PS3 vs. Xbox 360 ports: The cold, hard truth

GamePro examines four recent multi-platform titles to find out if the "Xbox 360 is better." And Microsoft issues a rebuttal to our findings...read on for the full text.

*UPDATE: In response to this article, Microsoft's global marketing director, Albert Penello, offered the following response to GamePro.

We have to disagree with your conclusion that the trend of Xbox 360 versions of games being best is changing, especially when you look at the entire catalogue of multi-platform titles available. We also feel there were some key features of Xbox 360 games that deserved a little more play in your reviews. For multi-platform console owners, Achievements and Gamerscore have to be listed as an influencing factor to purchase the Xbox 360 version; their success and popularity is undeniable. The fact that other consoles have not implemented anything like this across every game should not be a reason to leave these features out of consideration. Plus, with Xbox 360 the capability for controller rumble comes standard, not as a future option and you get all the benefits of Xbox LIVE and its community of more than 10 million members.

"The cold, hard truth" is that Xbox 360 has the best games – and industry reviewers and consumers agree. Xbox 360 has more games with an aggregate review score of 90 or higher than the competition combined and multi-platform titles regularly sell better on Xbox 360. The majority of games are still lead developed for Xbox 360 and Xbox LIVE simply makes games better. The competition between platforms is great for gamers and in 2008 we are going to continue to work with developers to push the boundaries of our platform and the LIVE service to make sure the best game experiences continue to be on Xbox 360.

Author Tracy Erickson offers his side:

"Albert touches upon a great point in mentioning Achievements as a hallmark of the Xbox 360 experience. I agree with him. That said, I took that as a given – everyone knows Xbox 360 Achievements are great – and removed it from consideration. The same applies to rumble and community features included with Xbox Live.

This feature isn't about which platform is better, but which version of these four games is better. Achievements, rumble, and Xbox Live are specific to the console, not in-game features. This is why I used graphics, loading times, controls, and online integration as the criteria. I think it shows that developers have come a long way with next-gen development because all of these games are incredible. Regardless of whether you're playing on an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, you're going to have a killer time."

GamePro's original story follows:

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 line-up 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.

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ASSASSIN'S CREED

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.

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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

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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.

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Tracy Erickson

GamePro (online)

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