Sunday, February 24, 2008

GTAIV: Is the Xbox 360 Version Superior? (UPDATE)

"Still on Top?"

Since the publication of our first article on this subject a number of new developments have arisen. It has been a very exciting time for GTA fans as the release date approaches and new details are revealed.

And with these new details comes a slew of new insights into hottest topic on the web. Which version of GTAIV is superior? Is it the Xbox 360 version or the PS3 version? Come with us now as we discuss some controversial new developments. What you learn by the end of this article will shock and surprise you. It may also answer the biggest question of the year.

The Disinformation Machine Strikes!

The Empire Strikes Back....or at least that's what it felt like after we ran out last article. Everywhere we looked we found a legion of fanboys, sony virals, and media whores trying to run damage control on our last piece.

There were lies about DLC coming to the PS3. Of course this fan created myth was quickly dismissed.

Later some would claim that both versions of the game were "identical" although at the time none of them had actually seen the elusive PS3 version. Almost no one had. Later in this article we'll prove the two versions are anything but identical. Even to this day.

The "Superior" Trend

It also appears we may have started a trend with the publication of our previous article. The word "superior" was thrown around like crazy after the release of our first expose. Everywhere you looked someone was using the word "superior" in relation to this game. Whether it be on a blog, a web site, or even on your local message board. It was obvious we struck a chord with our readers. This is a hot button issue that will not go away.

Forbidden Knowledge

It seems like all of the big media outlets and even Rockstar themselves are afraid to answer this question. In fact none of them want to answer this question. The media is afraid of angering Rockstar (I personally don't give a damn). And Rockstar doesn't want people to think either version is better because they want to maximize their profits on both console versions. Well as you have seen, we have no loyalties. We're going to give you the straight answers right here and right now.

New Controller Insights: PS3 Controller Woes: Trigger Trouble

Will the PS3 version of GTAIV be hindered by a tragic flaw? Recently we learned the PS3 version will use the R2 Trigger for shooting. Now on the PS2 Dual Shock this wouldn't have been a problem. However the PS3 controller has the worst triggers of any remote on the market. They are placed at an unnatural angle and over time they can be extremely uncomfortable to use.

Even PS3 diehards expressed their disappointment over this decision. The issue is recognized as such a problem that "trigger covers" have been released in an attempt to aid the situation. Hopefully Rockstar will allow PS3 owners to change their control configuration. Otherwise PS3 fans will be in for a rough time.

Six Axis = The Touch of Death

We have recently learned the PS3 version of GTA IV may use Six Axis motion control for certain portions of the game.

Since its inception the Sony's "4-D" controller has ruined almost every game it touches. Sony's tacked on motion control began as nothing more than a reaction to Nintendo and their own motion sensing controller. It was more of a marketing angle than it was a design choice. Again this being a case of Sony playing "follow the leader," something they do quite frequently.

But no matter where you stand on the issue of Sony's lack of originality one thing is for certain; PS3 motion control can be the kiss of death for any decent game. (Lair comes immediately to mind, as does Warhawk...I'm sorry apologists but its true.)

New Control Scheme Began With Xbox 360 Controller

We have also learned that the game's new control scheme began with the Xbox 360 controller. This only makes sense as the Xbox 360 was the lead console for this project. Although the two controllers are similar, as you will see there is one major difference that truly separates the two.

PS3 controller vs Xbox 360 Controller: The BIG Difference

Not only does the Xbox 360 have better and more comfortable trigger buttons, but it also has a superior analog stick that is in the proper "forward position." This is in direct contrast to the antiquated "off center" analog sticks used by the Six Axis and Dual Shock Controllers.

Microsoft's design choice leads to much greater accuracy when using the Xbox 360 controller. It allows for greater precision and more subtle control. As you can see, the forward position is more ergonomic, and in the long run, better for your hands as the design follows the natural bone structure of your forearm and hands.

PS3 Version: Rumble Now Only $49.99 (plus tax)

Sadly, PS3 owners will be without this important feature unless they are willing to buy a new controller for a whopping $49.99. (Roughly $55 with tax. Currently the Xbox 360 controller can be found for $43.30 tax included.) Basically, Sony fans are forced to buy a new controller to get rumble while Xbox 360 owners get it for free.

Making matters worse, we already know the PS3 controller is disposable and that you can not replace the battery pack once it completely dies. However the real kicker is that the PS3 controller has the worst battery life when compared to the Wii and the Xbox 360 controllers.

Battery Life Chart: Six Axis vs Wii-mote vs 360 Controller

So not only is the PS3 controller disposable but it also has the worst battery life. Adding a new rumble feature is only going to SHORTEN the battery life of the SixAxis/Dual Shock 3.

And just to add more salt into our wounds, the PS3 Controller recharging cable is a just under 5 feet long. So when you need to charge your controller you're either going to have to buy an extension cable or you'll have to sit really close to your tv.

(In contrast, the PS2 controller cord is 8 feet long and the Original Xbox controller had a cord that was almost 10 feet long.)

You could buy a charging station and spend even more money but in the end you're still screwed. Sony has really dropped the ball on this major issue.

The PS3 Uses 380 Watts of Power

Seems like an odd thing to mention doesn't it? However as any serious GTA fan already knows a gamer can log countless hours playing these games. I have spent well over 100 hours playing GTA:SA. What does this mean in the long run? It will cost PS3 owners a lot more to play this game. Not only are they paying for the game, and possibly a new controller, but their power bills will also see a major spike. Let's take a look at what had to say about this subject.

"The PS3's 380 Watts will cost you around $40 a year to run if you play it for 2 hours a day."

So tell me GTA fans. Do you think you'll play GTAIV for more than 2 hours a day? It's funny to think that not only is the PS3 a power hog, but its also the least enviormentally friendly console on the market. Basically in the long run its going to cost you more money to play this game on the PS3.

PS3 Version Still Running Behind mere Weeks Before Launch

As this article was being readied for press we learned the PS3 version of the game was still running behind the Xbox 360 version. We also heard that "developers are rushing to implement rumble" on the PS3 version. (Let's see, were only a few weeks from launch and the PS3 version is still running behind. I'll let you draw your own conclusions.)

A recent issue of "PlayStation: The Official Magazine" (formerly PSM) claimed that the problems that caused the PS3 version's delay have been "resolved." They even claim Sony's own technicians were helping out and that now the game plays with "great fidelity."

Unfortunately this directly contradicts the reports of several web sites that claimed the PS3 version still needed a few tweaks. Here is a comment from just one of the sites in question. Please keep in mind this exceprt comes from their second hands demo on with GTAIV.

"For the most part, the game looked identical to what we've previously seen on the 360, although there were a few visual glitches that were due to it being an unfinished product. It didn't take advantage of the Dual Shock 3's rumble, either, although Rockstar reassured us that the PS3 version is about a week behind the 360 edition, and that rumble will be added soon."

Basically the magazine, which was printed a month before it was delivered to newsstands, tells different story than the various media outlets who were shown both versions just last week. Who is telling the truth? I will leave that up to you to decide.

The Game is Revealed: Few Media Outlets Shown PS3 Version

During the last week of February there was a GTAIV media blitz. Several major web sites and magazines were given exclusive previews of both versions. Much of their early reports seem to confirm what we have stated in the first part of this article. However one person's comments would stand out from the rest.

IGN's Hillary Goldstein would say this about both versions.

The PS3 version has "less aliasing" (a plus) while the Xbox 360 version has a "brighter picture and more vibrant colors." Well it seems that Mr Goldsein (yes he's a dude) has let the cat out of the bag. Strangely enough no other media outlet mentioned issues regarding aliasing. Maybe only Hillary could see them?

Gamers with HD setups can visit and see the videos for themselves. Since all of these videos come from the Xbox 360 version, you tell me if you see any aliasing problems. I sure do not. And neither did any of the professional media geeks I showed the videos.

Other media outlets did mention the brighter picture and warmer colors of the Xbox 360 version. Those who listened to Mr Goldstein's comments also felt that he did his best to downplay the differences between the two versions. Well here's why...

IGN XBox 360 Reporter Trashes System: Openly States Desire for PS3 Victory

"In a recent “3 Red Lights” podcast, Hilary Goldstein, editor in chief of IGN X360, completely attacks the Xbox 360 and argues that the PS3 will ultimately win out."

Basically Xbox 360 fans have strong reason to question the opinions of Hillary Goldstein. has been charged with claims of bias in the past. Some people even feel they are a pro-Sony web site, even though they cater to multiple systems.

Now before you shut your mind on this subject ask yourself these simple, common sense questions:

Do you think Sony loves the fact that IGN's Xbox 360 Pod Cast is called "Three Red Rings?" Is anyone surprised that the host of a show with this title would bash the Xbox 360 and openly state his desire for the PS3's victory? And what sort of damage does the name of this pod cast do the Xbox 360 brand and the image of the console? If I were Microsoft I'd think twice before I purchased ad space on (Wake up MS, your product is being smeared every week and you're paying them do to it.)

Like I stated earlier, Mr Goldstein seems to be doing his best to downplay the differences between the two versions. He almost seems afraid to admit the Xbox 360 version is better. Gee, I wonder why?

Brighter and More Vibrant Colors = Better Graphics

If you've watched the trailers, seen the videos or even looked at a few screen shots then you know the game is naturally dark. In a situation like this its really going to help to have a brighter picture. Now some people will claim they can merely adjust their TV sets, however all this will do is distort your picture quality. Its not going to change the console's hardware nor will it effect the game's code, which are the real reasons for the differences in graphic quality.

And since were talking about GTA here, lets get to the important stuff. With a brighter picture and more vibrant colors everything will look better. Explosions, gun fire, neon, burning flames, breaking glass, sunny days, etc... Everything will look better in the Xbox 360 version because of this major difference.

Xbox 360 Achievements vs PS3 Accomplishments

To the surprise of no one, Sony has developed their own version of Xbox 360 Achievement system. Unfortunately their accomplishment system is not a truly organic part of the PS3 experience. Its a mere copycat system that is shallow and uninspired. Its tacked on to the PS3 gaming experience. As always it began as a mere reaction to the innovations of Sony's competitors. Not truly inspired thinking if you will. It is more proof that Sony always plays follow the leader.

More Developer Insights: PS3 Fill Rate Problems

In doing our research we came across this explosive expose from former Harmonix Developer Jason Booth. In his blog he reveals the truth about the alleged power of the PS3. What he says may directly effect the performance of GTAIV on the PS3. Here is what he had to say:

"The fill rate on the PS3 is significantly slower than on the 360, meaning that games either have to run at lower resolution or use simpler shader effects to achieve the same performance. Additionally, the shader processing on the ps3 is significantly slower than on the 360, which means that a normal map takes more fill rate to draw on the ps3 than it does on the 360."

He continues:

"Getting data off the blue ray drive takes about twice as long as it does to get the same data off the 360's DVD drive....Sony let their hardware be designed by a committee of business interests rather than a well thought out design that would serve the game development community."

Slow Read Speeds of Blu-Ray lead to Low Frame Rates and Forced Installation?

Recently we've learned that several new PS3 games require a mandatory 5Gb installation be placed on the users hard drive. Among these games are the newly released Devil May Cry 4, which has a 5GB madatory installation that take almost 25 minutes to install. There is also Lost Planet, a port of an Xbox 360 title that is over a year old. It too requires a mandatory 5GB installation. Finally there is the upcoming Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds, which as you may have already guessed, requires a mandatory 5GB installation taking almost 30 minutes to install.

Installing games on console sets a disturbing trend. It practically negates the very purpose of owning a console. Consoles have always been about ease of use and simplicity.

So what's the punch line here? Well it appears the reason so many upcoming PS3 games require installation is because of the slow read speeds of the Blu-Ray disc drive. And since it takes twice as long to get information off the Blu-Ray disc, developers are forced to use installation as a means of getting closer to normal performance out their PS3 projects. Otherwise their games are plagued with choppy frame rats and hideously long load times. Its ridiculous. And now you know the secret behind the Madden 08 controversy. Speaking of which...

Madden 09 + FIFA 09: Keeping up the Pace on the Xbox 360

Microsoft boasts both games will run twice as fast on the Xbox 360. A lofty claim as we are several months away from the release of both games.

"This year's (09) versions of Madden and FIFA will be "looking and playing better on our platform," which is a pretty bold statement eight months out"

It appears developers have still not overcome the technical limitations of the PS3 and the Blu-Ray format. A year later and Madden 09/FIFA 09 may still run better on the Xbox 360.

Xbox 360 Price Drop just before GTAIV release?

Strangely enough, for the past several weeks Xbox 360 hardware has been in short supply. The UK is already confirmed to receive a major price drop. And now rumors circulate that the rest of the World may see a price drop as well.

The reason for the hardware shortages could be this impending, rumored price drop. Sources claim MS is stockpiling Xbox 360 hardware in anticipation of the price drop and the release of GTAIV. The game may even give Xbox 360 hardware sales a GTAIV related bump. (The GTA bump.)

Although price drops are great, what does this really have to do with GTAIV? (Remember folks, we are the Tech Spy Blog. We keep our eyes on everything.) If MS is building up their hardware reserves in anticipation of this big event they must obviously have great confidence in their product and the strength of GTAIV. After all, the rumored price drop is strategically planned right before the release of GTAIV. (The biggest game of this generation)

RUMOR: FREE DLC with Pre-order? Wishful Thinking?

"Microsoft has yet to publicly announce why the company is so sure the 360 will sell more copies of GTA IV than the PS3, (NOTE: Our readers already know why)

"XF has learned about FREE content that will be offered to those who pre-ordered GTA IV and pick up the game on launch day"

Rumor: DLC the size of San Andreas?

Recently rumors emerged claiming the exclusive DLC packs would be as big as an entire GTA game. After doing some research into the subject it appears this may not be the case. We were unable to find a credible source to back this claim.

However while doing our research we did learn to expect a lot from the DLC packs. It should seem obvious that Microsoft wouldn't pay $50 Million for something that lasts 10 minutes. So if you're interest in DLC, I'm sure you wont be disappointed when it arrives.

Rumor: DLC on the PS3? Not likely...

DLC, Mythbusters Edition. Basically Sony, their media puppets, and a legion of fanboys have all been saying the PS3 will get DLC. Well here are the cold hard facts on this subject. Episodic story driven DLC is not coming to the PS3 any time soon. Microsoft's $50 million dollar deal guarantees this fact..

However, the PS3 may get lesser DLC like themes, possibly music, and other non game related files. Although this is NOT confirmed. Either way, when and if it does arrive this stuff will also wind up on the Xbox 360. This lesser content is at the source of the DLC on PS3 confusion. No one really cares about this stuff. Its the Episodic Content that people really want. And just in case people are still in denial about this subject, here is a excerpt from a recent PlayStation magazine that proves my point:

So when it comes to DLC, its the Episodic Content that really matters. And its not coming to the PS3 any time soon. So disregard anything you have heard on the subject. Honestly, when I see ignorant fanboys claim the PS3 will get Episodic Content I think to myself;

"What part of $50 Million Dollar exclusivity deal do these people not understand?"

Do they not remember how things worked during the PS2 era? Do they not understand the basic concept of the exclusivity deal? Sony once had a stranglehold on the GTA franchise. It took a long time before GTAIII, VC and SA were ported to other systems. And by the time they arrived they did little to help the original Xbox.

The same concept applies here. MS paid for this DLC, and along with it, a long window exclusivity. So as we said in our last article, even if story driven DLC does eventually arive on the PS3, it will be a long time coming.

In Conclusion....

So here we are at the end of another explosive article. In our last expose we presented 16 points that proved we had a serious grasp on this hotly debated subject. In this piece we have provided another 15 separate points, each one more controversial than the other.

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

See you at the Midnight Launch.