Top Spin 3
There's only one difference between the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of Top Spin 3 that people are talking about and its importance has been amplified still further in the light of recent events at London SW1: Rafael Nadal only appears in the PS3 version of Top Spin 3.
Of course, in theory it shouldn't matter, especially in a release where the differences actually go far beyond the player roster. The core of this game is all about learning the ropes in the Top Spin school, before taking on the mammoth career mode and mastering it with your own homegrown player - a scenario in which a Nadal-less experience isn't that much of a big deal. That said, the ability to play with the two current giants of men's tennis on PS3 but not on Xbox 360 strikes me as a savagely arbitrary decision that must surely have its roots in some kind of player sponsorship deal. It certainly has an impact on the pick-up-and-play Exhibition Mode. [Editor's note: 2K tells us that Nadal had an exclusive contract with Sony up until right before the game launched, and that this got in the way.]
Owners of Microsoft's kit can at least console themselves with the fact that once more, Xbox 360 emerges triumphant in terms of cross-platform technical performance and does so without the need for a mandatory 3.5GB, seven-minute installation session.
Top Spin 3's programmers look to have made some pretty hard choices in converting the game across from Xbox 360 to PlayStation 3. The key fundamentals are there - the player models are good, the animations are just as sweet, the gameplay identical (both versions run at 720p at 60fps with a small degree of screen-tear... no native 1080p support). However, developer PAM has achieved this parity by pulling back on the texture detail, especially noticeable in the case of the surrounding environments.
The ground is lacking an extra layer of texture mapping and is thus less detailed on the PlayStation 3 game, the impact of which varies from court to court. The most dramatic difference is clearly in the areas that feature reflective surfaces. Overhead and player details are reflected on the ground in the Xbox 360 version of the game, while PS3 owners get absolutely none of that, making some of the more subtle environments look somewhat bereft of detail in comparison. Xbox 360 owners also get an Exhibition Mode exclusive too: a Tokyo arena (screenshot elsewhere on the site) where the tennis action takes place over an enormous, transparent, reflective aquarium. No transparencies, no reflections, no Tokyo on PS3.
Going back to texture detail, the 360 version also has an advantage with regards the player models. They look crisper and more detailed (most likely down to the anti-aliasing method used on PS3, which like Assassin's Creed blurs fine detail) with better colour contrast. It's only really an issue on the close-up cut-scenes, but there you're generally more concerned with the animation than the more intricate levels of detail in those scenarios and there the games are basically the same.
So, an overall sense that PAM has pared back the PS3 version of Top Spin 3 where they could without impacting the core gameplay experience, while Xbox 360 benefits from an overall better-looking game. Get everyone talking about the PS3 Nadal exclusive though, and nobody need ever know...
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