Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Double Agent
Having now compared pretty much the entire range cross-platform titles, Splinter Cell: Double Agent is by far the most disappointing PS3 conversion I've yet seen. Put simply, it's unspeakably bad considering the power of the Sony console.
The shoddiness kicks in right from the intro sequence. The background movies that accompany the game's presentation are awful - plagued with horrific macroblocking, the majority of which, I should hasten to add, isn't present on the 360 version. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but this game is on Blu-ray disc, right? With 25GB of data storage on tap, and support for high-bitrate MPEG2 and h.264 video, yes? Unbelievably, the programmers of this game couldn't even be bothered to fill out the disc with decent quality video.
Things do not improve once you get into the game proper. As soon as Sam Fisher and his doomed newbie comrade hit the water after the first cinematic, you can instantly see that something isn't quite right. Certain lighting effects and even basic anti-aliasing appear to be completely absent from the PlayStation 3 version of the game. Indeed, the more you progress through the initial mission, the more you realise just how much is missing. Splinter Cell: Double Agent on Xbox 360 is a game where the beauty is more than skin-deep - the whole experience is tied to the exceptional graphics, with the use of light and shadow being an essential component of the stealth-based gameplay.
The more you play, the more compromises you can't help but chance across: background detail in every level has been cut back, textures and minor geometry have been re-used more frequently on the PS3 version, presumably an issue with the lower amount of system RAM available. For example, powering down the electrified fence in the first mission is achieved by cutting a cable on the 360 version. On PS3, Fisher cuts through thin air while a big on-off button is right in front of him - the result of an object reused from elsewhere in the level with the game code not changed to match.
Even relatively minor effects such as the curvature on the scope of Fisher's machine-gun are absent on PS3, along with a host of other cute presentational features seen in the original game. And even though the game is belittled so dramatically from a visual perspective, it still manages to run at a lower frame rate than the Xbox 360 version.
In all, Splinter Cell Double Agent is a deeply disappointing experience on PlayStation 3. Sure, the core of the game is pretty much the same, and yes there is an extra character and two more maps in the multiplayer mode. But who gives a toss about token improvements when such a colossal lack of care and attention has been paid to the main game itself?
Sonic The Hedgehog
Rob Fahey's 2/10 review of the Xbox 360 version of Sonic the Hedgehog was a savage indictment of all that has gone wrong with the franchise since the Sonic Team was effectively disbanded (though arguably the rot set in soon after 1995's Sonic and Knuckles). So I couldn't help but wonder what he would make of the PlayStation 3 version of the game, which somehow - tragically - manages to be even worse.
It's not actually that much more terrible overall - after all, when a respected gaming icon has been humiliated on a worldwide scale, as is the case here, an extra degree or two of disgrace has very little impact. However, certainly from a technical perspective, this isn't even a decent conversion of the original Xbox 360 abortion - which at least managed to maintain a decent frame rate.
Amusingly, Sonic the Hedgehog on PS3 actually manages to add slowdown in places where nothing much is actually happening at all. Case in point: the initial townscape scene which has Sonic and Tails meandering about looking for information and new footwear. Once into the arcade sections, you could be forgiven for thinking that the two versions of the game appear to be pretty much identical. However, when I ran back the video clips and compared them side-by-side, the ugly truth became evident - the PS3 version of the game had been strategically shaven of landscape, shadows and detail, presumably to keep the frame-rate respectable.
Sonic PS3 does actually run at 1080i/1080p though, albeit via the use of a very basic form of software scaling which further impacts the frame-rate. At the very least this means that the minority of gamers using older 1080i HDTVs won't need to drop down to 480p to play. However, even here, the Xbox 360 version's GPU scaling does a marginally superior job with zero impact on the game's performance.
So, all told then, a disastrous no-hoper of a game no matter which console you happen to own, but one that just happens to be even more abysmal on the PlayStation 3.
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