Video: Tom Clancy's HAWX: Demo Analysis for PS3 & XBox 360
The Xbox 360 demo of Ubisoft's take on the Ace Combat-style arcade flight sim genre has been available for some time, but due to 'technical issues', the PlayStation 3 code only made it to the Store last week.
It's worth pointing out that the PS3 code does come with a disclaimer saying that the demo is not representative of the final code, but we find it hard to believe that core elements of the engine such as the anti-aliasing method and lighting model will change that much in the final game, especially when it's out in the US today. Suffice to say, we'll be looking at that too though in the fullness of time.
As it is, demos are released to give you a taste of what you'll be buying when the game comes to the shops, so with that in mind, here's our take on the HAWX sampler on both PS3 and 360.
The game runs at native 720p on both consoles, with the 360 code running full-on 4x MSAA, while PS3 is using nothing but horizontal blur. This noticeably deteriorates visual clarity and doesn't really smooth edges much at all.
There's also a lighting difference as you can see from the shots, the excellent use of light bloom from the 360 code is nowhere to be seen on the PS3 version.
In the PS3's favor there is a superior draw distance. These shots clearly show that the PS3 is resolving more background geometry than the 360 game. However, 360 gradually fades in upcoming scenery, while PS3 has straightforward pop-in instead.
And so, on to the frame rate analysis of the demo, and here's where things get even more interesting. Ubisoft is to be congratulated on making an effort at having HAWX run at 60fps on both systems. However, there are numerous frame drops, as you can see in the performance video here, and the drops in the heat of actual gameplay are much more impactful.
As you can see, the PS3 version has far more smaller dips... we've seen these kind of dips before and we're speculating that it's the game spooling off new texture data from the hard disk. It takes longer than 360, and it happens more frequently too - we'd like to see this fixed in the full game.
In terms of other oddities, check out what happens to Xbox 360 on the internal cockpit view of the main mission - a massive performance drop not seen on PlayStation 3. This one is quite bizarre, and again, we hope it's just a bug that's sorted out in the final retail game.
Analysis of the gameplay (where we can't get like-for-like video for a fair comparison) shows that both version drop down from 60fps to 30fps very frequently, creating a noticeable and somewhat off-putting stuttering effect. In fact, this was pretty much the only thing we didn't like about the demo: HAWX does an excellent job in revitalising what has become a very moribund genre, and we're really looking forward to seeing the final game.