Mass Effect 3: Demo Technical Analysis

Mass Effect 3: Demo Technical Analysis

Mass Effect 3

The arrival of Mass Effect 3 will represent the first time a game in the series will be released simultaneously for all three major HD formats. Of the two console versions, the demo has just been published and the first feedback coming from users suggests that the PS3 edition has some problems keeping up with its Microsoft twin.

For this reason we have prepared two separate tests to measure the performance: the first relates to the opening sequences that pose various technical challenges to the Xbox 360 and PS3 engine, and the second to the actual gameplay.

Two parallel cutscenes on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. V-sync often causes alarming drops in performance.

Watch on YouTube. At first glance, both versions of the game seem to align with what was seen in Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2. We stand at a frame rate of 30 frames per second with v-sync active: the game is rendered in double buffering, the which means that while the frame is displayed on the screen, the next one is prepared in the background.

This technique allows you to obtain a very clean image without the tearing typical of games without v-sync when you makes a sudden movement of the view that leads to a misalignment of the objects. The downside of this choice is that the game constantly runs at the limit of its capabilities and, in case of problems, there is no room to mask them except by waiting for the next refresh.

This phenomenon is evident when on Xbox360 the frame rate, normally stable at 30 frames per second, suddenly plummets to 20. On PlayStation the problems are even more evident and this leads to more frequent and persistent performance drops compared to the Xbox version. In addition to this, to worsen the situation we also put the minimum frame per second limit which instead of staying at 20, sometimes even drops to 15, with even more evident repercussions on the fluidity of the scene.

Se these data in their dryness tell us how the game behaves when the workload of the engine is completely scripted, they tend to become much more tangible putting the gameplay sessions to the test.

The analysis of the gameplay allows to see how both consoles work at 30 frames per second with v-sync active but very often drops in performance are noticed which on PS3 appear further amplified.

Watch on YouTube. Again the situation is the same: the slowdowns are there on both sides, but it is clearly the PS3 demo that suffers the most. It's a real shame because, besides the pure and simple frame rate, there are very few technical differences between the two versions. Both use a spectacular new lighting system, plus FXAA anti-aliasing that fits beautifully with the game's visual style.

Aside from the slowdowns, the pretty stark feeling we got from the PS3 code is that this is an unfinished build. In scene changes the characters and textures are the victim of frequent pop-ups, otherwise absent on Xbox 360, as well as a strange bug visible in the background of this comparative image that seems to denote a shader or texture compression problem in the PS3 version.

The pop-up of the characters and the textures of the environments is frequent on PS3, whose performances are certainly not at the same level as the competition. We hope that the finishing work will be completed before the official launch. In short, there is certainly a lot of work to be done to make Mass Effect 3 a product worthy of the name it bears on both platforms but it is clear that the PlayStation 3 version is the one that needs the most attention.

From a high-level development team such as BioWare, we cannot expect anything other than a finished product that lives up to the developer's fame. A correspondence that we will put under a careful magnifying glass on the occasion of the final comparative test, possible as soon as we get our hands on the definitive builds of Mass Effect 3.

Translation by Matteo "Elvin" Lorenzetti.

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