The debate over which is the more powerful next-gen games console has been raging for over a year, but in the last few weeks we've finally been able to pore over some first-hand evidence. The Call of Duty 3 conversions to Xbox 360 and PS3 are more closely comparable, perhaps, than many fanboys on either side would have predicted. More interesting is the unspoken rivalry between Gears of War and Resistance: Fall of Man - two showboating titles with similar themes and environments.
One thing has become clear. Totting up specs isn't going to help us choose a winner. On paper, PS3 has more raw processing grunt than Xbox 360, but at the moment - with second generation titles under their belts - developers seem to be extracting more performance out of Xbox 360. That's natural considering their greater experience with the platform. The question is, how much further can Xbox go?
Frankly, the only views that matter in this debate are those of programmers who have experience with next-gen hardware. So this week Guardian.co.uk spoke to Richard Hackett a head of technology at Blitz Games about his experiences with both machines. He feels that CELL has an ace up its sleeve and it's not something you might have predicted...
"As a result of the kind of processing power we have available we're going to see a lot more procedurally generated effects and dynamic visuals than we've seen before. This means not all game visuals will be created by an artist in the traditional way, an increasing amount will be created in real-time from algorithms and parameters.To make sure the artists stay in control and we don't resort to graphics created only by programmers (which is often a bad thing), we're working on systems for artists to create and edit these systems themselves without needing a degree in Software Engineering."
"Certain procedural effects are easier to create on the PS3 because of the power of the SPEs. Effects like water simulations, especially when you move beyond simple surface effects to fluid dynamics require the kind of algorithms that are really suited to the CELL architecture. Having said that the slightly more flexible GPU and unified memory model on X360 allows some neat tricks that level the playing field somewhat. It will be interesting to see what emerges with video processing and EyeToy as well - CELL is designed for streaming and image processing applications in mind. I think we'll see both new visuals and game play out of that. As an aside the audio technology running on CELL created by the guys in the SCEE Technology Group in London is pretty amazing, opening out loads more possibilities for real-time audio effects to enhance the visuals, something that is often overlooked but is an important part of increasing gamer immersion."