The PlayStation 3 platform is now two years old, and the Xbox 360 has just passed the three-year mark. That means several second-generation games have appeared on both systems since our last graphics comparison feature. We're still seeing the occasional first "next-gen" development effort, such as Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, but many development studios are now releasing their second projects for the current-generation consoles. Bethesda, for example, has followed up on The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion with Fallout 3. All of the additional experience developers have had with both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 means that the window for blaming performance issues and graphical shortcomings on platform growing pains is coming to a close.
The Xbox 360 had an advantage over the PlayStation 3 in early multiplatform games in our first graphics comparison feature because Microsoft had a one-year head start on Sony, but we saw the PlayStation 3 catch up to the Xbox 360 in subsequent graphics comparison features. We're at the point where games look and play nearly the same on both systems--any differences tend to focus on texture resolutions and antialiasing nitpicks that most people wouldn't notice unless they were playing the games side by side and pausing every few seconds to compare the two. Fortunately, we've done all of that for you.
We captured all of our images over HDMI with games running at 720p resolution, and we enabled full HDMI range on the PS3. Each game has four sets of rollover images. The first image is a full screenshot set resized to fit the width of the page, followed by a zoomed-in image set that we created by cropping the original screen grabs to show you how the games look at a 1:1 pixel ratio. The third and fourth image sets follow the same pattern. Just mouse over the captions to swap the images back and forth. Keep in mind that these are large screenshots, so viewers with slow Internet connections should expect to wait a while for images to load.
Soulcalibur IVNamco's Soulcalibur IV looks and plays great on both the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3. Frame rates don't waver with the game's complex moves, sweeping camera angles, and heavy combat. The character models look identical on both systems, and we had to study the 1:1 pixel shots to detect any visual differences between the platforms. Both systems have plenty of jaggies in the first screenshot, but we can't say that one system has any more than the other. The Xbox 360, however, has superior flowers as illustrated in the close-up shot. We noticed that the PS3 seems to have better anisotropic filtering or higher-resolution ground textures farther in the distance in the second map. It's not noticeable in the first set of images, but you can see it in the second set.
Dead SpaceWe didn't want to venture back to the USG Ishimura because, frankly, that place scares us, but we had to get our screenshots. Muting the game made it easier to find a decent way into the ship without any embarrassing screaming, but we ultimately decided on using two comparison shots from the very beginning of the game. We noticed a curious banding issue with shadows on the PS3, which you can see in the shadow covering half of Isaac's back in the second image set. Despite being graphically complex, Dead Space doesn't pose much of a challenge to either of the consoles. The main character's shuffling pace adds to the tension and keeps frame rates steady.
Star Wars: The Force UnleashedStar Wars: The Force Unleashed from LucasArts showcases physics effects with the game's Force powers, but it also has the beautiful environments that we expect from the Star Wars universe. The Force Unleashed ran well on both platforms in our test, but we saw some frame rate issues and visible tearing in both games--while turning quickly in hallway areas, for example. Overall, the graphics resolution looks higher on the Xbox 360. You can see it everywhere in the first image set where the shadows, plants, and even the cliff face off in the background all have higher detail levels on the Xbox 360. The corridor flooring in the hallway shot is sharper on the Xbox 360, and the far set of lights framing the right side of the hall seem to bleed together on the PS3.
Call of Duty: World at WarNot one to abandon a good thing, Treyarch used the Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare engine to bring players to the Japanese and Russian WWII fronts in Call of Duty: World at War. The graphics look even on both platforms, and we didn't encounter any frame rate inconsistencies during our gameplay tests. Storming beaches filled with artillery fire and calling in air strikes on heavily fortified positions did little to slow down the pace of the game on either console. We didn't notice any significant differences in the graphics, but we have to say that the lighting contrast on the PS3 adds an extra dramatic effect. The Xbox 360 maintains its antialiasing advantage, which you can see in the disappearing antenna in the second set of shots. Don't look too much into the fact that some of the soldiers have camo'd helmets on one platform but not on the other--the gear is randomized for the character models.
Madden NFL 09We wouldn't be able to tell the Xbox 360 and the PS3 apart in Madden 09 if it weren't for the different onscreen action buttons. Both games are now running at a full 60 frames per second. The only slowdowns we experienced occurred between plays, but those were relatively minor and were present on both platforms. It was surprising to see just as many jaggies on the Xbox 360 as on the PS3.
Mortal Kombat vs. DC UniverseMidway's Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe doesn't push the Xbox 360 or the PS3 very hard. Both versions of the game performed well in our gameplay testing, but we detected a few places in the background graphics where the Xbox had sharper textures and superior lighting. The blue highlights in the Temple level on the Xbox aren't in the PS3 Temple level, and the Oan Senate level has a few missing details as well. The Green Lantern close-up shots also suggest a lower resolution on the PS3.