Capcom's Bionic Commando on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 appears to have received mixed reviews, but the reaction from the Digital Foundry team members pretty much mirrors Tom's critique - the game's great fun and well worth a punt regardless of the console platform you might happen to own. However, we can't completely ignore the wailing and gnashing of teeth about the v-sync problems in the Xbox 360 version, so DF team member MazingerDUDE took an involved look at the game on both console platforms to get to the bottom of the performance differences.
As you might expect, Bionic Commando is based on the same Diesel engine that powers GRIN's other recent cross-format title, Wanted: Weapons of Fate, so many of the comments and complaints levelled at that game in Face-Off 19 are equally relevant here. The most disappointing aspect is that the native resolution remains at sub-HD levels, specifically 1120x640, on both platforms. Additionally, the Diesel engine's lack of v-sync on 360 remains in effect on Bionic Commando, whereas the PS3 version benefits from improved image coherency thanks to zero tearing whatsoever.
The tearing issue is an important factor - this is no Resident Evil 5 where the torn frames accounted for around five per cent of the video output. Just like Wanted, the lack of v-sync is a virtually ever-present factor, and the tearing can appear pretty much anywhere on-screen - typically the more towards the centre of the screen it is, the more it is noticed by the human eye. This factor alone may skew owners of both consoles towards the PS3 version, especially as frame rate seems like-for-like, by and large.
The Xbox 360 version does have some unique properties though, with the inclusion of SSAO (screen space ambient occlusion), lacking from the PS3 build. These 'contact shadows' are subtle, but serve to add a lot more depth to the scene. Alongside the v-sync, overall it's probably the most noticeable difference between the two games.
Onto lighting: Bionic Commando appears to employ the NAO32 pixel format on PS3, allowing for the inclusion of HDR, which can dramatically transform the appearance of a given scene when deployed. Its weakness is the lack of alpha channel (hence a heavy flickering artifact on the blinds in the second shot). The Xbox game on the other hand seems to use the more conventional FP10 format, only offering a medium dynamic range, but alpha is available to the developers.
As we saw before in Wanted: Weapons of Fate, the Diesel engine manages to make its pixel shaders work harder on PS3, resulting in superior normal map and specular effects on the Sony console. By way of some compensation, it seems that GRIN has retooled some of the textures on the 360 version, as seen in the bottom set of pictures in the last gallery, where more detail appears to be resolved.
It's rare that we see so many differences in a cross-format title, so Bionic Commando is indeed well worth this more in-depth coverage, but in terms of the most impactful effects, it's definitely a case of SSAO versus v-sync. PS3 has the latter, 360 the former... Full video breakdown, more comparison shots and the final verdict forthcoming in Face-Off 20...
Will you support the Digital Foundry team?
Digital Foundry specialises in technical analysis of gaming hardware and software, using state-of-the-art capture systems and bespoke software to show you how well games and hardware run, visualising precisely what they're capable of. In order to show you what 4K gaming actually looks like we needed to build our own platform to supply high quality 4K video for offline viewing. So we did.
Our videos are multi-gigabyte files and we've chosen a high quality provider to ensure fast downloads. However, that bandwidth isn't free and so we charge a small monthly subscription fee of £4.50. We think it's a small price to pay for unlimited access to top-tier quality encodes of our content. Thank you.Support Digital Foundry