The Witcher 2 Xbox 360 – To Install or Not To Install?

TheWitcher2_Xbox360

The Witcher 2 makes its Enhanced Edition Xbox 360 debut next week. An early copy has already landed here, and so far the game is showing itself to be a fine console adaptation indeed. I’m only just beginning what has been heralded as a huge and massively replayable RPG so a full review is still to come. But I would like to take a minute to first talk about the optional HDD install and whether or not it’s worth the large space requirement.

The Witcher 2 comes on two discs, each one eating up 7.7GB on an install. I only have a tiny 20GB hard drive on my Xbox 360 so installing both would occupy virtually my entire system capacity. I didn’t have that kind of space to work with when I first booted the game so I skipped the install, despite a prompt recommending that I do so. I played through the prologue and an early portion of the first chapter from the disc alone, but today I decided to clear out my HDD to make room to at least install the first disc to see if it would result in a performance boost. I had to delete around 15-20 old XBLA games to make it happen, but eventually I freed up 8GB to squeeze the game into. 10-15 minutes later, the game was installed.

It’s important to note that without an install, the game’s performance is solid to begin with. Load times haven’t been an issue, the frame rate, as far as I’ve been able to tell, maintains a steady clip and graphically the game is absolutely gorgeous. CD Projekt RED’s ability to squeeze this level of scale and detail out of the aging Xbox 360 hardware without compromising quality is highly impressive, no doubt.

One blemish I was noticing with alarmingly high frequency, however, was texture pop-in (and maybe a little screen tearing). I’m not talking about minor stuff like tufts of grass and tree foliage–all games of this size have things like that load in as the player moves through the world. No, I’m talking about textures on characters and level geometry, mostly when seen up close and personal during dialogue sequences.

Throughout the entire prologue, it seemed like at every scene change I was seeing the texture of a background or a character’s face or outfit load into focus after a split second of fuzziness. I’ve certainly seen far worse in the Halo series and basically all games powered by Unreal Engine 3, but it was a minor detail that was becoming more of a distraction the longer I played, especially since everything else around it looked so fantastic. So I decided to give the HDD install a shot.

After a couple hours playing from the HDD install, it appears that, so far, this little immersion-breaker has cleared up. (Update: I’ve played over three more hours since initial publish time and saw only one minor instance of cutscene texture pop-in. Installing the game has made a noticeable difference.) I don’t really detect monumental performance improvement anywhere else, but it has certainly cut down on the texture pop and screen tearing. If that’s all the install does, I’ll gladly dedicate nearly half of my HDD to this game, seeing as texture pop-in is one of my biggest gamer pet peeves. Now I just have to figure out where I’m going to install the second disc when the time comes.

So, if you have a larger HDD to work with, I definitely recommend installing The Witcher 2 first before diving in, that way you can enjoy the journey as blemish free as possible from the very beginning. But if texture pop-in doesn’t bother you much and HDD space is precious, you can easily skip the install without losing out on anything else. The game runs just fine as is.

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About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!