The Witcher 3 Next-Gen Update Hands-On Preview

The Witcher 3 releases a highly anticipated next-gen (new-gen?) update that includes features that will bring a 7-year-old game up to par for the more powerful console generation. While it won’t convince anyone that The Witcher 3 is suddenly a brand new 2022 release, the updates we’ve seen will no doubt become the new default of the game for new and returning players.

IGN played three hours of The Witcher 3’s next-gen update, which will be released for players who already own the game on console or PC. You can expect a similar set of upgrades that typically come with next-gen updates, including a graphics mode that prioritizes 4K visuals and ray tracing at 30fps, or a performance mode that prioritizes 60fps.

CD Projekt has also added a series of game-enhancing mods created by the community and internally at the studio, a photo mode, and even some new Easter eggs related to the Netflix show. While all these bells and whistles are nice, the highlight of my playthrough was undoubtedly the Performance mode, which offers a super-charged, incredibly smooth version of The Witcher 3.

CD Projekt Red’s RPG was an instant hit in 2015 and is consistently rated as one of the best modern open world RPGs. And while certainly not unplayable, its ambitions certainly pushed the boundaries of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

There were numerous areas where the frame rate would drop or the textures of the models would clash. Ignore some of the funnier glitches (Roach, what are you doing on the roof?).

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The next-gen updates are likely to resolve these non-issues in the future, especially when using Performance Mode on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S. The 60fps is blistering, making the game run at a level I’ve never seen on consoles.

While the graphics mode introduces ray tracing, this cosmetic effect mostly enhances The Witcher 3’s finer margins, while the performance mode makes the game feel almost new to returning players and eliminates frustrating frame rate dips for new players.

PlayStation 5 and Xbox players should choose to prioritize performance or graphics, the next-gen update also has several universal changes that should improve the overall experience of The Witcher 3 no matter what mode you’re playing in.

This includes Quick Sign Casting that allows players to use Geralt’s various Witcher spells without opening the radial window. The camera has also undergone a major change allowing it to react dynamically to movement and combat as well as staying closer to Geralt for a more personal feel. Similar to the camera distance to Kratos in God of War.

Character and enemy models have also been reworked with higher resolution textures, while imperfections such as hair clipping and armor have been removed.

These changes won’t convince anyone that The Witcher 3 is a new 2022 release. Instead, it gives CD Projekt a chance to revisit their biggest hit and get rid of some of the speed bumps that exist in a seven-year-old game.

What this means is that new players in particular can play The Witcher 3 without the problems players faced when the game was first released. But considering that even with some of the framerate dips and bugs, The Witcher 3 still won several Game of the Year awards (including IGN’s), it’s not like these technical issues hampered the quality game underneath.

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And for fans of the Netflix series, the next-gen update gave CD Projekt the chance to include a few Netflix-inspired Easter eggs in the game, including a new questline with a suitable Netflix The Witcher-style reward.

A nice option is to change the Nilfgardian armor worn by the NPC in the game to the infamous armor worn by the Nilfgardians in the Netflix show. Don’t worry, this armor can be changed in the settings, but personally I think it’s a nice option to save for the bad guys.

While nothing fundamental changes to The Witcher 3 after the next-gen update, the rough edges are much, much smoother now, and the new creative changes offer a fresh take that newcomers and veterans alike will want to check out. the update. There’s a good chance it will suck you back for your second or fifth playthrough.

Matt TM Kim is IGN’s News Editor. You can reach him @lasoftd.

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