Blacksite: Area 51
Firstly, let's kick off with an apology. I may have given the impression that games powered by Unreal Engine 3 generally seem to be pretty much identical whether you're playing them on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. You'd think that software built upon the same architecture that has been proven in hit games including Rainbow Six Vegas, GRAW2 and Stranglehold should at least be graphically consistent even on the less impressive games.
Turns out I was wrong - at its best, Unreal Engine does indeed do an excellent job of ensuring cross-platform conformity, but it's swiftly becoming obvious that developers who don't put in the required effort for whatever reason can let down PS3 owners just as badly as any other coding house that hasn't got to grips with the Sony hardware. Propaganda Games just about got away with it with the lacklustre Turok conversion, but Midway's effort at bringing this game to PS3 is spectacularly terrible.
Blacksite: Area 51 isn't just a bad conversion, it's horrifically, jaw-droppingly awful. It's staggeringly abysmal to the point that I genuinely believe that it's the worst PlayStation 3 game I have ever played. Yes, even worse than the apocalyptically abysmal Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Not only that, but it's a conversion that seems to make the myriad faults, annoyances and monotonies of the barely mediocre Xbox 360 release ten times worse for PS3 gamers.
If there's one positive thing you can say about the 360 version, it's that it feels fairly polished, typically Unreal Engine-like, if you will. Controls are responsive, and aside from one or two aberrations, the frame-rate is locked at the UE standard 30fps. It looks and feels solid; graphically decent enough to make you feel like battling through it even though the levels are overlong and generally dull. There's a vaguely intriguing government conspiracy-style narrative in there too, which alas, is blotted out somewhat by the predictable and repetitive gameplay.
As you can see from the comparison shots, the PlayStation 3 game - in stills at least - retains much of the Xbox 360's look, with just the odd nip and tuck here and there, especially prevalent in the lighting. However, once you actually sit down and start playing, you're subjected to the most inconsistent frame-rate you've ever seen. Just moving forward at any given point is graphically inconsistent, with a refresh rate that arbitrarily drops for no apparent reason whatsoever. Once you're in the middle of a fire-fight, the frame-rate can plunge to single digits, and your mind needs to fill in the blanks to figure out what the hell is actually going on.
Blacksite is actually an intriguing example of how a solid game engine can paper over gameplay and design deficiencies, and still feel like a vaguely worthwhile release - playing the two games side-by-side it was quite astonishing to see just how much more appealing the 360 version was. Take away those previously standard Unreal Engine underpinnings, however, and the game's problems are exaggerated to the point where I genuinely believe this is the single most horrific PS3 game I've ever played - one that I'd struggle to award 2/10 in a standard Eurogamer review.
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