Too High to Get Over, Too Low to Get Under

As the owner of more than one gaming platform, I find myself in the enviable position of being able to choose whether I want to interact with releases such as CoD4 and Burnout Paradise via a 360 pad or a Dual Shock. “Well la-de-dah!” you may remark, and you would be entirely justified (if a little odd) for doing so. But beware my children, for though you may think I perch upon a jewel encrusted tower of ivory, bathing in the glow of multiple processors and bewitching fleets of impossibly attractive wenches with the promise of hot, cross-platform action, you will find me frustrated.

I agonised over this one. I twisted and turned, flipped and flopped, hithered and thithered. I wrung my hands with uncertainty and paced the boards in tortured indecision.

The cause of my hair-pulling hiatus?

Resi 5: 360 vs PS3

Things didn’t used to be this way. The world was a simpler place once. One, if I am to believe the video footage, where colours were banned and everyone walked slightly faster than is naturally comfortable. There was a time, an innocent, naive time when children frolicked in cobbled streets with sticks and hoops, chicken tasted like chicken (because it wasn’t pumped full of water siphoned from the drains of public swimming pools) and different consoles had different games to play on them.

If you were fond of the little red plumber and his mushroom munching, turtle-twatting antics then you bought Nintendo. If navigating a blue hedgehog over a green hill fast enough to rip a hole in the fabric of space-time was more your scene, then your console of choice would sing “Seeee-Gaaaaaaaa” upon activation. Unless mummy and daddy were minted or your powers of persuasion were so effective you could talk an albino into a peroxide rinse, you generally found yourself with one machine or the other. This meant defending your choice of platform to the death in a playground situation and was arguably the genesis of the kind of raving fanboyism that has percolated forums and comment boards ever since. And did I mention that my dad is bigger than your dad? Yeah, you just think about that while I’m cataloguing my POG caps and not talking to girls…

Nowadays though, thanks to a combination of hardware-based missteps and the promise of huge, vault-filling volumes of cash we are able to watch Mario and Sonic duke it out in Smash Bros Brawl or even compete one-on-one in the inter-species Olympics. Software exclusives are thinner on the ground than they used to be. Huge titles like Prince of Persia, Assassin’s Creed and Fallout 3 are made immediately available to both Sony and Microsoft customers, while core franchises such as Final Fantasy and Grand Theft Auto have long since traded platform monogamy for open relationships with multiple partners. Modern console owners find themselves in a unique position: if they have their eye on a particular conquest it doesn’t really matter which type of bed they own, chances are they’re still gonna get laid.

Sonic and Mario

Which brings me neatly back to my current bedfellow, Resident Evil 5. With Capcom now giving Xbox owners the chance to sample Resi’s fetid delights, my purchase was no longer based on which console it arrived on, but rather which console boasted the better performing version. With this kind of conundrum cropping up more and more gamers have embraced the emergence of the ‘Head to Head’ article, the consumer advice columns provided by several gaming sites which pitch one console iteration of a particular title against its cross-platform counterpart.

So, I set about weighing up the specs. More environmental effects (smoke, heat haze etc.) are present on the 360 version, and it employs 4x anti-aliasing to remove the jaggies (verses the PS3’s 2xAA) for a smoother overall look. The major difference between the two comes in their approach to coping with frame-rate issues; the 360 version has v-lock disabled, meaning that it drops fewer frames but is susceptible to screen tear, while the PS3 has v-lock engaged, meaning a more variable frame-rate but no tearing whatsoever. I was therefore given the option of playing a game that stutters when things get frantic or one which separates my partner’s torso from her legs when I turn around too sharply. “Would sir prefer a slap in the face or a kick up the arse?” Capcom seemed to have said, and then left it to me to decide which pair of cheeks I was willing to present for punishment.

In the end I steadied my nerves, bent over and took the steel toe-capped boot of Microsoft, with the Xbox 360 version rated superior by the majority. And you know what? The screen tearing in 1080p is so bad I have to drop the resolution to 720p in order to play without developing a migraine. I can’t bring myself to play the PS3 version and discover that I made the wrong choice, but in all honesty I imagine that the frame-rate problems would have bugged me just as much. I wonder: could these issues have been ironed out if all the developmental resources had been poured into one definitive version for just one console? I’m not suggesting that we return to the Mario vs Sonic situation; the fact that everyone can have equal access to the same game regardless of platform is, I think, something to be extremely grateful for. It’s just that all this bed-hopping, multiple-partner malarkey, whilst undeniably convenient, does seem to increase the risk of STDs.







13 responses to “Too High to Get Over, Too Low to Get Under”

  1. Jay avatar

    That’s what the demos are for, and for the record I find stuff such as Eurogamers technical face-off between the two biased as it down-played just how bad the tearing gets on the 360.

  2. Jay avatar

    Oh, there’s another Jay.

    I can’t bear screen tearing. I don’t know why but I just can’t put up with it. I’d much rather lose a few frames.

  3. pix3l avatar

    “Would sir prefer a slap in the face or a kick up the arse?” made me lol in work. Thanks for that…

    I agree though, the time spend developing two seperate versions of the same game would be much better spent just making one brilliant version on one console. Then again, multiplatform releases do tend to keep fanboys quite which is usually a good thing :p

  4. Simes avatar

    It would be better for them to delay it by three months and make it better on both consoles, no?

    Or perhaps cut the largely superfluous multiplayer mode?

  5. Celeste avatar

    I used to have the same issue when buying multiplatform games. However, my 360 kindly took it upon itself to remedy that problem when it died.

    It brings to mind the age-old question of whether we should have a single, uniform console which will allows devs to become highly familiar with one technology and thus become specialised game creators. Although I haven’t quite figured out where the Wii would fit into this kind of amalgamation though.

  6. Chummp Change avatar
    Chummp Change

    Hah! – Excellent writing, a very funny and enjoyable read.

    STD’s = Screen Tearing Dilemmas?

  7. Simes avatar

    Celeste: They tried that with the 3DO…

    Also, competition is good for consumers, monopolies are bad. What you’d get with only one console is a lack of effort put in to developing a newer and better one, because companies don’t spend money unless they have to.

  8. Celeste avatar

    Oh, it’ll never happen in a million years, which means I am doomed to buying various consoles for the rest of my days.

  9. James avatar

    1.Jay – I downloaded both versions of the demo, but as we have learnt over the years demos do not necessarily represent the content or quality of the finished game, especially ones released 4 months before launch date (Japanese 360 demo). The only way to be sure is to rent or play both completed versions, and I had neither the access nor the disposable income. I heartily agree that the severity of the screen tearing issues have been downplayed in the literature though.

  10. Jake avatar

    I read this post after you’d posted it and thought I was quite happy being a one console kinda guy, and thinking that if push came to shove I’d choose 360 over ps3 anyday… and then they stole Ghostbusters and now I’m all confused!

  11. Laura avatar

    Brilliant! A great read James!
    I don’t get this problem as I only have a 360, a good thing really, I wouldn’t be able to cope having to make such important decisions 🙂

  12. Dave G avatar
    Dave G

    I do have both consoles myself, but I only play exclusives on the PS3. I had an Xbox360 first (purely as it was the first out and cheaper) and the thought of now losing achievement points by playing a game on the PS3 is unthinkable. Yes, I know the PS3 has “trophies” but somehow they’re not as satisfying. It’s totally the same concept so I don’t know why I find that but…

    As for the screen tearing in Resident Evil, all I can say is ARGGGGHHHH! It really detracts from the game for me, although I am still (slowly) playing my way through.

  13. Lorna avatar

    This is a great article and I sympathise. Given my familiarity with the Xbox over PS3 and the fact that I have achievements as opposed to bugger all trophies, I would always select the Xbox over the PS3…plus more folks that I know tend to game on Live.

    It is an interesting problem though, and you’re right…in the olden days, if you had a Nintendo, you had to rely on your mate with a Sega to play Sonic. Same with Spectrum and C64…one or t’other.

    I think Simes is right in that a few months work on both titles wold have made a difference and too many games nowadays seem to throw time and effort into a crap tacked on multiplayer rather than getting things as polished as they could.

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