GTA IV: PS3 Vs Xbox 360

With Grand Theft Auto 4 around the corner for us American gamers, I thought I'd take a moment to talk about three big issues surrounding the game.

Kotaku, one of my favorite gaming websites, has gone in depth with the PS3 Vs. Xbox 360 issue:

The PlayStation 3 version has a mandatory 3.4 GB hard drive installation that will be the longest 7 minutes and 20 seconds of your life if you're chomping at the bit to play. It's initially an annoyance, but PS3 owners will welcome it. There is no option to install the game to an Xbox 360 hard drive.

Frame Rate
The Grand Theft Auto series has never been synonymous with a rock solid frame rate, something it generally seems to get a pass for. While GTA IV is smoother in general than it's predecessors, it can expectedly suffer during chaos. The Xbox 360 version seemed capable of achieving a smoother frame rate, peaking higher in certain circumstances, such as in confined spaces or during light traffic, but both versions seemed to regularly run at a similar clip.

Pop-In & Loading
With a huge, seamless streaming world, data must be constantly read from the disc. The PS3 version, with its required HDD install, loads missions a couple seconds faster and decreases pop-in. The Xbox 360 version can suffer from some very noticeable texture loading, as things like trees, vehicles and building signs will regularly pop-in as one tools about town. It can be distracting, especially during high speed chases, and the PS3 version isn't entirely immune from it, but it's not a game killing problem.

The two versions are so close to identical, visually, that putting together a comparison was a challenge. Initially, it appeared that the PS3 suffered from more noticeable aliasing than its 360 counterpart, but after eyeballing the final retail copy, they appear to be on par. I noticed that the paint filter applied to cover some of the game's imperfections appeared a tiny bit muddier on the PS3 version, with night time scenes seeing more streakiness. Some of these minor complaints may be the result of our particular television settings and require the finest of fine tooth combs to assess.

Downloadable Content
The Xbox 360 version is announced to have two exclusive downloadable content packs for purchase. Details on what will be contained in those two exclusive batches of DLC are sparse, so we can't judge what they'll bring to the table, nor do we know if the PlayStation 3 version will eventually get its own DLC from Rockstar. If you're looking for more GTA IV, and you may very well be after you've completed the core game, you're going to want the 360 version.

The Xbox 360 version has the requisite list of Achievements exclusive to the platform, creative and challenging goals that sometimes go beyond the regular gaming experience. However, as with other GTA games, stat-tracking for kills, stunt jumps, and the dozens of extras will keep completionists on the PS3 side happy.

Motion Controls
The PS3 version has optional SIXAXIS motion controls for piloting helicopters, steering boats and doing motorcycle tricks. You'll probably leave it off, just like I did.

Good Vibrations
GTA IV supports vibration in the Xbox 360 controller and the DualShock 3, so PS3 owners won't be left in the force feedback lurch.

Final Thoughts
The good news for Grand Theft Auto fans is that whatever platform you have chosen as your own, GTA IV excels on both. They are almost evenly matched, feature for feature. Gamers will have to decide which is more important to them, a slightly more technically sound experience on the PlayStation 3 or downloadable content and Xbox Live integration on the Xbox 360.

If this were a personal decision, I'd have chosen the PlayStation 3 edition, mostly based on my preference for the DualShock controller and the performance edge. However, one thing that we have yet to experience is how well the PlayStation Network will handle the online portions of GTA IV, an extremely important consideration. I place less of an emphasis on features like Achievements and Gamerscore, but appreciate how well crafted and important these features are to others.

In the end, each version stands on its own, with the only downside to the differences being that those invested in their particularly backed console will expend so much effort focusing on something far less important than the game itself.

Well. That's a far cry different from others claiming that the DVD format instead of the Blu-Ray format would cause limitations.

Now on the issue of PS3's 630P resolution Vs. the 360's 720P resolution:

Early test reports are finding that Grand Theft Auto IV is only running at 630P on the PlayStation 3—falling short of hi def—while the game runs at 720P on the Xbox 360. Clearly, the PlayStation version must look worse, right? It's not that simple. But the basic explanation is easy enough to understand.

You know 720P (along with 1080P) as "high definition" content. What 720P really means is that 720 lines of resolution are displayed on your television in "progressive" format—meaning all at once.

So if GTA IV is running at only 630P on the PS3, that does mean PS3 gamers are seeing 90 less lines of resolution—or quite a bit from a relative standpoint. And it's fast-approaching the Wii's standard def, 480p output.

The bottom line is that resolution does matter, but the more lines of resolution you add will depreciate in value. There's an interesting stat that always sticks in my head: From only about 10 feet away, most people cannot tell a 720p image from a 1080p image on a 42" television.

I'm not sure how well I could differentiate a 630P signal from a 720P signal from 10 feet away. But I'm sure that, given large enough televisions and sharp enough eyes, some of us could. Especially in a game context.

But what we'd be overlooking is that eyes-on reports show that Rockstar has taken the processing power formerly spent on resolution and added it to filters (and maybe even lighting). If GTA IV feels warmer or softer on PS3, that's probably why. And that's where taste triumphs numbers.

(If you're having a tough time wrapping your head around the filter concept, mess with the settings in Mass Effect.)

At the end of the day, both versions look good. But the PS3 used methods other than raw resolution to get there. Of course sharpness and detail is an important—that will be the biggest bonus of 720P. But in an era when we're past merely counting polygons on the screen to measure graphical quality, we shouldn't blow small numbers out of proportion. In short, it's not just the size of your P, but how you use it that matters.

Now, compare yourself these images
(top left text shows which version it is)
Click the images to enlarge:


Gears 2 Gameplay Footage Coming May 9, 2008

Teaser trailer for Gears 2 gameplay footage? Why not? Gametrailers and SpikeTV are broadcasting the exclusive gameplay footage on Friday, May 9.


ANGER: Video Game Releases Delayed and PC Game Crashes

Example: Playstation Home recently has been delayed. When will it come out? Who knows?

Gears of War for PC, Assassins Creed for PC, and Rainbow Six Vegas 2 for PC are crashing like crazy.

These two issues are really pissing me off.

It's safe to say I'm out of patience with things like this. All in the name of profit.


The president's daughter's been kidnapped! It's up to us! It's up to us as gamers to use our purchasing power to improve the video game scene. That's my belief.


Gears of War Action Figure Update

I can't wait to buy them all.

Check it all out here.

Cole Train Coming Back to Gears 2 and more...

"Private Augustus Cole. Alpha squad!"

Coverage of the Gears of War 2 presentation at New York Comic Con:

Epic president Mike Capps, Gears 2 writer Joshua Ortega, and Randy Falk of NECA, who makes the Gears figures, talked about the upcoming game.

What's in store for fan favorite Cole Train? An audience member wanted to make sure that Cole would be back for the second game. Capps promised that he would. "You can't get rid of Cole Train!" He explained, and then added — jokingly? "At least not until halfway through." Capps did like to joke a lot during the presentation, but perhaps ominously, Ortega added, "No one's safe in Gears."

Capps had talked about how Cole Train's character's personality owes a lot to creative ad-libbing by Lester "Mighty Rasta" Speight. Ortega says that having such an enthusiastic crew of voice actors is inspiring as a writer: "In Gears 1, any deficiencies in story were totally made up for by the talent of the voice crew. Everyone is so perfectly cast, and they love their roles. They're into it, and they can ad-lib all day; it's pretty amazing. It really does make it where you can jump in... you have an advantage. For me, I can come in and hear the actors' voices, and I write from that."

So what might lie ahead for Marcus in Gears 2? "We've got a nice arc for Marcus. Dom has a great arc in this one, too. It's going to really be fun to see people's reaction to Dom and this expansion on his story. I think that he and Marcus will be on a very equal plain by the end, where you know a lot about both of them. And we've got a lot of really fun twists in store — and there's gonna be some pretty heavy, emotional stuff."

Continued Ortega, "We wanted it to be really emotionally resonant, and part of the reason for bringing Maria, Dom's wife, into the story is that I think it's really powerful in an epic when you also have a micro-level, personal connection. So you get the big story, but then you have this emotional center to connect back to so it's not just all big stuff, nameless people. When you have someone who's actually been affected, they have a name, they're a character... I think that's big. So I'd say we're really going for strong storytelling, and definitely with surprises.

And finally a word on the chainsaw. If you know anything about GOW, you know that the original chainsaw bayonet was almost not included in Gears 1. In fact, if you take a look at the post before this one, you can see the lancer rifle without the chainsaw attached. Imagine that. I believe the collectors edition videos for Gears 1 reveals the story of how Cliffy B., the lead designer for Gears of War, fought to keep it in the game.

It's interesting the chainsaw ended up being pivotal to the Gears experience, given that Capps intimated that he was initially dismissive of the idea. "The reason [it] exists is because our characters are so bloody expensive to draw," he said during the panel. What ultimately started off as a way to reconcile the relatively complex character models by forcing players into intimate contact with them (compare a close-up of a Locust grunt to, say, a Covenant Elite from Halo 3) ended up birthing the interactions that would come to define the game's ferocious brand of combat.

According to Capps, they aren't going to have to rely on those sorts of contrivances in the sequel. Pointing to the video showcased at the Game Developers Conference last month, Capps says that the team is aiming to deliver the experience of large-scale conflict that was absent in the original Gears. "It never really felt like a giant war," he said. "It always felt like sort of a spy incursion, sneaking behind enemy lines." According to him, the technology is now able to deliver on that vision in a big way. No more smoke and mirrors to separate players from the bigger conflict, no more small-squad warfare, and no slower deliberate pacing compared to the more fast-paced shooters out there. Capps, in short, "[wants his] D-Day." It'll be interesting to see if his team can transform Gears into a platform for that sort of experience.


Gears of War DC Comic

Coming out in December, it will tell the story of the 6 months that happened between Gears 1 and Gears 2.

DC Comics And Epic Games Announce Plans For Comic Book Series Based On Hit 'Gears Of War' Video Game Franchise

New York, NY - April 18, 2008 - DC Comics, the largest English-language comic book publisher in the world, in partnership with Epic Games, Inc., announced plans today to publish a comic book series based on the hugely popular action video game franchise Gears of War. The series is slated to debut from DC's WildStorm publishing imprint in October. More details about the series, including the creative team, will be released at a later date.

The winner of over 30 Game of the Year awards, Gears of War for Xbox 360 and PC features amazing tactical action and multiplayer excitement. The plot thrusts gamers into a deep and harrowing story of humankind's epic battle for survival against the Locust Horde, a nightmarish race of creatures that surface from the bowels of the planet. Gears of War 2, which continues the story of Marcus Fenix and Delta Squad in an epic saga of survival, loss and retribution, is the sequel to the blockbuster game that sold over 4.5 million copies and redefined the third-person tactical action game genre. Gears of War 2 is being developed exclusively for Xbox 360 and will launch this November.

"We are thrilled to be working with DC Comics to further bring to life the Gears of War universe. A lot of our developers are huge comic fans, and have loved the personas and chronicles unique to DC Comics since childhood," said Dr. Michael Capps, president of Epic Games. "The Gears of War storyline and characters that millions of gamers have come to cherish will be a perfect fit under the WildStorm imprint."

"Big guns and monsters — what a perfect comic book for WildStorm! We have an opportunity to work closely with Epic to add to the canon of the Gears of War mythos, so you can imagine how excited we all are, said Hank Kanalz, VP - General Manager, WildStorm. "Epic sets the bar very high, in graphics, story, and gameplay — and expect no less from our series, starting with our lead-in arc that fills in the gaps between the first game and the upcoming sequel."

Now, enjoy these bastard versions of Gears Comics:

Any if you haven't seen it yet, check out the bad ass concept art for Gears of War here.


New Gears of War 2 Pics - Screens/Concept




And finally there is a Game Informer Podcast that talks about Gears 2 here.

Hideo Kojima is not satisfied

Hideo Kojima, the Japanese video game designer and head of Kojima Productions that is behind the Metal Gears series was intereviewed recently stating that he is not happy with the graphic aspect of his latest masterpiece, Metal Gears Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.

Here is what he says in the UK's Edge Magazine:

"Game-wise, it's pretty close to the original vision: you sneak into the battlefield and can choose whether to do a stealth game or interfere with the battle more directly. But the graphic, side things like motion-blending and the size of the map, totally was not accomplished to my original vision - to my satisfaction.

"When we first showed the game engine at TGS, the staff were really proud and happy. PS3 was a dream machine, y'know, and we were going to work on this and that - and we had so many ideas. But when we actually started developing the game, we realized there were a lot of restrictions and so it turned out how you see it today. The original vision was to go ten steps further, the reality was just one step, which isn't to say we didn't progress.

I remember saying three years ago that we wanted to create something revolutionary, but in reality we couldn't really do that because of the CPU. We're using the Cell engine to its limit., actually. Please don't get me wrong, I'm not criticizing the PS3 machine, it's just that we weren't really aware of what the full-spec PS3 offered - we were creating something we couldn't entirely see.

So does this mean the Playstation 3 isn't the powerhouse that we envisioned? Or is this just a statement that will be clarified in the future. I really hate when people don't think about what they say. I'm sure later down the line we will see, "Well, at the time it was the most we could harness out of the PS3. Now we have intimate knowledge of the system, and can unleash even greater potential."


Gears of War 2 Movie Titles

Hollywood has run out of ideas and it's time for a kick-ass video game movie. I so agree with that, Cliffy B. Watch the entire interview here.

Okay, here is some title brainstorming for the Gears movie:

Gears of War: The Pendulum Wars, The Battle of Aspho Fields
This one seems unlikely because there is a book coming out.

Gears of War: The Fight for Sera
Gears of War: Lightmass Annihilation
Gears of War: Locust Invasion
Gears of War: The Locust Horde
Gears of War: Fight for the Coalition
Gears of War: The Movie
Gears of War: Alpha Squad
Gears of War: Delta Squad
Gears of War: The search for Maria
Gears of War: Thrashball Superstar

lol this is pretty fun.

Gears of War: Carmine's Fate
Gears of War: For the Fallen
Gears of War: The Marcus Fenix Chronicles
Gears of War: Battle for Emulsion
Gears of War: Jacinto's Savior
Gears of War: Planet Sera


High Resolution Gears 2 Scans

Click on the images to enlarge to full size.

^ This is Maria. Now you understand why Dom got her name tattooed on his arm! LOL


Gears of War 2 - New Characters & Big Update

Gears of War 2 begins six months after the deployment of the Lightmass bomb at the end of part one.

New character info:

Tai Kaliso: While Cole and Baird are still a big part of the story, they won’t be attached to Delta Squad as the new game opens. The reunion with those popular characters will have some lead up first, and until then, you’ll be meeting some new personalities. The most memorable of these new additions may be Tai, a spiritual and meditative warrior from a tradition of honor-bound fighters. This familiar archetype should add a fun and perhaps mystical dynamic to the squad.

Chairman Prescott: Lots of gamers found themselves wondering if Marcus’ domineering superior officer was the head of the human government. It turns out that Hoffman is only second in command. Above him stands the Chairman, an almost dictatorial military leader who nonetheless has made the hard choices necessary to keep humanity alive through decades of warfare. As Gears 2 opens, this leader of the COG forces will deliver a speech to the troops before sending them reeling into the suicidal mission ahead.

Dizzy: In the seemingly unending struggle with the Locust Horde, the military forces of the COG have taken massive casualties. Somewhere along the way, Operation Lifeboat was enacted to bring in some fresh blood. Under this new act, the Coalition government will rescue a Stranded family and bring them into the relative story of a COG-protected zone. In return, the able-bodied men of that family join up and contribute their skills to the war effort. Such is the case with hardened soldier Dizzy, a new character who drives the massive Derrick on which Delta Squad ascends into the mountains. With a trademark drawl and an insistence on calling his truck "Betty", he's a colorful new addition to the cast.

Maria Santiago: When Emergence Day struck, Dom's wife Maria became a victim as surely as if she had died in that first attack. On that day, her children were killed. Unable to deal with the shock and loss, Maria lost herself in the ruins of civilization. For Dominic, who joined the COG to protect his family, no priority is higher than to retrieve his lost love - his very personal quest to find her is a major part of the story that unfolds in Gears 2.

About the game:

"We want to fulfill the promise - it is a war. It's more than just these four guys. The first game felt very personal, and in a lot of ways that was good," senior producer Rod Fergusson tells us. However, it's clear from our time with the team that Gears 2 will shoot for a much larger conflict. "In order to save jacinto, they have no choice but to take the war to the Locust," Fergusson continues. "They're going to push back and go underground, and bring the battle to them."

Lots of talk about the new Unreal tech. GI says the story and gameplay are a pretty major leap forward from the original game, but an equally large step is being made in the behind-the-scenes tech. Gears 2 is set to impress just like Gears 1 did. New character lighting, it's a step away from realistic lighting and towards cinematic lighting. New version of Unreal 3 constantly shifts the lighting technique in order to make a character stand out in the environment. Ambient occlusion is another tech being used. Unreal's new ability to render huge numbers of individual creatures at the same time... hundereds of Locust troops, each moving independently and as unique individuals. Awesome water effects, soft body physics.

Most multiplayer details are under wraps. There is a remake of Gridlock. Step up in technology is obvious. "We hear hints of all sorts of new multiplayer features, from dramatically expanded co-op modes to multiplayer content that takes advantage of Unreal's new ability to deliver huge numbers of the Locust horde at one time, but confirmed details will have to wait until a later date."

"Gameplay of Gears 2 will appear mostly familiar to fans, with a few small variations. The core cover/shoot mechanics remain largely intact, but the use of cover has been carefully retouched so it will be harder to get hit while protected, as the character will rest a little further back from the corners. Active reloads won't be dramatically altered, particularly with the returning weapons. However, some of the new arsenal may vary the way in whihc active reloads are used. New chainsaw duels expand that gruesome combat mechanic to deliver even more excitement. Boss battles return, but a big push is geared towards refining them, making them more fun and epic in scale.

"We have creatures that make the Brumak look like a baby panda bear." -Cliff Bleszinski

Drop in and drop out co-op.

Multiple save files to maintain the integrity of each playthrough without abandoning your other attempts.

Gears 2 will have different difficulty settings for each player in co-op. One person can play on Hardcore, one on Casual, for instance. When you are together, the game will understand what that means, and when you split up, you will have individual experiences. Details on how this works exactly are under wraps.

A fourth difficulty is being added for the most casual gamers. Harder difficulty settings will remain "truly devastating." They say Casual in the first game wasn't casual enough. This way everyone who wants to pick up the controller will be embraced.

COG Centaur tank. Takes the best parts of a monster truck and a military tank and combines them. There's a dedicated level where you'll pilot one.

"We were shown a vast underground cave level wherin Marcus and his companions will take the fight to the Locust. Unlike the sometimes cramped and and linear subterranean paths from the first game, the cavern complex is vast and breathtaking. Branching levels and open spaces give players true tactical choices as they decide which way to tackle an assault. Whatever path you choose, bio-luminescent plants light the faces of the new Locust Kantus enemies. These monk-like devils hum low and droning chants that can be focused into sonic attacks against you. They wield weapons like the new Gorgon burst pistol and poison grenades, both of which can become part of your arsenal if you play your cards right. However, the Kantus' true danger lies in their ability to revive their fallen bretheren from afar. Where before you could rest easy after taking down an enemy soldier, now there is the constant danger of them rising back up to continue to fight. The only alternative is to brave the hail of gunfire to break through enemy ranks and kill the Kantus sulking in the rear. Along the way, you may not have access to stable cover anymore, so you'll have to make do with the moving kind. Massive Locust rock worms will emerge from the cavern walls during battle, guided by the Kantus' chanting. Luckily, the creatures are so large you can hide behind them as they sliter about, and you too will be able to guide them to an advantageous firing position."

The team at Epic is well aware that many players out there hunger for a deeper and more involved storytelling experience. Lots of emotion this time. Joshua Ortega has been brought on, he is a novelist / comic writer. Really sounds like they are working a lot on the story. Sense of depth with the characters. A "darker and more heartfelt narrative." "THE STAKES ARE RAISED. THIS IS HUMANITY'S LAST STAND. EVERYTHING IS AT RISK. NOTHING IS SAFE." -Joshua Ortega

Voice actors returning include John DiMaggio as Marcus Fenix, and Carlos Ferro as Dominic Santiago. They will be recording the dialogue side by side, more authentic this way.

Forced walking scenes that masked loading time have been replaced with a dynamic conversation camera system - focused facial close ups, shifting dramatic angles, but the player is still in control. There is a "SHUT UP" button that will let you have Marcus end the conversation early and get back to the action.

"There's a certain percentage of the audience that wants to skip all that, and they just want to shoot some shit, and we're more than willing to cater to that." -Cliff Bleszinski

There are collectibles that are relevant to the story. COG tags can be examined to learn about who owned them. War Journal from the pause screen shows your collectibles and what you're missing, and the locations to search for them.

Many Achievements will be able to be earned in Single or Multiplayer. You can check for instance, if you need 1,000 headshots, you can look at your progress in the journal.

Your floating robot (Jack?) has a video screen now, so Anya can give you mission updates face to face.

A SLICE OF ACTION. As seen in the second level of Gears of War 2, Assault. The sun-dappled pine forests are in stark contrast to the roiling convoy of human machinery as it rolls up the pristine mountain pass. Fenix and his squad stand atop their massive wheeled transport. Dizzy, the driver of their derrick, is shouting curses over the roar of the engine. As a breathtaking valley vista opens up to the West, the first mortar slams into a nearby derrick, leaving behind a flaming husk. The flying nemacyst and their explosive assaults are only the spear point of the Locust defense. After some near misses, the derrick tumbles off the dirt road and stalls. An emergence hole opens up nearby and Locust infantry begin to pour out. Firing wildly, Marcus and his team push back the assault. Even as Dizzy gets the truck running, a Brumak appears and gives chase. Crashing headlong through the cracking and snapping trees, Dizzy forces the derrick into high gear, even as the transport across the way is overrun. Leaping from their new attack platform, enemy troops attempt to board, and Marcus rushes out from cover to curb stomp the assailants. Ahead, in the distance, a narrow bridge stands, wide enough for only one vehicle. The Locust driver sneers and speeds up his derrick as the drop into the gorge up ahead looms large.

"Gears of War 2 is real, and it looks every bit as formidable and impressive as we hoped. It's bigger and better than before, and the people making it are insistent that you'll be playing it in its entirety in just over half a year." -Game Informer