If you want Battlefield 3 to look anything like those glossy marketing shots, you'll need to invest in an Xbox 360 hard drive. DICE has revealed that the game comes with the option to install high quality textures, streaming them from memory; opt out, and you'll have to make do with somewhat smudgier visuals.
Gamerzines picked up the story yesterday, speaking to Battlefield 3 producer Patrick Liu. "There's a voluntary install on the 360," he said. "I think Rage did it as well, where you can install content to stream higher res textures. We're pushing that technology to the limit, and compared to our competitors, I would argue that we're the best looking game."
DICE is braced for criticism over the feature. "I think the controversy about this is that we actually let you do it on 360 for once," added executive producer Patrick Bach. "So what it does is it gives you the same abilities, kind of, as the PC and PS3. You can actually stream information from the hard drive."
"That's new for Xbox 360, but it's not a new idea for the gaming industry as a whole. No one has really tried to do it properly, so us doing it will create question marks."
So just how necessary is texture installation? "It does make a difference, yes, absolutely. The whole engine is based around streaming textures, streaming terrain and a lot of other content."
"The thing with the 360 is that you need to be able to give consumers a game where you don't have to install it on a hard drive, because there are 360s without a hard drive. So we need to give you the option of installing it, rather than just demanding it. You could call it a 'standard-def' version for the 360 if you don't have a hard-drive."
"It's not the engine that demands it, but that it has the ability to create a more detailed experience. We can't use more memory of the actual machine itself, we need to flush that memory with new information depending on where you are in the game.
"What we let you do is let you have high-res information that gets streamed in and out of memory at all times, and that gives you a more detailed, varied and vivid experience on all platforms. We don't want to take that away from 360 players.
"We're really trying to push the limits of what we can do on the consoles and the PC. Our goal is to see how we can utilise as many of the systems that you actually have in your machine that some people haven't utilised before. Some (developers) just do it like, if it doesn't fit into memory we just make a lesser game. We don't do that. For us, it's about how we can give you the most game ever even though the hardware is over five years old."
The Battlefield 3 beta has been criticised for the quality of its textures, but DICE insists that it's not representative of the final retail build.