Fortuitous circumstance gave me the opportunity to play the (you should pardon the pun) devil out of both demo versions of DMC4, on a gigantic 60″ 1080p Plasma HDTV with superb overall picture quality. Impressions follow. Please let me make one thing very clear. I am, with sincere regret, going to declare a visual favorite, but will clarify that impression as best as possible. That subjective choice on my part is also not intended as any sort of sweeping endorsement of one system over another, or a criticism of the second-place choice. The game looks splendid on both systems and, if the final product lives up to the demo’s promise, should not disappoint.
So? Let’s get started.
First, loading times. These are quite brief in both versions, both in the pre-mission screens and transitioning between areas. No clear favorite can be chosen here as (thus far, for the demo) load times are inconsequential enough to be a non-issue. Bravo Capcom! Further, the PS3 version will reportedly have HDD-installation as an option, almost certainly giving it the overall load-time advantage.
Second, sound. It’s a dead tie, as should be expected really. Gunfire, sword slashes, items breaking, and impact sounds are all suitably meaty and well-suited to the game. If there’s a negative aspect here, it’s Nero’s rather lame hyper-American sounding voice samples. Some of the word choices are, to put it mildly, rather silly. “Get lost?” Why, gentlemen? Why? I think at least the option to hear original Japanese voice samples, at least for the fight sequences, would really be welcome. I’m sure players will get used to the English samples, they’re just a bit weak.
Third, visuals. Here the difference is most stark between the two systems. The PS3 version has a visible blur/softening filter overlaying everything, even cutscenes. The significant benefit is that there is almost no aliasing visible on angled lines, even at very close viewpoints; the negative is that textures on the PS3 version are so softened as to lose visual depth and clarity. The filter appears also to affect overall brightness and black-depth. Darker hues look slightly faded on the PS3 version, and brighter areas may look very mildly washed-out. This said, the lighting is remarkable and manages to be evocative in a pastel-like, almost Thomas Kincaid influenced style. Also, in one particular scene, Nero’s face looks much more humanlike (if stylized) on the PS3 than the 360, due to smoothing.
The 360’s visuals are, in a word, starker. Blacks are blacker, brights cleaner and higher-contrast for the most part. Diminution of texture depth is nowhere to be found here. Ridged textures look ridged; you expect to run your hand down them and feel the grain of the fabric, or whatnot. Enemies look mostly the same but Nero himself shows detail more clearly, especially in a particular cutscene, and the background surfaces have more visual impact overall. The negative, predictably, is a general lack of smoothing and anti-aliasing. In the aforementioned later cutscene, when Nero looks up towards a falling object, his face on 360 looks very much like a computer-generated image, losing some of its clarity of form in the polygon edges. Lighting still manages to be impressive, in a starker way with slightly less (sometimes, mostly in two outdoor wide-angle camera pans) of an ambient feel.
I don’t like the fact that I have a visual preference here at all, as I would have preferred both presentations be a dead tie with no clear victor. I have to say, despite the aliasing, that I do like the 360’s visually sharper presentation better, but the difference is thoroughly minor. The DMC4 demo is gorgeous on both systems, with plenty of impressive light-effects on Nero, enemies, and background objects (force fields and such). Assuming the final product holds interest as well as the demo, no-one should feel bad about buying DMC4, regardless of platform. That is an important assumption, however.
Good news for the gameplay (for those who haven’t sampled it) is that DMC4 feels rather more like earlier DMC games, in that the emphasis is more on having fun being creatively sadistic than worrying about hair-fine dodging tolerances and extreme difficulty. The first few enemies, if anything, are rather too easy, only occasionally flailing out with a single melee attack. Ice-based enemies in the later part of the demo have defensive, healing, and area-attack animations which make them more interesting, but (encouragingly) the game per demo doesn’t fall victim to one of God of War’s very few flaws – specifically, giving the player a ton of cool moves and combos, then making them mostly useless against certain enemies and bosses. In fact, the single boss available in the demo requires use of a special ability the player has gained en route to the fight. The demo is overall fun and replayable, and should nicely serve the purpose of getting players interested in the final game. Try it if you haven’t!