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With so many games streaming data from the DVD on the fly, do we actually see any improvements to gameplay as well as loading times? Video captures of both gameplay run-throughs allowed us to get frame-accurate loading times (rounded up to the nearest half-second) and the comparison of the selected footage could also be used to judge any differences in game performance.
As the vast majority of the userbase would be running NXE from the 20GB hard disk, that's what we did too.
Literally a whole new layout of the Xbox 360 dashboard and the inclusion of Avatars and the ability to add games to your hard drive. Also added was the marketplace to your dashboard and The Xbox Guide, allowing for a lot more advertising.
In addition, a newer improved party system enables up to 8 players of different games or similar, if you so choose, to chat and interact.
It's basically had three years of everyday heavy use, and for the purposes of this test, we left just 7GB free - in short, we're filling the hard disk to capacity, just to make things even more challenging. Install Size: 6.7GB Epic's Gears of War 2 is an excellent example of a game designed from the ground up to minimise disc loading.
As the opportunity to install to HDD is obviously a compelling argument for upgrading the hard disk (and probably a key reason for adding the feature in the first place) we also did some tests on the default 120GB drive, unused and unloved since I bought the Elite, but perhaps now worth a bit more respect. It loads its campaigns while the cinematics are running - a trick also used in Play Station 3 titles including Uncharted: Drake's Fortune.
The only other PS3 comparison worth mentioning is the question of install and deletion times.There's nothing in the way of on-the-fly geometry or texture streaming going on - Valve opted for discrete loading of each section of gameplay as and when it is needed, and that kind of PC-styled approach clearly favours the hard disk installation.In-game performance is totally identical as a result, too.It also forces you to manage hard disk space efficiently, especially if you have a lower-capacity drive in your PS3.There's also the fact that once you've deleted your game install, as you inevitably will in order to get more mandatory installs onto your hard disk, you'll need to wait 25 minutes if, for example, you fancy a one-off late-night blast on Devil May Cry 4 sometime in the future.