Early test reports are finding that Grand Theft Auto IV is only running at 630P on the PlayStation 3—falling short of hi def—while the game runs at 720P on the Xbox 360. Clearly, the PlayStation version must look worse, right? It's not that simple. But the basic explanation is easy enough to understand.
You know 720P (along with 1080P) as "high definition" content. What 720P really means is that 720 lines of resolution are displayed on your television in "progressive" format—meaning all at once.
So if GTA IV is running at only 630P on the PS3, that does mean PS3 gamers are seeing 90 less lines of resolution—or quite a bit from a relative standpoint. And it's fast-approaching the Wii's standard def, 480p output.
The bottom line is that resolution does matter, but the more lines of resolution you add will depreciate in value. There's an interesting stat that always sticks in my head: From only about 3 metres away, most people cannot tell a 720p image from a 1080p image on a 42" television.
I'm not sure how well I could differentiate a 630P signal from a 720P signal from 10 feet away. But I'm sure that, given large enough televisions and sharp enough eyes, some of us could. Especially in a game context.
But what we'd be overlooking is that eyes-on reports show that Rockstar has taken the processing power formerly spent on resolution and added it to filters (and maybe even lighting). If GTA IV feels warmer or softer on PS3, that's probably why. And that's where taste triumphs numbers.
(If you're having a tough time wrapping your head around the filter concept, mess with the settings in Mass Effect.)
At the end of the day, both versions look good. But the PS3 used methods other than raw resolution to get there. Of course sharpness and detail is an important—that will be the biggest bonus of 720P. But in an era when we're past merely counting polygons on the screen to measure graphical quality, we shouldn't blow small numbers out of proportion. In short, it's not just the size of your P, but how you use it that matters.
And to see what we thought of the versions side-by-side, check out our impressions.
Neverending Upscaling/Resolutions/AA etc Thread #2 *Rules: post: #619 * [B3DForum via Eurogamer]