to Ubisoft's own recommendation is the best way to get to the good stuff as quickly as possible. Downloads on both platforms are fast and painless, and the quality level is enough to convince you that Ubisoft has done a great job with the in-built tool. It's just a shame the levels created and shared on Xbox Live can't be posted by Ubisoft on PSN, and vice versa, as both systems play host to some genuinely impressive content.
PC, on the other hand, almost appears to act like a reverse of the situation on console. The map editor is a standalone tool found outside of the game, and while its feature-set is very close to the console game's, the ability to actually use a mouse and a large array of on-screen icons allows you to create your masterpiece in a much more civilised and less painstaking manner. However, the map-making community options on console - and specifically, the incredibly useful facility for finding great levels quickly - is absent from the PC game, and that's a shame. We can only assume that Ubisoft is relying on the creative users to make use of their existing communities.
The Final Breakdown
Map-finding issues apart, Far Cry 2 is an excellent release on PC, and the fact that it can run in high definition with all features set to high levels while still providing a reasonably smooth, graphically superb experience is a first-rate achievement. Bearing in mind that we're using a GBP 90 graphics card that has since been surpassed in the bang-per-buck stakes, it's even more proof that a living room-based, inexpensive home cinema PC can also double up as an excellent gaming system. Far Cry 2 supports the Xbox 360 pad, and when utilised, gameplay really is totally identical in terms of control to the 360 conversion. If you've got money to burn on a 1080p display, the chances are you can also afford the necessary GPU upgrade to get you smooth 'full HD' gameplay too - something we won't be seeing on console until the next generation.
Both console versions are intelligently ported and decent games to play, but with clear compromises. Xbox 360 is almost there - it has the smoothness, it has the rich detail, but it's let down only by those inadequate shadows and the minor annoyance of no v-lock. PS3 on the other hand has shadows sorted out just fine, but loses out just a touch in terms of fine detail. Image quality takes a big hit compared to its sibling versions owing to the intrusive screen-tear and lower frame-rate.
Overall though, bearing in mind just how much Ubisoft and Dunia is raising the bar, all three versions are impressive, and it's fair to say that based on the Eurogamer review and indeed gamer feedback, any issues that do exist in Far Cry 2 are not so much technical as gameplay-related.
Thanks to the Beyond3D community for their comments on our initial cross-format screen captures.
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