A detailed comparison of the PS3 and Xbox 360 releases of marathon sim Final Fantasy XIII concludes that the Xbox 360 version is indeed significantly inferior to the PS3 original, and even goes so far as to ridicule the game for its now legendary linearity.
Expert comparison yields a series of comparison images and some lengthy analysis, excerpted below (in the case of the comparison images, careful scrutiny may be required as differences are at times subtle, not helped by the low resolution of some of the images).
The team had to find a way to compress over 32GB of CG to fit within the confines of three Xbox 360 DVDs – squeezed already by a copy protection mechanism that limits available space to a meagre 6.8GB, less than the storage potential of both PlayStation 2 and Wii.
The sheer idea of porting over a massive Blu-ray game like this onto the Xbox 360 seems like lunacy, but the good news from a conversion perspective is that the game itself is extremely linear.
The core basis of the majority of the game is in negotiating very limited environments with just a few branching routes, following a yellow arrow to get to your next destination and fighting a myriad bunch of enemies as you do it.
Very rarely are you asked to return to previous locations – with just one chapter in the game dedicated to the sort of free-roaming JPRG gameplay for which Final Fantasy is renowned.
By just about every measurable criteria, it seems that the Xbox 360 version of Final Fantasy XIII is a quick port where the existing PS3 material has been very roughly manhandled and bludgeoned into shape in order to work on the Microsoft console.
Soon the Xbox 360 version was being reported as 1024×576, with 2x multi-sampling anti-aliasing. This is up against native 720p on the original PlayStation 3 version, again with the same 2x level of MSAA, representing a fairly enormous drop of around a third of the overall resolution.
So, are the stories about a reduced resolution on FFXIII 360 true? You betcha.
Unfortunately, the resolution reduction here seems to be all about converting across the PS3 engine as quickly and easily as possible, and that means accessing as much of the console’s power with the lowest amount of aggravation.
The conclusion on the in-game graphics for the Xbox?
“Adequate but a touch disappointing” best sums up the Xbox 360 version.
Fine edges lose precision, and while the effect is mitigated thanks to the MSAA along with the multitude of post processing effects the engine has at its disposal, the fact is that the lack of resolution can make the 360 build look sub-par.
The clean CG look of the PS3 game in motion is unduly compromised, and while it’s still a handsome enough title on Xbox 360, it lacks the pristine presentation of its sibling.
Square Enix is said to have botched the CG encoding, leaving gigabytes of empty space on the three discs whilst crippling high-motion scenes with heavy-handed compression:
Unfortunately, when any particular scene ramps up the motion, the encoding solution Square has employed collapses horribly.
Detail disappears in a sea of macroblocking and banding, while the PS3 version remains pretty close to pristine thanks to the incredible amount of bandwidth (and thus video information) available.
The tragedy here is that the CG is a core part of the presentation in FFXIII and it seems to be the case that the company has paid little attention to the poor quality of the final assets on the Xbox 360 version.
The final conclusion cannot resist lambasting the game for its linearity one last time, although it is of course undeniable that both versions are graphically gorgeous:
Despite the cutbacks, the in-game graphics are still attractive, the gameplay is fundamentally the same as the PS3 version and it’s clearly a cut-above much of the other JPRG fare available on the console.
That being the case, despite falling short in direct comparison with its PS3 sibling it’s still a decent game, though I daresay that the retooling of the formula into a more linear experience with obvious cutbacks in the exploration element is likely to frustrate many of the core fanbase.
It appears the international release may be mirroring that of the Japanese version in due course.