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Red Dead Redemption's sub-HD PS3 display: Analysis

CVG details the graphical differences between the PS3 and 360

The PlayStation 3 version of Rockstar's Red Dead Redemption suffers from a number of deficiencies compared to its Xbox 360 brethren, experts have revealed - with the sub-HD rendering resolution being one of many.

Yesterday we reported on the rendering resolution of the PS3 version of Red Dead Redemption. The game has been receiving brilliant reviews, including our own, but the PS3 game isn't graphically on par with the Xbox 360 version.

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Its resolution is 640 by 1152, compared to the Xbox 360's 720 by 1280 pixels. At first glance you might say that this is only a difference of "80 pixels," but in reality, when the missing area is calculated, the PS3 suffers an 184,320 pixel deficit - or 20 per cent lower than the Xbox 360 version. This rendering resolution is then upscaled by the PS3 to be displayed on your screen.

This resolution was discovered by the users of the Beyond 3D technical forum. The forum enjoys the input of technically minded enthusiasts as well as game developers, with member Quaz51 making a name for himself as a 'pixel counter'. In the past he has revealed the sub-HD rendering resolutions Halo 3, Haze, Metal Gear Solid 4 and Alan Wake. He even created the now infamous LittleBigPlanet calculator, which inspired Media Molecule's sequel. You can discover the true rendering resolutions of your favourite games in Beyond 3D's handy list.

We'll discuss whether lower than HD resolutions actually matter in another story, but for now it's time to look a little bit closer at the differences between the two platforms.

Red Dead Redemption's lower resolution on the PS3 results in a slightly less-sharp image, as can be seen in the comparison screenshots posted in our gallery. These were provided by another Beyond3D member, MazingerDude, who has since migrated to the NeoGAF gaming forums.

However, it's the return of quincunx anti-aliasing (QAA) on the PS3 that further blurs the image. Anti-aliasing seeks to remove the jagged edges of video game objects, but QAA achieves its results by effectively blurring the whole image. The Xbox 360 uses 2x multi-sampling AA, which specially targets object edges, but requires slightly more processing power.

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The differences don't end there with missing objects, less foliage density, and missing shadows further plaguing the PS3 game. MazingerDude, who has access to both versions of the game, details further disparities. On the Xbox 360 trees are well alpha-blended; this combines foreground objects with the background to create the effect of transparency. The PS3 game doesn't achieve the same quality, resulting in trees suffering shimmering artefacts.

There are a number of Level of Detail (LOD) issues on the PS3 game as well, making shadow and texture pop-in more apparent when you approach buildings. You'll even spot missing text on a number of background signs in the PS3 version. Self-shadows on characters are also often missing, which makes character's faces appear a tad flat.

Perhaps most importantly, the framerate of the PS3 game is not up to par. The use of a lower rendering resolution is generally a compromise to allow for a solid framerate, but the PS3 version drops frames more often than the Xbox 360. Nonetheless, the game's average framerate is said to be better than Grand Theft Auto IV and from hands-on reports and reviews, the PS3 version is incredibly playable.

And that's the crux. In motion and in isolation Red Dead Redemption is still a brilliant game on the PlayStation 3. It's one of the best games of the year and unless you're sitting side by side with both versions, you'll be unlikely to be disappointed.

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