Which Version Of GTA IV Should You Buy? We Compare The PS3 and 360 Versions

It was inevitable. With the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 competing for the "next-gen" first place spot, both armed with Grand Theft Auto IV shipping day and date, nitpicking comparisons between each version was expected from vocal fans. Rockstar Games has commented multiple times that both versions are identical, minus a few platform specific features and Xbox 360 exclusives.

We've played both versions of GTA IV—quite a bit, actually. We've noticed a handful of differences, some of which you know, some which you may not, many of them hair-splitting. We break it down, from frame rate to controls, after the break.

Installation
The PlayStation 3 version has a mandatory 3.4 GB hard drive installation that will be the longest 7 minutes and 20 seconds of your life if you're chomping at the bit to play. It's initially an annoyance, but PS3 owners will welcome it. There is no option to install the game to an Xbox 360 hard drive.

Frame Rate
The Grand Theft Auto series has never been synonymous with a rock solid frame rate, something it generally seems to get a pass for. While GTA IV is smoother in general than it's predecessors, it can expectedly suffer during chaos. The Xbox 360 version seemed capable of achieving a smoother frame rate, peaking higher in certain circumstances, such as in confined spaces or during light traffic, but both versions seemed to regularly run at a similar clip.

Pop-In & Loading
With a huge, seamless streaming world, data must be constantly read from the disc. The PS3 version, with its required HDD install, loads missions a couple seconds faster and decreases pop-in. The Xbox 360 version can suffer from some very noticeable texture loading, as things like trees, vehicles and building signs will regularly pop-in as one tools about town. It can be distracting, especially during high speed chases, and the PS3 version isn't entirely immune from it, but it's not a game killing problem.

Graphics
The two versions are so close to identical, visually, that putting together a comparison was a challenge. Initially, it appeared that the PS3 suffered from more noticeable aliasing than its 360 counterpart, but after eyeballing the final retail copy, they appear to be on par. I noticed that the paint filter applied to cover some of the game's imperfections appeared a tiny bit muddier on the PS3 version, with night time scenes seeing more streakiness. Some of these minor complaints may be the result of our particular television settings and require the finest of fine tooth combs to assess.

Downloadable Content
The Xbox 360 version is announced to have two exclusive downloadable content packs for purchase. Details on what will be contained in those two exclusive batches of DLC are sparse, so we can't judge what they'll bring to the table, nor do we know if the PlayStation 3 version will eventually get its own DLC from Rockstar. If you're looking for more GTA IV, and you may very well be after you've completed the core game, you're going to want the 360 version.

Achievements
The Xbox 360 version has the requisite list of Achievements exclusive to the platform, creative and challenging goals that sometimes go beyond the regular gaming experience. However, as with other GTA games, stat-tracking for kills, stunt jumps, and the dozens of extras will keep completionists on the PS3 side happy.

Motion Controls
The PS3 version has optional SIXAXIS motion controls for piloting helicopters, steering boats and doing motorcycle tricks. You'll probably leave it off, just like I did.

Good Vibrations
GTA IV supports vibration in the Xbox 360 controller and the DualShock 3, so PS3 owners won't be left in the force feedback lurch.

Final Thoughts
The good news for Grand Theft Auto fans is that whatever platform you have chosen as your own, GTA IV excels on both. They are almost evenly matched, feature for feature. Gamers will have to decide which is more important to them, a slightly more technically sound experience on the PlayStation 3 or downloadable content and Xbox Live integration on the Xbox 360.

If this were a personal decision, I'd have chosen the PlayStation 3 edition, mostly based on my preference for the DualShock controller and the performance edge. However, one thing that we have yet to experience is how well the PlayStation Network will handle the online portions of GTA IV, an extremely important consideration. I place less of an emphasis on features like Achievements and Gamerscore, but appreciate how well crafted and important these features are to others.

In the end, each version stands on its own, with the only downside to the differences being that those invested in their particularly backed console will expend so much effort focusing on something far less important than the game itself.


Comments

    I think the PS3 version has uncompressed audio. You wont notice it unless you have 7.1 channel speakers

    I'm in the fortunate position of at least playing if not receiving both editions, due to my line of work. However, well before I was in this position my money was down on the 360 version. This is primarily based on rumble, DLC and... that's it. Multiplayer isn't a deciding factor due my poor broadband, though I think LIVE may be better equipped to handle this than PSN. This isn't due to any long testing rather based on what I've read here and elsewhere. After reading the above breakdown my view that GTA IV will be technically excellent on both machines has been solidified, though my personal choice still remains.

    So there you go, Rockstar and Microsoft. My $150 is with the both of you on this. See you at the midnight launch.

    one console is half the price of the other. 'nuff said.

    The PS3 version is uncompressed and runs at a native 1080p Full HD resolution.

    The X360 version uses the Anti-aliasing process to minimize distortion artifacts in the Video signal. This is needed because it was compressed to all hell. Without the use of Anti-aliasing in the 360 version, it would look like a distorted, pixelated mess.

    Here is a direct quote from Rockstar co-founder and president, Sam Houser. He touches on disc space issues as well as graphical comparison:

    "One of the problems with the 360, and it affects games like Grand Theft Auto if you think about how much content we put in the actual machine, is the fact that they don't have a significantly larger storage medium than the previous systems. It's a slightly bigger DVD disc.

    "I think that the 360 is going to have to get 'round this issue we're talking about. I can think of various ways they can do it. Hopefully, they're going to adopt one of those in the next year or so, because it's going to become more of an issue. If we're filling up the disc right now, where are we going? It's not like our games are going to get any smaller. I think that issue's on the table with a bunch of games right now. I'm sure they'll come through with an intelligent solution."

    Houser's right when he states that the issue is affecting other games. It has been claimed that the size of a DVD was problematic for the devs over at Bizarre making Project Gotham Racing 4, while Epic's VP, Mark Rein, has stated in the past that the 360 version of Unreal Tournament III may not have as much content as the PS3 and PC versions due to storage limitations.

    A DVD holds up to 9GB of information, while a dual-layered Blu-ray disc holds up to 50GB.

    Of course, going by the length of time between San Andreas and GTA IV, we're probably looking at four years before the next full GTA game hits. It's not unreasonable to think we'll be into the life cycle of a new Xbox by that point.

    Houser also mentioned the subtle differences between the graphics of GTA IV on the PS3 and 360, saying (paradoxically), "We're at a point now where the games pretty much look identical side by side. There's a slight difference in the way they look. I think that's to do with really low-level technical stuff that I'm not the guy to explain. The 360 games have a certain look to them; PS3 games have a certain look to them. I like the way [the PS3] renders. There's a certain kind of softness without being blurry -- some warmth to it -- and then there's a certain more clinical element to how the 360 looks."

    After a commment like that, directly from Rockstar, I'm going with the PS3 version. It's a no-brainer!!!

    According to the IGN review, the PS3 one looks better, runs better, loads faster. I'm going with that one

    I think IGN gave the PS3 the edge in graphics, but hey its a slight edge anyways i think well all be too busy to notice....

    Well maybe Sony and Microsoft will reach a deal in using Xbox Live network for PS3 users with GTA IV.

    It would make perfect sense and not only that Im sure the old Blue Ray Deal from Sony allowing Microsoft to use Blue Ray drive would have a load of weight in this decision.

    Sure Theres the cost of such decision but both of the comanies can well afford this.

    I have both an Xbox 360 and a PS3. I would buy games available for both consoles for Xbox 360.

    Superior controller, Xbox Live and achievments makes the gameplay so much better. I miss those things on the PS3.

    Any game that requires more than 9 GB of data only has lazy developers.

    I hate to have to install games on PS3 and then apply an update that take equal time to download and apply.

    The vast majority of my friends own 360s rather than PS3s, therefore to play with my friends online I'll be getting the 360 version.

    It's a very simple decision.

    More content later = more value

    360 Version here...yet, another PS3 pass, but at least I have a nice multimedia hub.

    I work at a games retailer and it's very much the same. Both have the same online features but it will be interesting to see whether the ps3 network will be able to match the stability of xbox live.

    I'm going ps3 just because of the performance side of it. Anti-aliasing and the whole idea of downloading some of the game to hard drive really does make a difference with this game, with the massive textured map and all.

    "The PS3 version is uncompressed and runs at a native 1080p Full HD resolution." sorry to inform you but gta 4 is 720p native resolution, however it can be upscaled to 1080p. God only knows why you have a rant about how dvd's have a small storage capacity, when Sam Houser hints that "they'll come through with an intelligent solution" for the small storage capacity

    "After a commment like that, directly from Rockstar, I'm going with the PS3 version. It's a no-brainer!!!"

    This should read

    "After commment's like that, comming directly from Rockstar, I'm going with the PS3 version. It's a no-brainer!!!"

    superdynamite, where do you get your information that the 360 version is 'compressed to all hell' and that the PS3 version is uncompressed native 1080P??
    What do you even mean by that? Uncompressed textures?

    As far as I know, neither the 360 or the PS3 version are 1080P and are most likely both 720P.
    As to the disc size issue, does the PS3 version even use more than 9GB that would fit on a standard DVD? the install is only 3GB.

    And what are the distortion artefacts in the video signal that you talk about??

    @SUPERDYNAMITE

    PS3's version runs at 630p...

    XBOX360's version runs at 720p...

    http://www.neowin.net/forum/index.php?showtopic=633901

    PS3: 630p with 2xAA at FP16 Lighting
    X360: 720p with 2xAA with FP10 Lighting
    PS3 has a "softer" image because it is lower resolution being upscaled to 720p. 360 version is sharper because it is being rendered natively at that resolution.

    I'm quite a PS3 fanboy, but able to afford both systems. To me on intial tests the 360 version looks far superior. I've heard that the PS3 is 620p upscaled and on my 42" Plasma this looks to be the case.

    I bought the PS3 version, not the 360 and am slightly regreting this now.

    SUPERDYNAMITE

    You are wrong. The PS3 DOES NOT RUN at 1080p native resolution for GTA.

    Actually, the PS3 version runs at 640p, while the 360 version runs 27 720p.

    Quote "If this were a personal decision, I'd have chosen the PlayStation 3 edition, mostly based on my preference for the DualShock controller and the performance edge."

    Quote “The Xbox 360 version seemed capable of achieving a smoother frame rate, peaking higher in certain circumstances, such as in confined spaces or during light traffic, but both versions seemed to regularly run at a similar clip."

    "Quote “I noticed that the paint filter applied to cover some of the game's imperfections appeared a tiny bit muddier on the PS3 version, with night time scenes seeing more streakiness. Some of these minor complaints may be the result of our particular television settings and require the finest of fine tooth combs to assess."

    So how did the PS3 come out with a performance edge? His stated the obvious in his review and then goes the other way on his PERSONAL opinion? I guess fanboyism exists in all of us. Xbox 360 is a unreliable piece of S#!^ and the PS3 is an overhyped piece of S#!^ with less superior games. Either way each one of us owns a piece of $#!^. PC gaming anyone?

    I'd be right with you on the PC gamin, IZZY. But I think the final decision came down to personal preference, and I've always loved GTA on the ps2. By the way, PS3 MGS4 bundle very soon! Booya!

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