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Xbox 360 vs. PlayStation 3: Round 26

Split/Second, Lost Planet 2, Green Day: Rock Band, Prince of Persia and Backbreaker.

Green Day: Rock Band

Xbox 360 PlayStation 3
Disc Size 3.34GB 3.49GB
Install 3.4GB (optional) -
Surround Support Dolby Digital Dolby Digital, 5.1LPCM, 7.1LPCM, Dolby Digital, DTS

Out later this week, Green Day: Rock Band is an interesting release to compare with its more illustrious, high-budget Beatles predecessor. Gone are the insanely cool, supremely imaginative visualisations of each song, with the Rock Band franchise returning to its Guitar Hero-style venue-based stylings.

However, the basic engine is essentially the same, and it's fair to say that if you've played any previous iteration of Rock Band, you'll know how the game performs on your system. Just like its predecessors, the base Harmonix code sees a 60FPS update on the note charts, but the rest of the framebuffer itself is only updated every other frame.

It's a really cunning move by Harmonix: the extra rendering time makes the game look prettier and as the frame-rate is rock-solid both on the main visuals and the note charts, you get all the benefits of 60FPS response with the added beauty afforded by doubling the available rendering time.

It's almost certainly the case that this allows Harmonix and its partners to produce titles that are effectively identical on both systems, as you can see in the comparison movie.

Nobody is likely to have any complaints about the quality of the cross-platform work with the new Rock Band. Use the full-screen button for HD resolution, or click on the link below for a larger window.

Similar to other Rock Band titles, both versions get a native 720p look and though you'd be hard-pressed to find it, 2x MSAA is also implemented.

It's unclear whether the lighting or the post-processing effects are the culprits, but the bottom line is that despite the processing and RAM overheads utilising anti-aliasing incurs, the Harmonix engine appears to undo much of the edge-smoothing work later on in the rendering pipeline.

Returning to the matter in hand, aside from some minor, almost completely unnoticeable differences in the lighting and some of the various post-processing effects, these games are identical.

The paring-back of the graphical effort after the extravagances of The Beatles: Rock Band make the differences between 360 and PS3 versions even more of an irrelevance than they were in the epic Fab Four offering.

The lack of 7.1 is a bit of a missed opportunity for PS3 owners, while even 5.1 DTS would have been welcome in a game primarily based around the audio, but when musicians themselves have been heard to compliment these releases on their mixing, it's perhaps churlish to grumble too much.

The bottom line is that any kind of decision about which version to buy for multiplatform owners moves away from the software itself and across to other matters - such as the volume of plastic instruments you have for each of your respective consoles, or which of your friends list you most enjoy "jamming" online with.

Skate 3

Xbox 360 PlayStation 3
Disc Size 6.0GB 6.48GB
Install 6.0GB (optional) 1166MB (mandatory)
Surround Support Dolby Digital 5.1LPCM, 7.1LPCM, Dolby Digital

Blur - fuzzy images, not the lovely Bizarre racer - is often an unwelcome visitor in many titles for the HD consoles, but in Skate 3 we see a title that positively embraces it and builds it into the very appearance of the game. Such has always been the case with EA Black Box's Skate series, with its signature ultra-post-processed imagery and brave attempts at reaching the nirvana of 60FPS gameplay.

The original Skate performed horribly on PlayStation 3, and while matters were improved for the sequel, both games were clearly keepers on the Xbox 360. With the arrival of the third game in the series, the gap has effectively closed and both versions are equally worthy contenders, as you'll hopefully see from the comparison montage.

Skate 3 is EA Black Box's strongest cross-platform performer to date, as this footage demonstrates. You know the score by now: full HD with the full-screen button, and a bigger viewing window using the clickthrough.

So, what we have is an effectively identical game, but it looks as though the improvements in terms of the overall quality on both systems come at a price: Skate 3 is sub-HD on both systems.

Here's where measurements get tricky. We peg the PS3 version at something like 1152x640, and the 360 version is around the same level, perhaps even lower. Analytical analysis of the edges is difficult owing to the ker-azy levels of blur filtering the game includes.

In this case, it's part and parcel of the game's visual make-up and always has been, and it is at least boosted by the inclusion of 2x AA on both systems. The question is, does the resolution cut pay off in terms of performance? The answer is clearly in the affirmative:

Skate 3 performance analysis reveals that both games run smoothly at 60FPS, with the engine dropping down to 30FPS for cut-scenes, allowing for higher LOD characters and more effects.

With the exception of some very rare, very occasional tearing on PS3 (it's using soft v-sync by the way, just like Prince of Persia, and indeed Split/Second: Velocity), performance is like-for-like and locked at 60 frames per second, just the way we like it.

Curiously, on both titles we do occasionally see some judder, but looking at the video outputs frame by frame, they're still seemingly unique frames.

Quite what the native resolution is for both renditions of the game is something we'll throw out to the pixel counters out there, but the basic takeaway from this piece is that these games are pretty much identical and both are recommended.

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About the Author

Richard Leadbetter avatar

Richard Leadbetter

Technology Editor, Digital Foundry

Rich has been a games journalist since the days of 16-bit and specialises in technical analysis. He's commonly known around Eurogamer as the Blacksmith of the Future.


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