PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360? PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360? It's hard enough deciding which console to buy, let alone worrying over which version of a multi-platform game is worth your money. Games make or break any console, but when two systems have the same game, which version do you get? For anyone who has only one console, the answer is obvious. If you've yet to pick up an Xbox 360 or PS3, or are fortunate to own both, however, that choice can be a tough one.
The common wisdom is that Xbox 360 versions are typically better than their PS3 counterparts, and this is true in part. The PlayStation 3 2006 launch lineup was choked with quickie ports that did little to tap into the system's power, and a few high-profile games (Madden 08, for one) were undeniably superior on the Xbox 360. But as you'll soon see, that trend is changing...and fast.
By picking apart four recent, triple-A multi-platform games--Assassin's Creed, Burnout Paradise, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and Devil May Cry 4--we're aiming to settle the contest over which console has the advantage in multi-platform releases moving forward. This is more than just gazing at screenshots--we're delving deep to discover the best controls, loading times, and online integration.
Click to read GamePro's review
Control: The Xbox 360 excels with first-person shooters, but third-person action games...not so much. As such, the Sixaxis is better suited for free running about the ancient domains of Assassin's Creed. Both versions are responsive, yet the control scheme makes more sense on a Sixaxis versus an Xbox 360 controller. For example, free running is done by holding down R1 on PlayStation 3, whereas you need to pull on the right trigger when playing on an Xbox 360. Using R1 feels better than having to depress the trigger-it's an easy kill for the PlayStation 3.
Graphics: At first glance, you might not see anything that separates the two versions of Assassin's Creed visually. Both exude an impressive amount of detail in their environments and characters, along with gorgeous animations. Switching between the two on the same display, however, shows noticeably differences in the lighting and slight variations in framerate. Xbox 360 fares well under Altair's blade, boasting better lighting and a smoother performance. This isn't to say the game's a stuttering mess on PlayStation 3; on the contrary, it still looks fantastic. But you'll notice minor slowdown when moving the camera in crowded areas and the lighting isn't nearly as appealing. Overall, the Xbox 360 version just looks better.
Load times: Despite being an open-world game, Assassin's Creed is a hodge-podge of loading times. Booting up the game on PlayStation 3 takes longer than on Xbox 360, but loading up some levels takes noticeably longer on the latter. It's essentially a wash since both systems have a mix of short and long loading times.
Online integration: Assassin's Creed sticks stubbornly to its solo experience, offering no online features of any kind on either platform. We're going to call this one for Wii since it's the only system that allows you to read this article using the console's web browser while simultaneously playing Assassin's Creed on either PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360.
EDGE: Xbox 360 version
Summary: If looks could kill, the PlayStation 3 version of Assassin's Creed would be dead. The Xbox 360 version emerges as the definitive version because of a superior presentation, even if just barely. The Xbox 360 isn't the ideal option for controls given better button mapping on the Sixaxis, but that doesn't prevent it from being solidly responsive. It's also worth mentioning that the PlayStation 3 version plays beautifully now thanks to a crucial patch; upon initial release, it had severe performance problems and lockups that were absent from the Xbox 360 version.
Control: Differences in control between the two versions of Burnout Paradise largely come down to preference. The game is incredibly responsive and tight with its controls. The Xbox 360 controller's triggers feel better for acceleration than the L2/R2 buttons on a Sixaxis, but really, it's a subjective point. You simply won't find any gaps between the two games here.
Graphics: As with the controls, you'll be hard-pressed to denote any significant graphical distinctions between the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of Burnout Paradise. EA Criterion has done a bang up job keeping the two games even visually. Both consoles squeeze out a fantastic 60 frames-per-second and the detailing on vehicles, buildings, and environment in general is superb.
Load times: Burnout Paradise begins to show favor for PlayStation 3 when clocking its loading times. Both versions require a lengthy initial boot up upon entering the disc into either console, but it's slightly longer on Xbox 360. Even more, there's a split second longer of a wait on Xbox 360 between hitting the triggers to enter an event and it actually beginning. To be certain, we're nitpicking because the game does well in keeping things seamless. But in the end, the PlayStation 3 version is just a bit snappier.
Online integration: Surprisingly, the PlayStation 3 version of Burnout Paradise leads its Xbox 360 counterpart. How is that possible given the might of Xbox Live? A cleaner interface, easier access to online features, and smoother performance online afford PlayStation 3 the edge. Dedicated servers ensure stability during multiplayer races; moreover, the game was optimized for the console, so it just runs better on it when playing online. Alex Ward, head of EA Criterion, has long touted the company's love affair with the open-ended PlayStation Network and it definitely shows.
EDGE: PlayStation 3
With controls, graphics, and loading times nearly identical between the two consoles, Burnout Paradise flips a bitch with superior online integration on PlayStation 3. It's a shock, to be sure, given the dominance of Xbox Live over online gameplay; however, dedicated servers and generally smoother online performance means the PlayStation 3 takes pole position.
CALL OF DUTY 4: MODERN WARFARE [Note: I do not agree on this one]
Control: Whereas the Sixaxis is better suited to Assassin's Creed, the Xbox 360 controller fits perfectly with the first-person shooting of Call of Duty 4. Beyond the feel of the controller, camera movement appears smoother and faster on the Xbox 360. Even with the look sensitivity set to identical levels, the camera on PlayStation 3 moved at a rate that's a fraction slower than on Microsoft's system.
Graphics: You don't need night-vision or infrared goggles to see how gorgeous Call of Duty 4 runs on both systems. Infinity Ward clearly wanted both PS3 and Xbox 360 owners to have identical visual experiences. As such, neither version experiences framerate hiccups, and there's no substantive differences in visual quality. Your terrorist killing experience looks just as good on PlayStation 3 as it does on Xbox 360. Enjoy.
Load times: Extensive optimization by the Infinity Ward team leaves the loading times virtually identical between the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions. During the campaign, most loading occurs in the background of cutscenes so you don't notice it. Since the cinematics are exactly the same between the two games, we can infer that the loading times are the same or that the difference is negligible. In multiplayer, there's no discernible difference in loading times for matches.
Peer-to-peer multiplayer is the Devil.
Online integration: Impressively, there aren't that many differences between the two versions of the game when it comes to online play. Call of Duty 4 essentially plays the same on both, but it's important to note the technical differences. First, Xbox Live displays the number of players logged into the game, ala Halo 3, whereas that information isn't available on the PlayStation 3 version. Second, getting into a match takes practically no time at all on PlayStation 3 and they're remarkably stable. Peer-to-peer networking over Xbox Live can yield unstable matches, although the experience was pretty good overall. It is worth noting that patches are required before heading online with the PlayStation 3 version that aren't needed when playing on an Xbox 360.
EDGE: PlayStation 3 version
DEVIL MAY CRY 4
Control: Even though it lacks the vibration of an Xbox 360 controller, there's no question the Sixaxis is better for playing Devil May Cry 4. Much of this is due to the series' history as a PlayStation 2 exclusive, so it naturally works well with the layout of the controller. The face buttons are simply easier to use for combos and the shoulder buttons, particularly R1, are superior for targeting over the right bumper on Xbox 360. In terms of responsiveness, both versions fare just fine but there's no doubt that the Sixaxis enables better control of the action.
Graphics: You'll be hard-pressed to find any significant advantage to the presentation in either the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 versions of Devil May Cry 4. Even after putting on our Coke-bottle glasses we couldn't find any substantive differences in the two games. This is definitely a surprise, mainly because the game was originally a PlayStation 3 exclusive and we expected it to out-class its Xbox 360 sibling. Instead, they're identical.
To Capcom, With Love: Make me a sammich.
Load times: What's impressive about Devil May Cry 4 is that there are few moments when you're waiting for the game to load in either version. Capcom has done a great job of minimizing loading times within the game. Whenever you move from one area or room to the next, a black screen will flash for a second or two. On PlayStation 3 that time is cut in half, but only due to a lengthy install process when you first boot up the game. As has been reported, Devil May Cry 4 spools 5 GB of data onto your hard drive in an obscene 20+ minute install. The fact that it's mandatory makes it utterly ridiculous. Capcom went so far as to urge gamers to "grab a sandwich" to pass the time during the install. How about they make me a sandwich to make up for the wait? Absolutely no contest here: the Xbox 360 crosses the finish line before PlayStation 3 can even load it up.
Online integration: Since Devil May Cry 4 doesn't pack in multiplayer of any kind, it's all about leaderboards for tracking your end mission rankings. Both versions support them so there's no definitive advantage for one console or the other.
EDGE: PlayStation 3
Would a rose on any other console look as sweet?
Were it not for the lengthy install required on PlayStation 3, it'd be an easy choice. Devil May Cry 4 controls better on PlayStation 3, but is less of a hassle on Xbox 360. The Xbox 360 controller just can't match the feel of a Sixaxis when hacking up demons. When it comes down to it, controls trump loading times--especially in a fast-paced action game like Devil May Cry 4. PlayStation 3 eeks out a victory, but only by the slimmest of margins.
While we can't definitively name one console as having better multi-platform releases across the board, there's a clear winner among these four games: PlayStation 3 beats the Xbox 360 handily. Call of Duty 4 plays nearly the same on both systems, differing only in superior online integration on PlayStation 3. With Devil May Cry 4, the game is all-around better on PlayStation 3 (despite the horrendous installation process). Burnout Paradise emerges as decidedly better on Sony's system thanks to EA Criterion's decision to make it the leading version of the game. The exact opposite is true for Assassin's Creed where Xbox 360 beats out its PlayStation 3 counterpart visually.
Judging by what we've seen with these recent games, you may be better off picking up PlayStation 3 versions of high-profile multi-platform games for the time being. The notion that PlayStation 3 ports are inherently inferior to Xbox 360 simply doesn't hold water these days. Some games do perform worse on Sony's console--Blacksite: Area 51 has been plagued with performance issues, for instance, and The Orange Box suffers from groan-inducing load times and chugging frame rates.
These issues are slowly being addressed, though, as many publishers are starting to churn out multi-platform releases with an eye for the PlayStation 3. LucasArts recently announced an initiative to make the PS3 their leading platform for development, joining a growing wave of developers seeking to improve multi-platform games heading to Sony's console. With any luck, this movement will result in better performance for all gamers, Xbox 360 and PS3 alike. For now though, just enjoy fragging terrorists, crashing cars, and slicing demons in half on your PlayStation 3.
OVERALL EDGE: PlayStation 3
TL;DR: They compared 4 AAA games, PS3 won 3-1. The recommended the PS3.