Thursday, 6 May 2010

Tech Analysis: Super Street Fighter IV (PS3 vs 360)

With nearly every big release here at IQGamer, it is almost a given for us to have our trademark technical analysis to go along with our in-depth review. But with Super SFIV we were considering skipping over the whole tech thing seeing as the differences are so small between the two versions, that whilst the game is running (at the preferred 60 frames per-second) it is almost impossible to tell the differences apart.

That would however, in our humble opinion, be doing our loyal readers a disservice. So instead of simply glazing over the technical aspect with our enthusiastic review, we are going to put Super SFIV through its paces as per usual for the full tech treatment.

Okay, I’ll start be saying that the same things which applied to last years Street Fighter IV, on both PS3 and 360, applies to this Super edition too. Everything from texture work right down to how the shader effects work, are handled in exactly the same way, although rendering resolution is the same on both platforms this time. This means that if you know about how the last game performed on both systems, then you know for the most part how Super SFIV performs as well.

Super Street Fighter IV is rendered in 720p (1280x720) on both PS3 and 360, with the 360 getting the usual 2xMSAA (multisampling anti-aliasing), whilst the PS3 version once again features no AA solution of any kind. This lack of AA only really manifests itself in scenes with high levels of brightness, in which such high contrasting areas create a slightly jagged look to the edges of polygons in the game, along with a small amount of edge shimmering too. Most of the time it is barely noticeable at all, and the only benefit is that the 360 game looks slightly cleaner at all times.

During performance of any Super and Ultra moves, along with the real-time pre and post fight intro and ending sequences, the PS3 game no longer drops resolution down from 720p to 1120x630 unlike in SFIV. It seems that through optimisation, that Capcom have managed to solve some of the bandwidth issues that may arise from the fact that PS3’s RSX GPU has access to less overall bandwidth than either the 360, or the Taito Type X-2 board the original SFIV runs upon. Essentially, all the transparency effects that are displayed onscreen during a Super or Ultra move vastly eat into each system’s bandwidth. However, it just so happens that this time around, that capcom have found a way of maintaning full 720p resolution on both platforms at all times.

In addition none of the normal transparencies or special effects have been rendered at lower resolution either, instead solidly maintaining 720p throughout. Quite clearly this increase in resolution isn’t the most noticeable change when comparing the two versions side by side, and especially whilst in motion at a constamt 60fps, in which they both look identical.

Perhaps the most noticeable difference comes in the form of texture detail, or more specifically, from the observation that the 360 version has slightly more detailed textures, which are used in some of the background scenery found in the game. These, along with some of the background objects are indeed rendered in 1120x630 instead of 720p on the PS3 build. You can see this happening clearly in the screenshot below, just look at the trees in the top right hand corner.

At worst, these lower resolution textures and objects make some of the background details appear a little fuzzy when comparing the two in real-time 60fps, though nothing particularly intrusive. Whilst at best, it is barely even noticeable at all, unless of course you switch between seeing the two versions on the fly. But this isn’t something that people usually do when playing games, so it really isn’t an issue, just another observation.

Texture filtering on the other hand looks to be identical on both versions of the game, which is somewhat surprising, considering the PS3 usually gets the exclusive advantage of having almost free use anisotropic filtering. This time around, both PS3 and 360 versions feature equal amounts of AF, with detail being visible far off into the distance. Yet another sign that the game isn’t perhaps pushing the 360 as much as it is the PS3, with all its use of alpha transparency effects sucking away potential performance.

Last time with Street Fighter IV, we noticed that in terms of shadowing on both systems, it was the 360 game that had the obvious advantage. Microsoft’s version featured not only softer shadows than the PS3 game, but also had exclusive use of self-shadowing not found in the Sony build at all.

For Super SFIV this has changed. Now both version feature self-shadowing – where a character casts their own shadow over themselves - as so evident in the screenshot below, while the 360 version also features the use of more natural soft shadows. The PS3 game on the other hand, uses a sharper more conventional shadowing method, although this isn’t visible during fast 60fps gameplay, and is barely visible when the characters are in their ‘standing’ positions.

When it comes down to it, Super SFIV is pretty much equal on both platforms, with the PS3 game becoming even closer to the 360 one compared to last year’s SFIV. Some differences remain, like the lack of any anti-aliasing on the PS3 game, along with one or two missing effects and the occasional lower resolution texture. The use of self-shadowing on the PS3, and equal amounts of texture filtering balance out any differences to the point that when seeing the game in motion it doesn’t really matter at all.

You have to remember as well, that in screenshots the differences are more pronounced, as they also are when you pause both games and view them one after another on the same telly. Of course there is still a small image quality advantage given to the 360 game, but really, this is only visible at certain points throughout the game and not all the time, making it a factual, but somewhat moot point.

In terms of recommendations, both come equally recommended, with your choice most likely to be dictated by what controller options you have available, and not by the very minor graphical differences on offer here. People without a separate arcade stick or specific fighting game control pad would be better suited with the PS3 game, as the Dual Shock or Sixaxis controllers both perform better than the 360 one. On the other hand, 360 owners can still get the same polished experience with the aid of a separate pad or stick.

Either way, both versions are visually superb, and the overall game itself is perhaps the best beat’em up available on current-gen systems. Whichever console you happen to own, Super SFIV is well worth the asking price, especially for fans of the series and people who missed out on the original game. All I’d say is that to get the most out of the experience, then you really need either an arcade stick or USB Sega Saturn pad, and that goes for anyone regardless of the version you happen to end up buying.