Head2Head

“So, which version of Mass Effect 2 is the Definitive one?”

EA EA
BioWare 1 2 BioWare
Action RPG 4272 mb opt. Action RPG
Release: 01/18/2011 sec sec Release: 01/28/2010
ESRB: M
0% 0.32% ESRB: M

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Head2Head – Mass Effect 2 Analysis

We go Head2Head with both retail versions of Mass Effect 2 for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.


“Sorry, but I’m having trouble hearing you. I’m getting a lot of bullshit on this line”. Welcome back for this week’s highly anticipated Head2Head of both retail versions of Mass Effect 2 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Thanks once more to our sponsors over at Play N Trade in Oveido, FL for supplying our test copies and also thanks to SoulSwitchfor the killer soundtracks rocking throughout our analysis video. Two weeks ago we broke the news that the PlayStation 3 demo build of Mass Effect 2 seemed to be running on an older build, which was later validated by BioWare themselves. Now that the demo build of Mass Effect 2 is out of our focus, only one question remains, does the PlayStation 3 retail version have what it takes to deliver the same masterpiece that the Xbox 360 has already given us? Come join us as we set our course for the Milky Way to see which version of Mass Effect 2 escapes from the edge of the event horizon.


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Graphics: Graphically, there’s no denying that Mass Effect 2 looks incredible on each console, but there are some slight differences that we noticed right from the get go. The most noticeable difference was how each platform implemented its HDR lighting system. The Xbox 360 version had a higher ratio of crushed blacks throughout, which we felt replicated the dark void of space more effectively, while the PlayStation 3′s shadow maps and dynamic lighting looked more polished. Basically it comes down to a matter of personal preference. In some instances however, the PlayStation 3 version overexposed some of the lighting effects more than needed. For example, in the clip we captured where Normandy drops you off for your first mission, the light that’s emitted from the exhausts pipes on the PlayStation 3 version looked overly bright, blocking out some of the texture detail and post processing effects in that scene. On the flip side, the Xbox 360 version applied the same effect but the result looked more appealing. While the lighting implementations were indeed different, in some instances the PlayStation 3 version looked better and in others the Xbox 360 had the advantage. In the end, we felt the lighting differences fall in the realm of personal preference, and trying to figure out which implementation the developer was targeting is purely speculation. So with that let’s move on to the texture differences.

In the PlayStation 3′s demo build of Mass Effect 2 we noticed that some of the game’s normal maps and textures looked to be a lower resolution than the Xbox 360 counterpart. BioWare made it public that the PlayStation 3 demo build was over two months old, and we couldn’t wait to put that to the test. We’re happy to report that BioWare has lived up to their claim. Most of the lower resolution textures and normal maps seen in the demo build have been fixed in the PlayStation 3 retail version. As seen in our roll-over images and sliders, texture quality, normal maps, and specular maps looked almost identical across both platforms.


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Just to be clear, the HDR lighting implementations were very different, so normal maps, blooms, and other lighting related effects may trigger at different times. This could make one version look graphically superior in any given scene. Having said that, there was one rendering hitch that the PlayStation 3 version had that was handled more effectively on the Xbox 360 build. The PlayStation 3 version clearly had issues when trying to render objects with and through transparency. For example, reference our third slider image on the second page. You can clearly see that when the character’s hand goes underneath the table it is not rendered properly through the transparent hologram on the PlayStation 3 version. Lastly, the Xbox 360 version of Mass Effect 2 had a native resolution of 1280×720 (2xAA transparencies and effects not AA’d), while the PlayStation 3 version’s native resolution was 1280×720, but fell a little short with no anti-aliasing. Note: we noticed slight differences in texture compression and mip-mapping between versions. Nothing too distracting, but it was noticeable in some of the up-close cut scenes.

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Performance: Deciding a winner in this category was a very difficult decision for us. For starters, both versions were capped at 30 FPS most of the time. Scenes with chaotic firefights seemed to take some type of hit in terms of performance on both platforms. However, as seen in our analysis video on page two, the Xbox 360 version seemed to have the slight advantage maintaining a more stable frame rate throughout these chaotic scenes – but not without a hitch. Although the PlayStation 3 version did have slightly more frame rate hitches, the Xbox 360 had noticeable screen tearing in those scenes. Nothing too extreme, but enough for you to notice. The PlayStation 3 version had zero screen tearing in these same scenes. So pick your poison. While the Xbox 360 version had the slight advantage with its frame rate throughout some hectic scenes, it also had some screen tearing to go along with it. Below are the average frame rates and screen tearing percentages our analyzer captured during our session.


PlayStation 3 Frame Analysis Xbox 360 3 Frame Analysis
Clip 1 info:
Length of clip: 9305 frames
Average FPS of clip: 29.92
Percent of torn frames: 0.00
Clip 1 info:
Length of clip: 9305 frames
Average FPS of clip: 29.95
Percent of torn frames: 0.01
Clip 2 info:
Length of clip: 3302 frames
Average FPS of clip: 29.26
Percent of torn frames: 0.00
Clip 2 info:
Length of clip: 3302 frames
Average FPS of clip: 29.44
Percent of torn frames: 0.01
Clip 3 info:
Length of clip:  3013 frames
Average FPS of clip: 29.46
Percent of torn frames: 0.00
Clip 3 info:
Length of clip: 3013 frames
Average FPS of clip: 29.44
Percent of torn frames: 0.00
Clip 4 info:
Length of clip: 7644 frames
Average FPS of clip: 28.93
Percent of torn frames: 0.00
Clip 4 info:
Length of clip: 7644 frames
Average FPS of clip: 28.89
Percent of torn frames: 0.22
Clip 5 info:
Length of clip: 6321 frames
Average FPS of clip: 28.78
Percent of torn frames: 0.00
Clip 5 info:
Length of clip: 6321 frames
Average FPS of clip: 27.34
Percent of torn frames: 0.11
Clip 6 info:
Length of clip: 6568 frames
Average FPS of clip: 28.92
Percent of torn frames: 0.00
Clip 6 info:
Length of clip: 6568 frames
Average FPS of clip: 29.73
Percent of torn frames: 0.08
Global percent of torn frames: 0.00
Global average FPS: 29.23
Global percent of torn frames: 0.32
Global average FPS: 29.14


Loading: Load times between versions were almost on par with one another in most of the samples we captured, but the PlayStation 3 version did have the slight advantage here, loading an average 1-2 seconds faster than the Xbox 360 version. However, the PS3 version required a hefty install which weighed in at 4272 mb and took almost 30 minutes to complete. On a side note, speculation is now floating around that more hard drive space available on your PS3 may actually speed up the install process. We also realize having the entire game squeezed onto one Blu-Ray disk is a really nice feature, but don’t count out the Xbox 360 just yet. The Xbox 360 version does have a trick up its sleeve to level the playing field. If you happen to install the entire second disk onto your 360′s hard drive you can play the entire game with little interruption. Furthermore, the install size of the second 360 disc (6 Gigs) is around the same size of the PS3′s mandatory install (4.8 Gigs). Below are the average load times we captured during our play-through.


PlayStation 3 Load Times Xbox 360 3 Load Times

Sample 1: 14 seconds

Sample 2: 23 seconds

Sample 3: 18 seconds

Sample 4: 35 seconds

Sample 5: 22 seconds

Sample 1: 16 seconds

Sample 2: 25 seconds

Sample 3: 20 seconds

Sample 4: 34.5 seconds

Sample 5: 26 seconds

Sample Average: 22.4 seconds
Sample Average: 24.1 seconds


Rollover to see the differences. Here we see the PS3 shadows looking more appealing.


before
after

Move the slider to see the differences. Notice the PlayStation 3 versions over exposed lighting effects in this scene, hiding the cool post processing effects.


Rollover to see the differences. The color schemes and compression match up 1:1 in the FMV scenes.


before
after

Move the slider to see the differences. Notice the yellow sign in the background, another case of PS3 alpha issues?


Rollover to see the differences. The reflection on the Xbox looks more pronounced.


before
after

Move the slider to see the differences.


Rollover to see the differences. In this roll-over, lighting in the PS3 version looks to have the advantage.


Rollover to see the differences. Notice the Differences in lighting effects.


More Roll Overs, Conclusion, Technical Score, Video and Staff Choice on Page 2. >>>

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*To ensure color accuracy from the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii U output, the PlayStation 3 has RGB Full Range set to "Full" and Super White "On", and the Xbox 360 has Reference Level set to "Expanded" and HDMI Color Space set to "RGB". Our capture card we have captured segments from the AVS HD 709 . Blu-ray, HD DVD, & MP4 Calibration suite.

As you will see, each system matches each other at the SOURCE LEVEL. No contrast or gamma settings are manipulated before or after capturing our images/videos. We strongly believe that these types of corrections are done on a individuals preference and should not be adjusted by us. Finally, washed out looking images that are due to contrast or gamma differences will not have any influence on our final verdicts. Please Read through our F.A.Q page if you have any questions or concerns.*