Unreal Tournament 3
Okay, so we all know the headline differences here. Keyboard/mouse and user-mod support for PlayStation 3; additional maps, split-screen and 'optimisations' for Xbox 360. On paper then, Unreal Tournament 3 is basically a score-draw and I feel confident in saying that Eurogaming owners of either console would love to have the additional bits and pieces that are exclusive to the 'other' version.
The overall impression I get from the revised Xbox 360 code is that Epic has attempted to make a game that not only fits in with Microsoft's somewhat draconian TRCs, but has also aimed to open up Unreal to a slightly less hardcore audience. The inclusion of split-screen multiplayer shouldn't be underestimated - while I'm sure online take-up is relatively immense, I'm equally certain that the majority of console owners aren't playing online; two gamers at the console adds that element of human competitiveness lacking on offline PlayStation 3s.
Similarly with keyboard/mouse and user-mod support - stripping them away entirely keeps everyone on a level playing field, there's no need to search for non-K&M servers and obviously you'll be able to connect to anyone, anywhere on Xbox Live without the need to download any extra bits and pieces. In short, Epic appears to have dialled down the hardcore appeal while at the same time introducing additional value and features that would make the game appeal to a larger audience.
It seems like a fair enough compromise (albeit an odd one given the two consoles' relative reputations), but for the true Unreal purist, K&M feels like the only way to play, especially if you're taking on the single-player game at the higher difficulty levels. Plus of course, user mod support adds an element of longevity to Unreal Tournament 3 that simply won't be there on the Xbox 360 version... so long as you can find servers that support them of course, because Midway's dedicated servers do not. Another advantage for PS3 is the apparent omission of the character creator option on the 360 game, which seems like a very bizarre element to leave out.
In mitigation then, let's take a look at the 'optimisations' and in this respect, Xbox 360 is demonstrating a clear technical advantage over the PS3 code in several non-critical regards.
'Non-critical' is the keyword here because first impressions are that basically you are getting the same game. The PS3 version is a beautiful technical showcase for Unreal Engine 3 technology on the Sony platform (and I suspect it was designed as such) and seemingly answers questions such as whether PS3 could 'do' Gears of War in the affirmative.
It also demonstrates (quite spectacularly in places) that cross-platform middleware in the right hands can produce a game that looks just as good as an AAA single-platform exclusive. I also like the way that it offers an optional installation of game data - useful for 40GB PS3 owners with limited disk space. Obviously I get through more releases than most (and therefore have far more installs than the average gamer) but having to delete game data on my 60GB unit just to be able to load a new title is becoming a chore.
Where the 360 version has been enhanced, it's in pretty subtle ways. The motion blur technique is superior on the Microsoft console and the maps are generally a touch more detailed (proper study of the screenshots reveals the extent, but the video gives a decent enough idea). Frame-rate is basically the same, with both games running in the 30fps area with minimal screen-tear. There is some pop-in on both consoles, but neither version has any kind of tangible advantage over the other. You can't help but feel that that the 360 code could've done with some more work in other areas though - the online lobbies were an ordeal on PlayStation 3 and they're equally as annoying on the newer version too.
So basically this is a game well worthy of its 8/10 score on both consoles. PS3 owners can point to the love for the FPS purist and all the goodies associated with the user-generated content. 360 gamers on the other hand get a slightly better-looking release, superior offline multiplayer options and more in-map bling. Both releases are equally fantastic games.
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