The Witcher 3 Next-Gen review: Geralt returns to his best on PS5 and Xbox Series X
The Witcher 3 Next Gen is finally available! Accessible free of charge on PS5, Xbox Series X, and PC (but also on PS4, Xbox One, and Switch), this version exploits the power of current consoles and the latest graphics technologies on PC. Is this major patch successful or without interest?
No need to present The Witcher 3 anymore. Just like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild or more recently Elden Ring, the RPG from studio CD Projekt RED is one of those titles that have revolutionized open-world gaming. When it was released in May 2015, the game quickly established itself as the new benchmark in the genre.
The Witcher 3 marked its difference thanks to its rich and detailed universe, high-end graphics (thanks to the proprietary RED Engine), and an exciting story marked by war, misery, and fear, all carried by complex characters. In addition, the game avoided falling into the pitfalls of the open world by offering extremely well-written side quests, real little stories within the big one.
Two years after the eventful release of Cyperpunk 2077 and multiple postponements, the next-gen version of The Witcher 3 finally lands on PS5, Xbox Series X, and PC this Wednesday, December 14, 2022. Note that this is an update totally free update for owners of the original game. It is also available on PS4, Xbox One, and Switch, but with limited new graphics. So, are we in front of a successful return of the witcher?
GARGANTUAN CONTENT… WITH NO REAL NEWS
Before discussing the technical part of this update, let’s first focus on the content of this ultimate edition of The Witcher 3. First of all, know that this version includes all DLC (armor skins and weapons, side missions, and map packs for Gwent) released in the 3rd part of the series. In addition, the two major expansions of the title, namely Heart of Stone and Blood and Wine, are included.
The only new “in-game” content is a quest to earn armor and weapons inspired by the Netflix series starring Henry Cavill … And that’s it. Suffice it to say that if you are looking for new content in spades, you will have to go your way. No, the major additions are unsurprisingly on the technical side.
THE WITCHER 3 IN THE ERA OF RAY TRACING AND 4K
With this next-gen update, CD Projekt RED wants above all to offer players the definitive version of The Witcher 3. It is obviously on PS5 and Xbox Series X / S that the evolution is the most significant. So goodbye to the 1080P and 30 FPS definition of the PS4 and Xbox One versions, and hello to 4K and Ray Tracing. Like many games, the title offers two different display modes:
- Ray Tracing mode: native 4K, 30 FPS, and Ray Tracing enabled
- Performance mode: 4K dynamic and 60 FPS
Again, the choice will come down to your preference, although we strongly advise you to opt for Performance mode. After hundreds of hours exploring the Continent at 30 FPS on PS4 and Xbox One, enjoying The Witcher 3 environments at a stable 60 FPS is a constant pleasure. On PC, the new graphics mode is included in the settings, coexisting with the “old” The Witcher 3.
IMPRESSIVE SHADOWS IN RAY TRACING… AND SHY REFLECTIONS
The contributions of Ray Tracing are struggling to compensate for the 30 FPS limit in our eyes, but this mode still offers really convincing reflections and lighting effects. The difference is also obvious between the two modes, as you can see from the screenshots available below.
Indoors in particular, the sunlight diffuses in a much more natural way, while the chandeliers, torches, and fireplaces generate additional and credible shadows. Outside, the contributions of Ray Tracing are less perceptible, except near a water point where certain elements of the decor are reflected. But again, this is a detail that you don’t necessarily pay attention to while playing.
Anyway, the two modes will satisfy aficionados of quality and fluidity. Especially since from a global point of view, the game benefits from new 4K textures of great beauty. The sky and water have been reworked to offer a more realistic rendering, while the vegetation is much denser and more detailed. And thanks to a significantly greater view distance, gamers can stare at the horizon without worrying about things suddenly appearing on screen. Additionally, cities and towns enjoy greater crowd density. Novigrad is teeming with life!
Finally, the 3D models gain in finesse and detail, whether monsters, weapons or armor without forgetting the dwellings. Nevertheless, we still feel the weight of the years on some aspects, such as certain weather effects (fog for example), the stiffness of the character animations, and dated facial expressions. But once again, these pitfalls are far from erasing the artistic direction and the always exceptional atmosphere of the title.
WELCOME GAMEPLAY IMPROVEMENTS
With this update, CD Projekt RED has also endeavored to dust off the aging gameplay of the title. Be careful, do not expect a revolution. The studio was content to offer some improvements to Quality of Life (Quality of life in the language of Molière). Concerning the confrontations, for example, the experience remains fundamentally the same and will always consist of juggling between dodging, use of signs, and sword attacks to overcome his enemies.
The fights gain flexibility with the possibility of quickly throwing your signs. Until then, it was necessary to go through the famous wheel of signs to change fate. During this time, the game was paused. This mechanism had the annoying tendency to break the rhythm of fights. Now, by pressing the right trigger, you can trigger one of the five spells available by pressing the corresponding key (ex: R2 + X to cast Aard).
As much as to say it immediately, one tangles the brushes at the beginning, but once the various combinations are in the head, the combats want much more dynamic. Note that like all the new options integrated with this update, it remains optional and nothing prevents you from keeping the old selection wheel.
The camera also benefits from a welcome overhaul. Players can now opt for a new over-the-shoulder view, both in combat and exploration. We immediately feel the influence of recent titles like God of War Ragnarok or The Last of Us. The idea here is to offer a more modern and more cinematic experience. But again, you can freely go back to the old version if you like.
Players have additional options for customizing HUD, such as the ability to dynamically hide the minimap and out-of-combat objectives. It is also possible to apply several filters on the map. Handy if you can’t stand the avalanche of question marks on the map. It must be said that there are many!
Another good point, the game supports cross-progression. In other words, players can transfer their PS4/Xbox One saves to PS5/Xbox Series X (be careful, the platforms must be part of the same ecosystem). This will require linking your GOG account with your PSN/Xbox account from the Rewards tab on the main menu. Finally, and this will only concern PS5 players, the adaptive triggers and the haptic feedback of the DualSense are also in the game.
A SOLID UPDATE, WITHOUT BEING REVOLUTIONARY
With this next-gen update, CD Projekt RED offers players the opportunity to (re)discover The Witcher 3 in the best conditions. Graphically, first of all, the game benefits from a welcome facelift thanks to the contribution of 4K, Ray Tracing, and 60 FPS on consoles. In addition, the Polish studio took the opportunity to improve certain systems and offer more flexibility, whether in combat or in HUD and the interface.
In addition and thanks to the SSDs of the new consoles, loading times have melted like snow in the sun. Fast travel is “really” fast and you can now go from Skellige to Novigrad without having to put down an RTT.
Nevertheless, all is not rosy in the land of the witcher. Some flaws present in the original title are still present (we think of the somewhat stiff animations). Also, PC gamers encounter lots of graphical bugs and performance issues. And on the console, the situation is not much better. During our first hour of play on PS5, we had the right to three crashes, one of which resulted in the deletion of saves. We, therefore, hope that an update will come to correct… this update.