Final Fantasy XIII has finally been released in the U.S., so now the question is which version is better - PS3 or Xbox 360? I've played a few hours into both, and even early on the differences are pretty apparent. Unfortunately for Xbox 360 fans, the PS3 version is clearly superior.
In terms of gameplay and game content, the two versions are pretty much identical. There are some rumblings that some unnecessary frames from some cinematics have been cut from the 360 version, but a second of video here or there doesn't make that big of a difference to the overall experience, so I don't consider it a fault. The core gameplay is exactly the same, so no difference here.
A bigger problem is that the PS3 version looks significantly better than the Xbox 360 version in both in-game graphics and pre-rendered cinematics. In a reverse of what usually happens in multiplatform titles, the 360 version is kind of blurry and soft while the PS3 version is much sharper and detailed. The environments are mostly comparable, though there is some loss of texture detail on the 360 version, but the character models are noticeably different. On the PS3 the characters have actual skin texture. On 360 their skin is just flat. On PS3, the hair is much smoother and nice looking. On 360 the hair (particularly for cover girl Lightning) is kind of an ugly jagged mess. The clear visual winner is the PS3 version.
Load times are very close between the two. Lens of Truth (a website that directly compares games and features video examples) found the PS3 version loaded faster. My personal experience showed the 360 (with the game installed to the HDD) loaded slightly faster. Maybe my launch 60GB PS3 is slowing down. I don't know. The difference was all of a second or two, though, so it doesn't really matter.
In the end, even though pretty much everything else is equal, visuals are really the only thing that matters in this type of game - they didn't spend 5 years making everything look pretty for nothing, after all - so the PS3 version is clearly the superior one. It doesn't mean the Xbox 360 version is bad - it still looks absolutely amazing (except for Lightning's hair) and is worth playing - but the PS3 has the advantage here and is the version to get if you have a choice.
For a great, in-depth overview of the graphical differences, head over to the Lens of Truth Final Fantasy XIII Head-2-Head.
Image © Square-Enix