Generally speaking, if you own an Xbox 360 with a hard drive, it's smart to install games to cut down on load times. In the case of Battlefield 3, the game's visuals will take a significant hit if you don't install on your 360. A second disc will include HD textures to install, without which the game is "standard-def."
"[The install] does make a difference, yes, absolutely," executive producer Patrick Bach explained to IGN. "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."
Bach says that the texture-specific install isn't really a unique concept, just foreign to the Xbox 360. He compares it to standard install procedures on the PC and PlayStation 3 versions of games. "That's new for Xbox 360, but it's not a new idea for the gaming industry as a whole," he said. "No one has really tried to do it properly, so us doing it will create question marks."
While modern Xbox 360 consoles are generally equipped with sizable hard drives, there are plenty of models with puny 4GB drives--or no hard drives at all. These gamers will have to buy one of Microsoft's pricey proprietary hard drives, or just squint more while playing Battlefield 3.
Battlefield 3 releases next week, October 25, for PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.