DICE released first footage of Battlefield 3 running on a console last week, joining Jimmy Fallon on NBC's Late Night show for a spot of urban combat. While intensely good-looking, the video fell a little short of the amazingness of the PC build aired at this year's E3. Some fans were irked, questioning executive producer Patrick Bach's earlier claim that consumers "will not see any big differences between the versions".
Tensions came to a head over the weekend when rendering architect Johan Andersson lashed out at complaints on Twitter, revealing in the process that the new Battlefield will run at 30 frames a second and support a native 720p resolution, tops. The cutback from the PC version's 1080p, 60 frames a second performance is, Andersson argues, necessary in order to conserve resources for other aspects of the game, like vehicles and terrain destruction.
Andersson makes a solid case, but we'd go one further - we're not sure the full 1080p, 60 frames dream is desirable in videogames, period. Here are four reasons why the Battlefield 3 benchmark on consoles should keep you happy.
1. You're not a pro gamer
We're going to go out on a limb here and assume that if you're reading this, you aren't a practitioner of e-sports. You play your games to relax and socialise, not confront others with the dire and devastating extent of their manual and intellectual incompetence. And this means you don't really, in practice, need your game to move like the offspring of a bobsled and a Peregine falcon, or look so crisp you can pick sweat molecules off the butt of every gun. That's the kind of edge that matters in tournaments, not living rooms.
2. Tech doesn't equal pretty
There's a deeply entrenched and troublesome conviction that the more technology you add to a game, the more handsome it gets. The idea needs to die urgently. When we're assessing a game's visual offering, overall art design counts for vastly more than how many pixels the engine pinches out, or how many frames of chrome shader it can serve up without disembowelling the processor. The majority of the most attractive titles on Xbox 360 - including Gears of War 2, Bioshock, Red Dead Redemption and Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood - have native resolutions of 720p and below.
3. It sucks away development resources
As Andersson makes plain, bouncing a game up to god-level performance is a laborious feat, and all the extra energy has to come from somewhere. Shove your engine over the threshold, and you'll find yourself with that much less resource to throw at object physics, or AI parameters, or any of the many things that tangibly change the equation at ground level. In a game as "busy" as Battlefield, the consequences could be disastrous.
4. PCs are always a step ahead
We suspect the ire over Battlefield 3's "sub par" performance on console stems from a refusal to accept one of the industry's most fundamental truisms. The best PC hardware will always trump contemporary console hardware. It's a fact of life. Console specifications are fixed to allow developers to craft games for the broadest possible audience, whereas PC users can continue to upgrade their machines years after purchase. Accordingly, it's unrealistic to expect console software to match or exceed top tier PC titles even at the beginning of a generation, let alone the best part of a decade after the consoles in question hit shelves.
Care to disagree? Let us know why you absolutely point-blank need 1080p and 60 frames a second in your game below.