Shaun White Snowboarding
Ubisoft says that Shaun White Snowboarding, just like Prince of Persia, is based around the Assassin's Creed engine, but once again, it's clear that there's been plenty of changes under the hood. For a start, unlike the other two games apparently built on the same tech, Shaun White is v-locked - any screen tear is almost impossible to discern. Additionally, there's no doubt that this game runs at a faster refresh-rate on both platforms, even if it is very inconsistent and thus a little jarring both visually and in terms of response from the controls.
Any other differences between the two platforms are very much in Prince of Persia/Assassin's Creed territory: the PS3 version's textures are blurred compared to the Xbox 360's (thanks once again to the quincunx anti-aliasing technique) and the resultant upscaling to 1080p looks pretty atrocious as a consequence - once again, the recommendation would be to make sure that your display does the scaling. PS3 also has a 900MB mandatory install
Gameplay-wise, just like Prince of Persia, there's nothing to tell these two versions apart - in-game performance is virtually identical; they're just as bad as each other. Still, at least from a technical perspective, the quality of the conversion work here bodes well for the game I'm really looking forward to: Assassin's Creed 2.
Lord of the Rings: Conquest
On paper, the notion of transplanting Star Wars Battlefront's gameplay to the Lord of the Rings universe is somewhat inspired, especially with the original developer - Pandemic - on coding detail. In practice, while LOTR: Conquest does just enough to look like a next generation evolution of the series, in actuality, it feels little different from its predecessors and ultimately fails because of it.
There's also the sense that the game managed to make its way through QA without having some pretty rudimentary bugs fixed. A case in point crops up right at the beginning of the game in the showdown with Grima Wormtongue. He's carrying a key you need to deliver to Treebeard of the Ents. Unfortunately, Wormtongue is happy to die falling into a large pit, making collection of the key totally impossible. This happens time and time again, and only by retracing our steps to the beginning of the level, goading Wormtongue away from precipices he could propel himself into, were we able to complete the stage.
In terms of bugs and glitches, both versions seem as bad as each other, but what about the rest?
Pandemic's previous cross-platform release, the hit-and-miss Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, was hardly a technical showcase on either system, but at least the overall experience was just as good on both machines, with just the odd (mostly unnoticeable) graphical effect missing in the PS3 build of the game. While Lord of the Rings: Conquest achieves parity in terms of gameplay, in very real, measurable senses, the Xbox 360 game offers superior performance.
As the video shows pretty dramatically in places, the 360 code can be pin-sharp and very pretty, let down only by some very noticeable 'jaggies' owing to the lack of anti-aliasing. The PlayStation 3 code on the other hand looks very blurry in comparison - a combination of a mere 640p resolution, combined with a pretty lousy upscaling algorithm that further compounds the tangible lack of detail. Sub-HD resolution doesn't have to look this bad. LucasArts' Fracture on PS3 is the most recent example of a game that still looks good even with a significant drop in detail. However, in the case of LOTR: Conquest, noticeable screen-tear on top of the poor scaling gives the unmistakable impression that Xbox 360 was the main focus of the project.
Prince of Persia
One of the most controversial Eurogamer reviews of recent times, I'm firmly on the side of those who believe that this is a great, if rather short-lived game, and I knew I'd love it before I played it, precisely because of Tom's review.
That critique was based on PlayStation 3 code, but I doubt the host platform would've made any difference whatsoever to the score, as both versions are essentially identical in terms of gameplay. Graphically, aside from slightly blurred textures on the PS3 version, it's pretty much the same as the 360 game.
Previous Ubisoft epics, such as the technically wonderful Assassin's Creed, have exhibited a clear Xbox 360 bias during development. The game content may be identical, but the implementation on PlayStation 3 has often been lacklustre, usually manifesting in a lower frame-rate and consequentially in less crisp response from the controls. Prince of Persia shows none of these deficiencies; indeed sometimes there's even a performance advantage on PlayStation 3. The word is that this new game is based on the AC engine: if so, there appears to have been a fair bit of optimisation done behind the scenes to bring performance up to snuff on the Sony platform.
The only other way to tell these games apart (the 1.6GB PS3 mandatory install excepted) is in variations on the presence of screen tear. PlayStation 3 has an annoying flicker at the top of the screen that is ever-present. For most gamers, this is not an issue - it'll be tucked away from sight in the typical HDTV's overscan area (WipEout HD in 720p mode and Mirror's Edge perform similarly). If you're playing on a computer monitor, chances are it'll be more noticeable. Disregarding this phenomenon, measuring screen-tear reveals that it's less apparent on Xbox 360, but can crop up in areas where it's not an issue at all on PlayStation 3. The obvious deduction is that each version has been optimised to the strengths of the respective host consoles.
Overall then, a good showing from Ubisoft, with just one blot on the copybook: 1080i/1080p. Xbox 360 does a great job of scaling up the intricate 720p graphics (it is, after all, taken care of by dedicated hardware) but PlayStation 3 looks very poor and blurry by comparison. Your display will be a much better job of scaling the image, and Ubisoft must agree, as this mode only kicks in if 720p is disabled on the XMB.
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