After a joyous yuletide spent playing Naughty Dog's supreme Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, it's back to the frontlines of the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 console war for this reporter, with the latest battery of cross-platform confrontations. You know the score by now: impartial criticism on each multi-format release is the name of the game, the aim being to supplement the original Eurogamer reviews with additional commentary relevant to each version of the game, with gameplay the primary concern.
As is the norm with our face-off comparison features, each game feature is supplemented with a range of ultra-clean screengrabs losslessly extracted from the HDMI ports of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 Elite. A Digital Foundry HD capture station is used to acquire every last pixel output by the consoles at full 24-bit precision, with the unit calibrated to full-range RGB and both systems set up likewise. As 1080p performance is so variable on PlayStation 3, we've included screenshots of this video mode in action where applicable and how the results compare to the Xbox 360's in-built GPU scaler on the same titles.
So... the games then. A colossal array of wares to get through in what is the biggest face-off feature yet; 12 titles that between them rate a 'not bad at all' 7.5/10 when their Eurogamer review scores are taken as an average.
- Kane and Lynch: Dead Men
- Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2
- Tony Hawk's Proving Ground
- Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock
- Blazing Angels: Secret Missions of WWII
- Medal of Honor: Airborne
- Dynasty Warriors: Gundam
- Bladestorm: The Hundred Years' War
- Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga
- Clive Barker's Jericho
- John Woo Presents Stranglehold
Once again, many thanks to the Beyond3D Forum's invaluable Quaz51 for his assistance in getting to the bottom of the technical issues inherent in a few of these cross-platform conundrums.
Kane & Lynch: Dead Men
An intriguing combination of ultra-violence and squad-based shooting from the creators of Hitman and the under-rated Freedom Fighters, Kane & Lynch: Dead Men has plenty going for it in the shape of strong characterisation, a no-holds-barred approach to gaming brutality and an excellent array of variety in the game's many missions. As Kristan noted in the original Xbox 360 review, the way that IO Interactive has managed to seamlessly incorporate the game's storyline into the actual action without the need for excessive cut-scenes is also worthy of praise.
However, in terms of overall polish, Kane & Lynch disappoints with some terrible flaws in several of the missions and some horrendous difficulty spikes. I also thought that the Gears of War/Uncharted cover system felt unfinished and unwieldy and saddled with some awful collision detection, meaning that you often take damage even though you think you're safely hidden. The squad-based strategy elements also appear to be somewhat superfluous and overly fussy for all the return they actually give you in the heat of battle. Also curious considering the basic nature of the game is the complete omission of online co-op from the roster of options.
However, the good news is that the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game are very close indeed, to the point where you really need to look hard to notice any kind of difference at all. The only tell-tale sign is in the heavily anti-aliased look of the Xbox 360 game, with full-on 4x MSAA smoothing off the stylised visuals in a far more pleasing manner than the AA-free PlayStation 3 conversion of the game.
Gameplay-wise though, both games are a match, so if the action grabs you, you won't really feel short-changed regardless of the system you happen to own. However, based on my experiences with the game, that's a pretty big 'if'. For PS3 owners, the majestic Uncharted is clearly the superior purchase.
While it's difficult to disagree with much of Tom's expert 6/10 dismissal of this particular game, I have to admit that along with GRAW 2 and Guitar Hero III, TimeShift offered the most fun I had out of all the titles included in this mammoth face-off. Graphically slick and packed with good-looking set-pieces, it may seem rather too close to Half-Life 2 in its fundamental execution but the time-travel shtick adds an interesting twist to the basic gunplay. What is missing is the assured touch of a master designer, necessary in elevating a nice concept and a decent piece of technology into a truly unmissable game, but regardless, there's still the core of a decent release here.
Unfortunately the good will I had for the game diminished rapidly after loading up the PlayStation 3 version. Don't get me wrong, graphically it's very close indeed to the original Xbox 360 version as the comparison screenshots doubtless reveal. But this is one of the rare occasions where even a low-res internet video would reveal the night and day difference between the two versions. Put simply, TimeShift PS3 at its best still drops frames compared to the 360 game, even when barely anything is actually happening. At worst, it's extremely jerky and plagued with v-lock screen tear. What is interesting is that the 360 game has the option to enable or disable v-lock (it's turned on by default). There is no such facility in the PS3 game, it's off by default in an attempt to keep the speed up. That particular gambit fails to pay off and the unwelcome consequence is a nigh-on constant screen tear effect.
I actually had a fair amount of fun playing this - on Xbox 360 at least. Sure, it's a fairly formulaic first-person shooter and its more original elements could've been better implemented in a more imaginative design, but for gamers who've squeezed every last iota of fun out of 2007's premier league FPS releases, TimeShift on 360 does just enough to make it worth a shot, especially as a post-Christmas rental or a well-chosen pick from eBay or the bargain bins. As the New Year gaming drought savagely kicks in, TimeShift is one of the more worthy also-rans of 2007 I'm definitely going to be catching up on.
Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2
Ubisoft has something of a Jekyl and Hyde reputation for their PlayStation 3 wares. On the one hand we have titles like Rainbow Six: Vegas, which look and play just as well on either platform. On the other we have titles like the now infamous Splinter Cell: Double Agent, rightly reviled as one of the worst cross-platform endeavours of all-time, and of course the disappointing PS3 rendition of Assassin's Creed.
By and large, Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 happily falls into the former camp. Despite turning up on the PlayStation 3 months after the original Xbox 360 version, everything appears to have made it across to the Sony platform intact, and the game itself is absolutely fantastic. I have to admit to being a complete GRAW virgin prior to putting this feature together, but this is definitely one of the few titles from this feature that I'll be returning to once I have some spare time.
Gripes? Of course, there are a couple, and yes, as you might imagine, they are directed solely at the PlayStation 3 rendition of the game. The visuals lack the anti-aliasing of the Xbox 360 version but rather than leave things as they are, the developers thought they could mimic the look of the original game by applying an overly generous amount of blur to the proceedings. I'm really not sure why this is making it into so many PS3 conversions (Orange Box, Need for Speed ProStreet and Assassin's Creed to name but three) but it doesn't look good, wiping out a lot of the fine detail of the excellent graphics. As Tom Bramwell pointed out after witnessing Portal on PS3, it's like playing the Xbox 360 version with Vaseline smeared all over your expensive HDTV. My only other bugbear is the usual cross-platform 'gotcha' - token SixAxis controls inferior in every regard to the basic analogue sticks and disabled by default. Why bother?
However, when GRAW 2 is designed so well and plays so wonderfully, the complaints feel petty. Coming to the franchise as a complete virgin, I thought this was a simply a great game - and one I'd be happy to play on either platform. But if I had to make a choice it would be the 360 version, if only for the gamerscore challenges and the fact that the excellent graphics aren't diminished by the needless Vaseline effect.
Previously on Eurogamer.net...
To catch up on the previous clashes check out rounds one to six below.