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Checkpoint: Middleware Edition


For the past few days (especially after the release of the PS3 demo), I’ve been keep my eyes on this Crysis 2 thread on NeoGAF.

I’ve been following the Crysis 2 situation for two reasons:

  1. I want to know how the retail PS3 version fares
  2. I want to know how viable CryEngine 3.0 is as middleware.

I want Crysis 2 for PS3 to have a good showing for selfish reasons. I just want to be able to play it against other controller warriors. I actually like the multiplayer despite it being another Call of Duty clone.

With many folks out there having early access to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the retail game, things aren’t looking too rosy (or clear) for the Sony version. For those who are curious, apparently the Xbox 360 version is running at 1152 x 720 while the PS3 version is keeping it real sub-HD at 1024 x 720.

Now onto my second point regarding middleware. Ideally, a multiplatform engine would produce near identical across both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. And even now in 2011 there are still issues with platform parity.

However, there are some noteworthy efforts which I’d like to highlight here.

Nearly Perfect

Frostbite 1.5
Developer: DICE
Recent Notable Game(s): Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Battlefield 1943

Probably one the most impressive engines out there, in my opinion. The result is one of my favorite Battlefield games, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, performing remarkably with lots destruction and large expanses of land at great framerate and full 1280 x 720 resolution.

The only downside with this engine is the lack of anti-aliasing.

RenderWare (Burnout: Paradise)/Chameleon (NFS: Hot Pursuit)
Developer: Criterion

RenderWare was extremely prolific back in the PS2/Xbox/GameCube days, so it’s not too surprising to see these tech gods doing what they do best; creating extremely capable middleware engines. If only they’d create a sequel to Black with this engine.

Visceral Engine
Developer: Visceral Games
Notable titles: Dead Space 2, Dante’s Inferno (?)

These guys have changed studio name since the original Dead Space and while that version of the game was great on the PS3, it wasn’t until Dante’s Inferno and Dead Space 2 where true parity was seen.

Mixed Results

Unreal Engine 3.0
Developer: Epic Games
Notable Game(s): Bulletstorm, Mass Effect 2, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Unreal Tournament 3, Mirror’s Edge

Lots of developers utilize Unreal Engine 3.0. In ideal scenarios, you’d get near identical results like Batman: Arkham Asylum. However, most of the time results vary from noticeable to drastic. It’s usually framerate related and the absence of something on the PlayStation 3 version. That something ranges from anti-aliasing to lighting features.

It’s really quite annoying which is why I try to pick up the Xbox 360 or PC version.

MT Framework
Developer: Capcom
Notable Game(s): Marvel vs Capcom 3, Lost Planet 2, Resident Evil 5, Devil May Cry 4

The best result thus far is Marvel vs Capcom 3 and even that has its share of minor discrepancies. In the past, the Xbox 360 version tends to win out thanks to better framerates and the inclusion of superior anti-aliasing techniques.

Even with the relatively clear wins for the Xbox 360, I’ve seen myself picking up the PlayStation 3 version in the past due to controller preferences for the type of games Capcom put out with that engine.

Infinity Ward’s Engine
Developer: Infinity Ward, Treyarch
Notable Game(s): Call of Duty 4, Modern Warfare 2, Black Ops, World at War

The Xbox 360 version runs swimmingly for every iteration of Call of Duty for consoles. The PlayStation 3 version loses out in the single player portion, but usually maintains a consistent performance in multiplayer which I can live with. Modern Warfare 2’s PlayStation 3 outing was the standout for being the closest to platform parity. Black Ops, on the other hand, was a regression on both the performance and image quality fronts.

Clear Winners (or Losers)

Rockstar Advanced Game Engine
Developer: Rockstar
Notable Game(s): Red Dead Redemption, Grand Theft Auto IV

The Xbox 360 version Rockstar games are the ones to get thanks to superior framerates and resolutions.

Anvil Engine
Developer: Ubisoft
Notable Game(s): Assassin’s Creed, Assassin’s Creed II, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood

I was going to place this under the “Mixed Results” category, but the use of QAA knocks it down to this category for me. The Xbox 360 version of the Assassin’s Creed titles tend to look clearer, cleaner and perform better than the PlayStation 3 counterparts. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood was close, but it’s not a “Marvel vs Capcom 3” or “Modern Warfare 3” type of performance.

Final Thoughts

It’s interesting to see EA’s studios investing so heavily on platform parity. It’s an appreciated effort that I wish other publishers would do. Also noteworthy are the open world engines which tend to perform poorer on Sony’s platform. Probably due to the way the PlayStation 3’s memory pool is split.

Epic Games’ Bulletstorm performed very well on both platforms, but I hope to see the gap narrow even more as we move forward. I guess we’ll see if my wish will come true with the upcoming release of Mass Effect 3 and Batman: Arkham City.

I wrapped up a Trophy run for Killzone 3. I’ve also contracted the Trophy collecting bug as a result and started Resident Evil 5 again. I just have one more little feat to accomplish before the Platinum is mine.

I’m still working through Professor Layton 3 and Penny Arcade Adventures Episode 1.

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