Wednesday, January 23, 2008

GTAIV: Is the Xbox 360 Version Superior?


Is the Xbox 360 version of GTAIV superior to the PS3 version? This is the question that plagues multi-console owners everywhere. Even those waiting to "jump in" on the next gen bandwagon are troubled by this issue. For some, their future console purchase may depend on the answer to this very question. Which version of GTAIV is superior?

Here's the evidence we have so far:

The Trojan Horse

Over a year ago when Rockstar released the game "Table Tennis" on the Xbox 360 gamers everywhere were puzzled. It was an extremely solid game, yet it definitely wasn't something you'd expect from Rockstar.

However, Table Tennis uses the RAGE engine, which is the game engine used in GTAIV. Basically, the game was a test run for the RAGE Engine on the Xbox 360. It was also a Trojan horse. A way to get inside the Xbox 360 hardware and test the bugs before the real challenge arrived with GTAIV. It was a warm up for the dev team and a head start on GTAIV development.

Know your Hardware

The more you know your hardware the better your game looks and plays. Its a simple idea that has held true since the days of the Atari 2600. Now we already know that Rockstar has spent a lot of time working with the Xbox 360. With the release of the game Table Tennis, Rockstar development teams have had more time to become familiar with the Xbox 360 hardware. That is an automatic plus for the 360 version of the game.

Earliest Version = Lead Version

Its also believed that the 360 version of GTAIV was in development before the PS3 version. The 360 was on the market a year before the PS3. Developers like Rockstar probably got their development kits long before they received any PS3 hardware. With the release of Table Tennis way back in May 2006, we can already see that the early lead time is producing strong results.

All Screen shots and Trailers for GTAIV have been from the Xbox 360 version

This also lends credibility to the idea that the 360 version was in production first. Even the hands on demos given to the press were done with the 360 version of the game.

Developing is easier on the Xbox 360

Its a well known fact that game development is very difficult on the PlayStation 3. There have been many highly publicized statements made by senior members of the Development Community that prove this statement to be true.

There are the infamous statements of Gabe Newell who said: "I think [PS3 is] a waste of everybody's time." And "Investing in the Cell, investing in the SPE gives you no long-term benefits.....You're not going to gain anything except a hatred of the architecture they've created."

Ouch. That's a pretty strong statement. But Mr Newell isn't the only developer to feel this way about the PS3. Several developers have reported similar difficulties. Including Rockstar themselves. So much like the PS2 before it, the PS3 is a bitch when it comes to producing games.

PS3 Version Caused the Delay of GTAIV

When GTAIV was officially delayed into 2008, the gamers everywhere cried bitter tears. It has been said that Sony has a contract with Rockstar that demands that both versions of GTAIV must be released at the same time. Many believe this is the real truth behind the GTAIV delay. This also means that PS3 development caused the GTAIV delay. (And since we know PS3 isn't easy to work with....)

Take-Two Takes the Plunge

News of the delay was so damaging that shares of Take-Two Interactive Software fell a massive 16% after the announcement. The company stated that the late arrival of Grand Theft Auto IV meant it would record a major annual loss.

Further confirmation comes from Wedbush Morgan's Michael Pachter who says "that he believes difficulties porting the game to the PlayStation 3 are to blame."

He continues: "We think it is also likely that Take-Two had a contractual commitment to Sony that it would not favor competitor Microsoft by launching the Xbox 360 version of GTA IV prior to launching the PS3 version...and that any delay of the PS3 version necessitated a delay of the Xbox 360 version."

PS3 version of GTAIV goes MIA at E3 2007

Enter E3 2007... Before the show rumors had been circulating that the PS3 version of GTAIV would not be shown. Suspiciously Sony did not even mention the game during their press conference.

Now here's the reason why.... (And this comes straight from the media whores over at

1UP: Why didn't you show Grand Theft Auto IV at your press conference? Why was it not there?

Tretton: "Well, Dave [Karraker, Senior Director of Corporate Communications at Sony Computer Entertainment America], do you want to answer that? Dave was in control of the content."

Karraker: "You want the real answer?"

1UP: Can you give me both answers?

Tretton: [laughs]

Karraker: "I'll give you the real answer. They didn't send us their video."

1UP: So it's not anything like "well, the game's been shown on Xbox 360..."

Karraker: "We requested it. We sent an e--mail out to every publisher and said send us your videos that you want put in the press conference, and they never sent it. Not much more you can say about that."

Now maybe its just me but that does seem like unusual behavior on the part of Rockstar. However I am willing to bet the real reason there was no video of the PS3 version is simple:

It wasn't done yet.

Months later a Rockstar Rep would claim make this suspicious comment.

"It's really no surprise to anybody that the PS3 was definitely a contributing factor to that (the delay). Now, we're neck and neck. That's not an issue anymore. But back then that was something we were taking into account. That's not to say there's anything wrong with the PS3 version. It's awesome. They're both identical."

What he says sounds like damage control. He seems overly concerned with the image of the PS3 version. His comments also confirm again that the PS3 version was the reason for the delay. And although he claims they are "neck and neck" playing catch up is bound to hurt the PS3 version.

And although he claims the two versions will be "identical" many insiders have strong reason to feel otherwise. Some feel there will be major differences between the two versions based upon many of the reasons we have mentioned, or will mention, in this very article. And were still waiting to see that PS3 version...

Multi console ports struggle on PS3

We've been reading the reviews for the past several months. Almost every multi-console game on the market looks and plays the better on the Xbox 360. There are some very high profile examples of this fact. Just look at the record selling Madden franchise. The 2008 version of the game runs at a blazingly fast 60fps on the Xbox 360. Meanwhile the same game struggles to maintain a constant 30fps frame rate on the PS3. And Madden 08 isn't the only game that suffers on the PS3. High profile releases such as The Orange Box, Tony Hawks Project 8, and Need for Speed have all had major problems on the PS3.

PS3 Ports: Leaving out the "Little Details"

Above you'll see a few screen shots that illustrate some of the differences between Xbox 360 originals and PS3 ports. Almost every single time the game looks better on the Xbox 360. And as you can see in the pictures above, PS3 versions of the same game lack details found in the Xbox 360 original.

Better Online

In this writer's humble opinion, Xbox Live is completely superior to the PSN network. Yes, PSN is free, but in this case I honestly believe this is a great example of the "you get what you pay for rule." Although I don't wish to force my opinion on anyone I'm positive a lot of multi-console owners feel the exact same way as I do.

Better Controller

I also prefer the centered analog sticks found on the Xbox 360. (And several other controllers). The old dual shock style, off center analog sticks are imprecise when compared to the 36o controller. I also believe that using the off center analog sticks on the PS3 causes greater cramping and hand pain in the long run. At least that has been my experience when using the two different controllers. I will also say the PS3 controller is too light, and its trigger buttons leave much to be desired. (As does the horrible D-Pad.)

It should also be mentioned that the PS3 controller does not have a replaceable battery pack. When the internal battery dies, the controller is useless. Making matters worse, the included recharging cable is very short. Shorter than a standard controller cable. And the SixAxis must be plugged into the PS3 in order to charge. And guess what? The PS3 must be on if you want to charge your controller! Its all very inconvenient.

MEGATON: Xbox 360 version is the ONLY COMPLETE VERSION

The Xbox 360 version of GTAIV is the only complete version of the game. And this info comes straight from the horse mouth. Sometime last year a Rockstar Rep even admitted that much in a recent interview. Here's an excerpt from a controversial article:

"It's no secret that the long-ago announced downloadable episodes for Grand Theft Auto IV will be exclusive to the Xbox 360 version of the game."

"According to Rockstar Games spokesman Hosi Simon, however, there won't be any consolation prizes for those who choose to buy the PlayStation 3 edition instead.

When asked during a preview of the game whether there would be any advantage to owning the PS3 version that could rival the 360's exclusives, Simon said, "not that I can think of."

"Simon continued. "We're not hardware makers, and we're not like a pawn between these companies."

"But I guess if you want the complete experience with the episodes, then yeah, you should buy the 360" Simon said.

Ouch! Simons Says indeed. Honestly, that really sucks for PS3 fans. The only way to play the full game is by owning the Xbox 360. That's a tough pill to swallow for some.

GTAIV in 2009: More Exclusive Content on the Xbox 360:

Interestingly enough, the delay of this game has meant that exclusive content will continue into 2009. The first installment of exclusive DLC will hit the Xbox 360 sometime in 2008. (My bet would be just before the Holiday Season.) The second installment is set to hit in 2009. This should help Microsoft move a lot of Xbox 360 consoles next Holiday Season. Plus it will keep Xbox 360 owners and GTA fans glued to their consoles well into the year 2009.

Silencing the complaints of Sony fanboys

Sony fans complain alleged Xbox 360 "shortcomings" will hinder GTAIV. Meanwhile the shortcomings of the PlayStation 2 hindered GTAIII, Vice Ctiy and San Andreas. PC and Xbox fans complained to no avail. Ports would eventually surface on other systems but they were only slightly improved from the PS2 originals. They remained tied to the limitations of their PS2 ancestors. So the complaints of sony fans are moot. Storage capacity, processing power, lack of a hard drive, etc... Whatever issue sony fans can raise now is one that has been used against them in the past. They have no ground to stand on when it comes to this issue. So please, Sony fans, take your seats.

Sony fans have also made the erroneous claim that the exclusive content destined for the Xbox 360 will eventually find its way to the PS3. Well I can confirm right now that this will NEVER HAPPEN. Microsoft paid a whopping 50 MILLION dollars for this DLC. And I'm sure it will never wind up in the hands of Sony for that reason alone. And even if the PS3 does see its own DLC, I imagine it will be a long time coming. So far in the future that by the time it arrives no one will care. It will do little to help the struggling PS3. Just as ports of the GTA trilogy did little to sell the original Xbox.

In conclusion...

So which version of GTAIV is superior? Well as of now the evidence points to the Xbox 360 version. And it is certainly a mountain of strong, undeniable evidence.

Will things change in the future? Who knows? This is the game industry and anything can happen. But as of now I'd hedge my bets on the Xbox 360 version. Its the lead platform version. Its the only complete version with exclusive story content. And its been developed by a team that's already well familiar with the Xbox 360 hardware. It all makes perfect sense when you think about it.

See you on release day.