Xbox 360 Versus PlayStation 3 Graphics Comparison

Forget spec comparisons. Let's advance the Xbox 360 versus PlayStation 3 graphics debate to screenshots now that the games are here.

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By: James Yu and Sarju Shah - Posted on Wednesday, December 6, 2006.

We expected the PlayStation 3 to ship with several games that first appeared on the Xbox 360, similar to how the Xbox 360 had a lot of Xbox ports at launch. And the PS3 did indeed arrive with a good number of games that originally shipped for the Xbox 360. This gave us the perfect opportunity to compare the graphics on both systems with several cross-platform games. You'd think that the PS3 versions would be exactly the same or slightly superior to the Xbox 360 versions, since many of these games appeared on the 360 months ago, but it seems like developers didn't use the extra time to polish up the graphics for the PS3. We found that the Xbox 360 actually had better graphics in the majority of the games we compared.

Need for Speed Carbon

Both systems have fairly similar graphics in Need for Speed Carbon, but the Xbox 360 has better lighting while the PS3 has sharper textures. The 360 has better high dynamic range lighting in the Camaro image. We're not sure if the PS3 version blurs the background tree leaves on purpose, but it's another noticeable difference. The lighting in the street shot appears more realistic on the 360, but the building textures are sharper on the PS3. We also seem to be missing some lighting and a few landmarks in the rearview mirror of the PS3 version.

Mouse over the default Xbox 360 image to see the PlayStation 3 comparison shot.





Call of Duty 3

Call of Duty 3 has made its way onto just about every major console, but it definitely looks best on the Xbox 360. The PlayStation 3 comes in a close second, but the 360 is the clear winner. The textures have less detail on the PS3, and the game looks a little washed out. Between the overly bright visuals and muddy textures, the PlayStation 3 can't match the 360 version's gritty look.

Mouse over the default Xbox 360 image to see the PlayStation 3 comparison shot.





Madden 07

When we first looked at the comparison screenshots, we had to double check to make sure we had an identical 1 p.m. game time and clear-skies weather settings for both systems since the fields appeared very different. We booted up the game again and confirmed that the stadium wasn't casting any shadows on the field in the PlayStation 3 version. [Update: We just checked Madden 07 again. The 4:15 p.m. setting produces on-field shadows in the PS3 version.] The Xbox 360 had sharper textures on the character models in the close-up shots shown between plays. You can actually see the jersey material and the Reebok logo on the player in the Xbox 360 shot. One GameSpot editor did note that the PS3 jerseys looked better than the 360's while players were in motion.

Mouse over the default Xbox 360 image to see the PlayStation 3 comparison shot.





Marvel Ultimate Alliance

You'll have to make your Marvel Ultimate Alliance decision based on Xbox 360 rumble support versus PS3 Sixaxis control since the graphics seem to be identical on both systems. We tested all games at 720p using component cables to keep the comparison as even as possible.

Mouse over the default Xbox 360 image to see the PlayStation 3 comparison shot.





NBA 2K7

Both consoles deliver a solid ballin' experience with NBA 2K7. Small textures like the logos on the court and the jerseys on the players look crisper on the PS3. The same textures are slightly blurrier on the 360, but the Xbox 360 makes up for it with better framerates.

Mouse over the default Xbox 360 image to see the PlayStation 3 comparison shot.





Fight Night Round 3

Fight Night Round 3 was one of the first games to really show off the Xbox 360's graphics power with fantastic lighting and incredibly detailed player models. The PS3 still has great looking player models but the crowds are less detailed and the lighting effects are definitely inferior. If the graphical losses weren't enough, the PlayStation 3 version takes almost twice as long as its 360 counterpart to load into the menu screen, and a third longer to load a quickplay.

Mouse over the default Xbox 360 image to see the PlayStation 3 comparison shot.





Tony Hawk's Project 8

The Xbox 360 is more subtle with the HDR in the opening garage area of Tony Hawk's Project 8. The asphalt and mulch textures in the second image set have a higher resolution on the 360. We also saw better framerates in the Xbox 360 version.

Mouse over the default Xbox 360 image to see the PlayStation 3 comparison shot.





Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07

The Xbox 360 and PS3 both display beautiful greens in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07. Without direct screenshot comparisons, we wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the two versions, aside from a slight variation in crowd size and placement. However, with a direct screenshot comparison, we notice that Tiger's belt buckle stands out and his shirt texture has better visibility in comparison to his attire on the PlayStation 3. The trees on the PlayStation 3 version of Tiger look fuller compared to the 360's trees.

Mouse over the default Xbox 360 image to see the PlayStation 3 comparison shot.





Conclusion

The Xbox 360 had better graphics in almost all the games we examined. The 360's biggest victories were in Madden 07 and Fight Night Round 3, where the differences in texture detail and lighting stood out in our comparison shots. We couldn't capture this in the screenshots, but the Xbox 360 games generally offered better framerates too.

We're going to give the PS3 the benefit of the doubt in this initial round since developers might need more time to figure out how to maximize performance from the Cell and the RSX. If you look at the Xbox 360's first Madden game, Madden 06, you'll notice that it doesn't offer very realistic stadium shadows, either. The trouble with buying a console at launch is that you often have to wait for the second or third generation of games for the system to fulfill its potential. The PS3 didn't beat the 360 in this first comparison, but the games do look fine for first-generation titles. The real graphics battle will likely come next year.

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