Bringing Geralt to a New Audience – The Witcher 2: Enhanced Edition Hands-On at PAX East 2012
The jaw-dropping video above (seriously, watch it in 1080p) is where my experience with The Witcher 2: Enhanced Edition started at PAX East. As someone who had played The Witcher 2 on PC already, I was skeptical of this “Enhanced Edition” being anything more than a low grade port to the 360. As someone who had played The Witcher 2 on PC already, I should have had more faith, because this is CD Projekt RED we’re talking about. The new intro video was my first indication that a lot of effort went into updating the game to the Enhanced Edition, but it certainly wasn’t my last.
I started my hands-on time with an assault on a castle during a time when Geralt is still in the employ of King Foltest. The basic controls have been carried over to the console without issue, but the menus have been refined to take advantage of the trigger and bumper buttons of the 360 controller. Typically such menus are ported without much thought, but the adjustment makes the console version’s menus just as useable as (if not more so than) the PC’s. The camera was adjusted as well; it can be controlled manually with the right stick as with most games, but if left alone will auto-adjust behind Geralt as he moves for a better view.
Here you can see a graphical comparison between the 360 and PC from Gamespot.
Another aspect of the game that impressed me as I leaped around slaying soldiers was just how good The Witcher 2: Enhanced Edition looks on Xbox 360. It doesn’t equal – or even rival – the PC version in terms of visual fidelity, but it’s one of the best looking 360 titles I’ve ever seen. The color palette used on 360 appears a little more washed out aside from character models, but there’s still a high level of detail. Oddly, the frame rate suffers the worst (screen tearing, etc.) when Geralt is wandering around areas with dense backgrounds such as forests. The frame rate seems to stabilize right away (at least to non-distracting levels) when entering combat. This is true even in the sorts of areas the frame rate drops down in.
I spent the remainder of my hands-on time talking to Mateusz Tomaszkiewicz, Senior Quest Designer for CD Projekt RED. After reaching the top of the castle and dispatching the noble leading the army I was moved to another console to experience one of the new quests added to the Enhanced Edition. This quest introduced me to Brigida Papebrock, who I had to escort to safety while keeping agents chasing her at bay. Much like Brigida, there will be other characters present in the new quests who accompany Geralt. The majority of these characters will have prominent roles, acting as main characters in the proceedings rather than window dressing. They won’t be helpless followers either; a point that was illustrated for me in vivid detail when, as I moved to take on assailants in the woods, Brigida stepped up, blades in hand, and started cutting down opponents almost as fast as the Witcher.
As I explored the many paths of the forest I was informed that the Enhanced Edition will have roughly four hours of new gameplay, as well as new cutscenes and new repercussions for choices made throughout the new quests (and the game as a whole). Those repercussions will presumably ripple out into the expanded ending that CD Projekt has put together. However, it’s important to note that the ending is only being fleshed out, not changed. The developer saw an opportunity to answer some criticisms about the length of the game’s third act and how it wrapped up (which seems to be happening a lot lately) and chose to take advantage of the situation.
In fact, Mateusz noted that he was “glad for the time to make enhancements” to the game and that it also gave the team time to apply fixes to things that had bothered them about the PC version. Don’t worry PC players, the fixes will be coming to PC as well when the Enhanced Edition drops. There’s actually a list of fixes already up on the Witcher website so players can see what changes are coming. In addition, loyal fans that already purchased The Witcher 2 will be able to download the Enhanced Edition add-on at no additional cost; preloading the expansion is already available for PC players who want to get a head start. When I asked about the possibility of a PS3 release of The Witcher I wasn’t given a flat-out “no” in response, but the answer leaned towards it being unlikely. Unfortunate news for PS3 players, but Xbox 360 and PC owners can look forward to quite a treat on April 17th.