Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe
Unreal Engine 3 has proved its worth time and time again with a host of massive hits, and despite a few cross-platform clunkers, by and large it has delivered as an accomplished multi-console middleware. Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe must surely be one of the most off-the-wall applications yet for Epic's technology, taking the form of a standard one-on-one 3D fighting game.
While it may lack the sophistication and precision of Virtua Fighter 5 or the sheer spectacle of Soul Calibur IV, MK vs. DC is an oddly playable and somewhat satisfying fighting game, but despite running (for the most part) at 60fps on both systems, it's clear to see that the coders had real issues making UE3 work with this game - a somewhat bizarre state of affairs bearing in mind we're talking about rendering just two characters at any given moment, over some very bland backgrounds.
While the characters look gloriously detailed in their bio screens and in the (pre-rendered) cinematics, in-game they look blurred and indistinct, no doubt down to the knock-down, sub-HD 576p resolution employed in both versions. Both releases are anti-aliased, but similar to Saints Row 2, quincunx AA is utilised on PS3, which combined with the upscaling results in a very blurry look.
Neither version has any real advantage over the other in terms of gameplay, but in a release that's as graphically handicapped as this one, any edge is worthwhile, so the 360 version gets the nod.
Saints Row 2
Source of yet more controversy and division in the electronically assembled hordes of Eurogamers, Saints Row 2 has been posited by some as the true successor to the magnificence of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, with its attempts to add to Rockstar's previous classic while GTA IV conspicuously removed key features, 'only' lasting 30 hours or so.
As you guys have made up your mind about the game's merits, or lack of them, thankfully I can sidestep such controversies simply by concentrating the Xbox 360 and PS3 version's technical prowess. Or rather lack of it. Like Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, Saints Row 2 achieves whatever success it does in spite of the engine powering it. It's a truly rough-looking game with some very bizarre technical decisions - on both formats.
First off, there's the drop to sub-HD resolution. Both games match the PS3 version of GTA IV in rendering at 640p, but the difference is that Saints Row 2 features anti-aliasing (not seen on PS3 GTA IV). Unfortunately in the case of the Sony code, the blur-inducing quincunx variation of the technique is invoked. So effectively there's a double-whammy going on here on PS3 - blur from the AA, plus blur from the upscaling back up to 720p. Any technical victory on 360 in this area is pyrrhic; for reasons best known to themselves, the coders have sought to offset the loss of resolution by slapping a honking great sharpening filter onto the base image, resulting in an overly crisp image and unwelcome halo-effects around edges. However, there are some small bonuses on 360 - superior lighting effects in places, and other minor eye candy missing on the PS3 game.
Both games suffer from eye-rendingly bad screen-tear - the game engages v-lock on the cut-scenes (and in like-for-like scenes, the PS3 version readily drops down to 20fps while the 360 stays fairly constant at 30fps), but all bets are off in-game where both versions tear very, very badly. In fact, based on measurements from the digital outputs of both machines, virtually every other frame on both versions is torn - whether you'll notice it or not is essentially down to the amount of movement on-screen. Analysis shows that 360 is the smoother game, but you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference.
It seems to me that whether you enjoy this game or not is all down to how much you can get into the gameplay, and disregard the deficiencies of the under-performing engine with its various glitches and bugs. As it is, the technical 'drag factor' is to all intents and purposes identical cross-platform.
Yes, we could've lumped this in with the long overdue cross-platform roundup you'll find tucked away at the tail-end of this feature. But this is LEGO, a series that continually provides almost Pixar-like levels of pure joy to gamers of all ages, so the very least it deserves is a decent bit of coverage - if only to remind you that this is an excellent game that's well worth consideration if you passed it over in the deluge of quality fourth-quarter releases.
Technically speaking, it's pretty much business as usual from a technical perspective, with one pleasant surprise. As Dan Whitehead mentioned in the original Eurogamer review, screen tear is much reduced in LEGO Batman, especially in comparison with LEGO Indiana Jones. However, I can't help but put this down to the uniformly darker appearance of the game itself, combined with less complex surroundings. When the game pumps out more ambitious visuals, the screen tear is bad as ever it was. Of course, like its predecessor, there is a v-lock option, but just like LEGO Indy, this savagely (and some might argue, unnecessarily) cuts the frame-rate down to 30fps, detracting a great deal from the look and feel of the LEGO series which, historically, has always been the full-fat 60fps we know and love.
Further evidence that this is much the same LEGO engine witnessed in previous games comes down to the only real key difference between the two versions. Xbox 360 employs proper multi-sampling anti-aliasing to smooth off its edges, while PS3 uses a blur filter. By and large, Traveller's Tales gets away with it, but in places it can look pretty rough. By way of compensation, however, lighting on PS3 benefits from more obvious and pleasing bloom effects - in a game as dark as this, it's a nice little bonus.
Otherwise, no real surprises from this part of the LEGO universe. A great game that's superb to play on both platforms, and well worth a flutter.
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