|Dolby Digital, DTS, 5.1LPCM, 7.1LPCM
Still one of the most resource-intensive games when run on max settings, the original Crysis ranks as one of the most visually impressive games ever made - an extraordinary technological statement from a developer dedicated to a unique "maximum game" ethos.
News that Crytek would be embracing cross-platform development and working with Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 was met with concern from its fans: would the PC game be left behind as Crytek refocused its resources on technologically outdated consoles? Could the Microsoft and Sony platforms be cajoled into running code designed for massively more powerful hardware?
We had our doubts, but on balance, Crysis 2 on console is an exceptional release, only held back from true greatness by being a touch rough around the edges: glitches, LOD pop-ins, some really impactful frame-rate dips... compromise is an inevitability when working with consoles, but which platform is better suited to running CryEngine 3? Here's where you find out.
Let's get busy and break out the comparison assets, kicking off with this extended head-to-head video, accompanied by a colossal 720p comparison gallery.
You might notice a difference in the aspect ratio of the HUD between the two versions of Crysis 2, with the text and other elements being considerably wider on PS3 than they are on the Xbox 360 release. The reason here is fairly straightforward: while Crysis 2 runs at 1152x720 resolution on the Microsoft platform, PS3 operates at a base resolution of 1024x720. The final framebuffer is then sent out to RSX, where a bilinear upscale gives us the usual 1280x720 output - we see exactly the same differences (along with the reasons behind it) on Starbreeze's Chronicles of Riddick. Updated: Erroneous 360 resolution now corrected.
In short, then, Xbox 360 benefits from a 12.5 per cent resolution boost over the PlayStation 3 version of the game. While it is true that the action generally looks clearer and not quite so blurred on the Xbox 360, it's also the case that when the game is in full flow, the amount of post-processing effects in play, including camera and object-based motion blur, tends to equalise the visuals somewhat. Quite why there is a resolution difference at all is intriguing. Having fewer pixels to process obviously helps reduce fill-rate concerns, but curiously, notes left within the config files suggest that RAM was also a consideration: apparently 14MB of memory is saved by dropping res (which seems to suggest a hell of a lot of internal buffers being used to compose each frame).
Another aspect that lessens the impact of the resolution difference is CryEngine 3's chosen anti-aliasing technique. Halo: Reach-style temporal anti-aliasing is being used on objects a set distance away from the camera, with an edge-detect/blur mechanism in play for elements close to the player. Both of these techniques add further blurring to the visual effects chain, and again serve to make the resolution gain on Xbox 360 less noticeable in the heat of the action. More resolution is obviously a good thing and there is an overall feeling that the image on Xbox 360 is cleaner and crisper, but only with a direct A to B comparison do you actually feel you're missing anything on the PS3 rendition of the game, which still looks very impressive.
Indeed, other elements of the visual make-up of the game do their job in helping to bridge the difference. For example, check out this shot: texture filtering on the tarmac looks better on the PS3 - base resolution isn't always the paramount element in image quality, something we touched upon in the Alan Wake sub-HD debate.
Bearing in mind the rich range of cutting-edge visual effects in CryEngine 3, there's been plenty of speculation that certain graphical features would be better suited to particular platforms. Certainly, early tech demos of CryEngine 3 did seem to suggest that lighting in particular wasn't quite so refined on the PlayStation 3, while some pre-release shots suggested that light-shafts/god rays were not present on Xbox 360.
The reality is that Crytek has done an impressive job in matching the engine spec across both platforms, and even where its own config files suggest substantial differences (for example in the rendering of water effects, where the PS3 setting seems to dominate 360's), we don't really see any kind of substantial difference in the final game: the chances are that some very low variables in the .cfg files may simply invoke hardware-specific code - perhaps the water utilises 360's tessellator, for example.
Resolution and texture-filtering aside, there are some differences in the presentation of the two console versions of Crysis 2, but these are mostly incidental effects that have only a tiny effect on the game's overall look, and present no impact whatsoever on the core gameplay experience. But for the record, let's take a closer look at what our comparisons unveiled.