Face-Off: Street Fighter x Tekken
|-||Xbox 360||PlayStation 3|
|Install||5.6GB (optional)||2583MB (optional)|
|Surround Support||Dolby Digital||Dolby Digital, 5.1LPCM|
It's hard to imagine characters from two completely different fighting games working well together in a single title, but Capcom's solution is obvious but effective: by tethering Namco's characters to the classic Street Fighter gameplay, the developers have avoided the potential problems of shoehorning two distinct play styles together in one title, and the fresh roster creates a title that feels tangible different from the company's other fighting games.
Capcom's work is highly effective: the Tekken characters really 'feel' like they belong in the Street Fighter world with their trademark combo strings and iconic moves being faithfully translated into the SF system of Super Arts and specials. This is topped off with a solid tag-team component, the brand new Cross Gauge, and the inspired Gems system, which infuses the game with plenty of depth required for high-level tournament play while giving more casual fans a wealth of options to try out. In short, Capcom has done a remarkable job in bringing these two franchises together into one exhilarating package.
For this new game, the MT Framework engine used to power Marvel vs. Capcom 3 has been jettisoned in favour of an enhanced version of the technology behind the Street Fighter 4 games. The result is a game which shares much in common with those titles, from the rendering resolution to the implementation of anti-aliasing. The cross platform conversion work is extremely close, and in terms of the graphical look of the game there are a number of visual tweaks which positively enhance the core artwork without compromising the blistering smooth 60FPS action.
Our head-to-head video demonstrates nicely just how impressive the two versions really are: in this case the differences are so minor that they barely have any meaningful impact on the look of the game.
"Honours are equal on a technical level - 360 has some minor visual improvements, while PS3 more closely maintains its 60FPS refresh."
Street Fighter x Tekken renders in native 720p on both formats. As with the Street Fighter 4 titles, 360 owners get the usual inclusion of 2x multi-sampling anti-aliasing (MSAA), while the PS3 version features no edge smoothing of any kind. As we've seen in previous Capcom beat 'em ups on both systems, the lack of anti-aliasing really isn't an issue at all: the only time we're really made aware of its absence is in some of the higher contrast environments, where we see the odd bit of edge shimmering in select background objects. But in this case there are fewer bright backgrounds on offer, and the upgraded artwork hides any potential jaggies rather well.
The additional edge smoothing also gives the 360 version a slightly more refined look: subtle details in parts of the artwork appear mildly clearer due to there being less edge-shimmering present, with the game appearing a little cleaner in this respect. However, when viewing the action from a few feet away on a relatively small HDTV, the difference between the two is barely noticeable at all and the 360's very small advantage quickly fades away. It's only on larger 1080p screens, where the pixels are magnified and the upscaling artifacts become more noticeable, that the benefits are more tangibly felt.
While there might be a few differences in the way certain effects are displayed, the vast majority of the game's visual make-up is basically interchangeable across both formats. Everything from the the wonderfully hand-drawn texture work to the lighting and environmental detailing are a match.
Delving a little deeper and we can see that a higher level of anisotropic filtering is applied on the ground textures on the 360, adding a touch more clarity to the artwork on some backgrounds. Elsewhere, shadows are also rendered differently between platforms. Hardware supported PCF is present on the Sony platform, using 2x2 bilinear filtered samples, while on the 360 the technique is implemented in software, though without any additional filtering. The result is that shadow edges appear a bit smoother on the 360.
Bringing the Spectacle to Life
In terms of the general graphical make-up of the game, the overhaul in Street Fighter x Tekken is subtle when compared to the upgrades present in Namco's fighting series, but the overall effect is pleasing. For example, the use of new surface shaders further enhances the hand-drawn, comic-book look of the characters, and the inclusion of object-based motion blur (used on the characters during the performance of certain moves) is another key effect that enhances the ferocity of the action.
Object blur is displayed slightly differently on both formats, but the baseline implementation looks to be much the same and the results are equally pleasing. The most surprising factor is that Capcom has been able to utilise the effect whilst maintaining a fluid 60FPS update without needing to lower the rendering resolution. However, it also appears to be a tad buggy, with the radius of the blur sometimes failing to cover all of the characters affected body parts, hinting that some precision was sacrificed in order to include it in the game. On top of that we sometimes find the blur to be missing on the PS3 entirely, in what surely appears to be a glitch, as in other shots the effect is correct and present.
"Most of the frame-rate drops occur when the player has no control, meaning that the performance dip has zero impact on actual gameplay."
Keeping up the Pace
In terms of performance, a fluid 60FPS update is absolutely integral to Street Fighter x Tekken's core gameplay. Controller response is key with regards to the timings of specific moves, combos and counters. For the majority of gamers a little slowdown might not matter, but for highly experienced players any additional latency can have a negative impact on how the game plays - here a few frames can make all the difference if smoothness is allowed to be slightly compromised during critical moments of play.
Split-screen head-to-head analysis isn't suitable for fighting games, so instead we've put together two separate videos to show how the game performs on each platform. The results are remarkably close - as expected - but with the PlayStation 3 adopting a minuscule lead over its 360 counterpart. As our performance videos show, this is almost entirely restricted to scenes in which the player has no control, with any smaller dips during play passing by without issue.
On the Xbox 360, Street Fighter x Tekken maintains a smooth 60FPS update throughout, outside of dropping a few single frames on occasion (usually accompanied by a sole torn frame). The frequency of these blips increases in scramble mode, where all four characters are permanently on-screen. However, we still get the perception of a faultless 60FPS presentation, with only the digital precision of frame-rate analysis telling us anything different - the odd dropped frame here and there simply can't be discerned by the human eye: the action is fluid and the controller response remains very crisp.
"Perhaps top-tier players with god-like reflexes might notice the occasional dropped frame, but it's going to be a complete non-issue for the vast majority of players."
The only time we see a visible deviation in fluidity occurs when ending the round with a super move. Here, on the odd occasion, the frame-rate briefly gets chopped down by half for a few seconds as the rendering load increases and the engine switches to a v-synced 30FPS update (with some some mild tearing when the change occurs). Thankfully, as the player has no control over events when this happens, this has no impact on gameplay at all. The fact that this occurs mostly in scenes with very little movement means that the visible effects of the halved frame-rate are also significantly reduced.
On the other hand, the PlayStation 3 release always runs with v-sync engaged (so it never tears a single frame) although we still see the odd dropped frame before a match begins and during scramble mode. These tiny dips in performance are completely undetectable by eye and happen much less often than on the 360. Given that Street Fighter x Tekken runs without anti-aliasing on the PS3, the reduced amount of frame-rate drops and lack of screen tear makes sense - on the 360 the engine is clearly taxing the system more strongly due to the extra GPU resources being used to implement MSAA, which is mostly likely why we are seeing more fluctuations in smoothness on the platform.
From the perspective of our analysis tools the PS3 game has a minute performance advantage. However the deficit on 360 is miniscule and has no tangible impact on gameplay - even in scramble mode, where fluctuations are more common on the platform, we weren't able to feel any loss in controller responsiveness and saw no visible judder on screen. Perhaps top-tier players with god-like reflexes might notice the occasional dropped frame, but it's going to be a complete non-issue for the vast majority of players.
Moving on, and loading times are basically the same across both versions once the game has been installed onto the PS3's hard drive - an optional process taking 2583MB of space. Installation is worthwhile, especially when playing online where loading times can be noticeably longer than local play.
With regards the quality of the FMV sequences used for the intro and story movies, there's no sign of the awful compression scheme used in the Xbox 360 version of Marvel vs. Capcom 3, where macroblocking and other artifacts often littered bight scenes. Here both versions are presented with the same high quality video encodes, free from any obvious compression problems.
Extra Characters and On-Disc DLC
Aside from a few mostly irrelevant differences, Street Fighter x Tekken is basically identical across both platforms, with the two being even more closely matched compared to the previous Street Fighter games using the same engine. However, when it comes to making a purchasing decision, content is king and one version features more goodies than the other.
In this regard it's the PS3 version manages to deliver the most complete package. The game features five extra characters exclusive to the platform: Infamous' electrifying Cole MacGrath is joined by the likes of Mega Man and Pac-Man, along with Sony cats Toro and Kuro (cute representations of Ryu and Kazuya), rounding up the roster of characters to 43 in total. This short video shows three of these PS3 only characters in action, although both Mega Man and Pac-Man are sadly absent - they cannot be unlocked until March 13 when a game update becomes available on PSN - a somewhat odd choice on Capcom's part.
"Content is king and in this regard PS3 has a clear advantage with five exclusive characters including a guest appearance from Infamous' Cole MacGrath."
Elsewhere, the decision to include an additional seven characters on the disc for future DLC in both versions is something of a sore point, especially since this content is technically already there and all the balance and gameplay tweaks have been performed. All that is needed is a simple unlock code after coughing up the funds over PSN or XBLA for the privilege, which then grants you access to characters that could have been available from launch.
Capcom claims that this was done so that everyone playing online has the same 'version' of the game without needing to download any sizeable updates, and that by handling the unlocking of extra content this way negates the need for future re-releases of the game - all the pre-requisite balance tweaks have already been done. However, regardless of download size arguments, on-disc DLC strongly suggests that Capcom isn't using the mechanism to expand and upgrade its game, but rather to limit it to those who won't shell out the extra cash - a difficult argument to justify when paying around £40 for the game in the first place. While on the subject of balance, history suggests that many of the last minute corrections regarding the implementation of new characters is derived from post launch feedback from players, rather than earlier playtests before release.
Online Issues: Laggy Gameplay and Audio Drop-Outs
When it comes down to online play the PS3 release also features a small advantage. As pointed out in this news story, both versions allow up to four players to duke it out in the game's scramble mode against people across the world. However, while two players can play together over PSN using one console and one online account, 360 owners are stuck to just one person per console unless they play offline in a local network set-up, contradicting the information contained in the game's instruction booklet which states that the mode is available to both consoles.
The development team quickly responded to explain the mix up, stating that reason for this features absence on the 360 is "because of the architecture differences between gamertags and PSN IDs" and that "Sony made it so you can mix and match online and offline, and Microsoft made it so you can't."
However, this makes little sense considering that other titles, such as Mortal Kombat and Call of Duty all support multiple players gaming online from each Xbox 360 console with just one Live account. Quite why Capcom wasn't able to do the same remains unknown, and the fact that there are no current plans to fix the issue via a future patch is baffling to say the least.
Elsewhere there are other problems centring around the game's netcode on both formats, with many players experiencing disruptive audio drop-outs in and out of matches, along with extremely variable match conditions when signal strength is very good. Some players have even claimed that online play is 'completely broken' as a direct consequence of these issues.
Our own investigation into the problem reveals that the audio disruptions vary depending on connection speed, and are very noticeable when they occur. At the same time the actual gameplay - with regards to latency or additional judder - remains completely unaffected when the drop-outs happen. That said, the quality of the netcode could be better in this area: we experienced a number of variably laggy matches and when combined with the audio drop-out issue, it definitely impacts the quality of the experience.
We wouldn't go as far as saying that online is 'complete broken' as such, but it's certainly not great in its current state. Capcom has promised that an update will be released soon to fix the problem, although the development team has stated that the underlying issue is a complex one, and that the solution might result in the stability of online matches being further reduced. Brilliant.
"In an age where core gamers are highly sensitive to games shipping with disruptive bugs, Street Fighter x Tekken's online issues are something of a disappointment."
Street Fighter x Tekken: The Digital Foundry Verdict
Overall, while Street Fighter x Tekken is strongly recommended on both formats, the bugs we encountered are clearly an issue, with the timed unlocks and DLC strategy being a bit of a pain. It's hard to ignore the inconsistent online play, the odd choice of time-locked characters, and future DLC being already included on the disc. On the other hand, the multi-platform conversion work is remarkably close and Capcom has managed to produce one of the most thoroughly entertaining beat 'em ups of recent years.
In terms of control, while the PlayStation 3 might provide a better play experience out the box using the standard Dual Shock 3 pad, there are an exhaustive range of suitable options on both formats: from Mad Catz's superb range of arcade sticks, to alternative third-party controllers with better d-pads, meaning that no one console is left at a disadvantage.
However, given the choice we feel that the PS3 version deserves the final nod - not only do you get five extra characters for your money, but also support for two players on one console when playing online via scramble mode. That said, the core experience is the same on both formats, and if you prefer your Xbox Live friends list, the 360 game remains highly recommended.
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