It would be hard to make an argument that Valve isn't looking more favorably towards Sony than Microsoft with the upcoming release of their environment-puzzler Portal 2. Even though you might expect a company like Valve to remain staunchly loyal to its PC roots, statements made over the past year have made it abundantly clear that if the developer had to choose a side, it would undoubtedly be that of the PlayStation 3. But have no fears Xbox owners, as Portal 2's writer has revealed that the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game will feature identical visuals, and have access to the exact same content.
After Valve head Gabe Newell took the stage at E3 and shoved past criticisms under the rug by proclaiming that the PS3 would offer the best console version of Portal 2, Xbox owners began to scratch their heads, and wonder what a statement like that could mean for the eventual release of the game.
We've since learned that the unique position held by Sony will manifest itself in cross-platform connectivity between PS3 and the PC, and all new levels of conglomeration between Sony's console and Valve's digital distribution service.
The conspiracy theorists out there may have already began to spread the rumors that the Xbox would receive the inferior version of the game come release, and that this would be just the beginning of the PS3's preferential treatment. This won't be the case, at least where visuals and content are concerned, according to Portal 2's writer Chet Faliszek.
The internet loves its side-by-side comparisons when it comes to multi-platform releases, but Faliszek told CVG that the two versions will be virtually indistinguishable:
"If you bought the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions and put them side by side you can see they're identical games. The actual content is the same too across all platforms"
It would have come as a shock to see Valve put out a game that didn't offer the best possible experience on every platform, so loyal fans likely won't be surprised by the announcement. Suspicions may have been based around some comments made by Newell in the past, accusing Microsoft of turning their Live service into a "train wreck" due to their restrictions and controls.
The passion that valve has for delivering on their promise to the customer, and offering free patches and upgrades for purchased games is nothing new to the PC game industry. Microsoft's digital marketplace follows the beat of a different drummer, and the discrepancies between the two attitudes is something that Faliszek took some time to reiterate:
""With the PS3 we can update more often, we don't have to have someone else gate that ability. We can play between the PC and PS3 players because we can update more frequently...That's our thing, we don't want to hurt [either PS3 and PC users playing cross-platform] and now that we can update more frequently it's easier for us to avoid that.
"Sony has been really great to work with; they've been really supportive and helpful for us to do this...So from that end as gamers we always look at what we would want and how we wanted it and on the PS3 we've been able to deliver a lot of the things we would like to see."
Sony's free online service PSN is no doubt one of the things that makes this new relationship between the two companies one that works, and it's becoming more and more apparent that Valve really seems to want us to buy our copies of Portal 2 for the PS3. While Faliszek's statements serve to compliment Sony's way of doing business while reassuring Xbox owners that they won't be getting a raw deal, the fact is that more questions have to be asked.
Since the two consoles have been launched, fans of either have been at war, with PS3 owners shouting that their system's hardware will always deliver a better performance if the developers only took the time to code for it specifically. Xbox 360 owners have countered that their claims were either false, or that their system is for one reason or another preferred by development studios.
If Valve has clearly stated that their intent is to give the PS3 the definitive version of Portal 2, and are now claiming that the final version will be virtually identical, then what does that mean for the PS3's case? Valve clearly knows what they're doing, so is it their integrity alone that is keeping the PS3 version from making the Xbox look like child's play? If you've got your own theories, we'd love to hear them.
We don't have the answers, but we do know that we can count on the same singleplayer and co-op gameplay on any console we choose when Portal 2 is released for the Xbox 360, PS3, PC, and Mac on April 20, 2011.