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Does sub-HD resolution matter?

Opinion: Red Dead Redemption crunches less numbers on PS3. Should we care, asks Patrick Steen...

Red Dead Redemption is the latest to fall through the high-definition net, with the PlayStation 3 version fo the game rendering at a lower resolution than its Xbox 360 counterpart. Oodles of games have suffered the same deficiency - but should it concern us gamers?

I've read the comments under CVG's Read Dead Redemption articles and have noticed that many were not best pleased to know about the differences between each game. And although it's a fact that the PS3 game suffers a 20 per cent resolution deficit, should we actually care?

In Isolation

When a game is experienced in isolation on your console of choice, the answer to whether a sub-HD resolution matters is quite simply "no."

In reality, Joe Gamer won't enjoy the game any less if it's 644p, because when this is upscaled onto his shiny HDTV it's not going to slap him in the face. In fact, the slightly softer image is going to slip him right by.

Did anyone enjoy Grand Theft Auto IV any less on the PS3 because of its sub-HD resolution? How about Alan Wake on the Xbox 360?

Do you pine for a high-definition version of Remedy's game on the PC solely because it renders at 540p? No you want it because...you want it.

Did you suffer sub-HD woes when you played Halo 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time, Saints Row 2, Final Fantasy XIII (X360), Ghostbusters (PS3), or Splinter Cell Conviction? Do I hear an "aye"? Anyone? No?

In fact, there's a fighter called Tekken 6 (you may have heard of it) that happens to support two rendering resolutions on the Xbox 360. The highest and high-definition resolution lacks anti-aliasing and motion blur, but when this is pared down to 576p, nine out of ten gamers will choose the lower resolution due to added graphical features. In many ways, rendering resolution is the last graphical feature you should be worrying about.

This is evidenced by the fact that when Red Dead Redemption on the PS3 is put side-by-side with the Xbox 360 version, journalists ignore any differences and simply enjoy the game.

The Bigger Picture

However, it's adjoining graphical problems that may start to grate. A reduced resolution can be a sign that the game's developers have had trouble grasping the platform. Therefore, this can bring with it other problems, such as missing objects and texture pop-in.

When such deficiencies aren't present in the competing console version, you might feel that yours has been more than a little gimped. From its play tests, Ars Technica reports that "it's clear that the 360 version [of Redemption] has quite the graphical advantage."

Moreover, when a sub-HD resolution is combined with the blurring use of QAA, it's not the best mix. Reduced sharpness combined with blur results in a nasty Vaseline smear. Of course, gamers aren't going to know this unless they're up to scratch on video game websites and forums. Plus, what's a bit of missing grass when the gameplay is good?

Console Parity

By its very nature the PlayStation 3 is a difficult beast to master for developers. The console's Cell processors has a unique structure that requires mastering - and its dissimilarity to PCs and the Xbox 360 makes porting from those platforms difficult.

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