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The Witcher 3’s new-gen update is so good, I feel bad it’s free

The Witcher 3’s new-gen update is so good, I feel bad it’s free

Yennefer? I barely know her

I’ve been playing through The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s long-awaited new-gen update, and I have to be upfront: it’s absolutely f***ing astonishing.

Seriously, I can’t think of any better words to describe this upgrade, which will be available on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series consoles from December 14. CD Projekt RED have done something incredible here, making an already brilliant game even better with a wealth of quality-of-life updates, visual improvements, and new graphical features that genuinely make Geralt’s 2016 adventure look and feel like it could've been released in 2022.

So far I’ve put maybe 15 hours in, exploring all the main areas of The Continent, and my jaw has yet to leave the floor. Sure I’ve seen it all before (on every platform The Witcher 3 is currently available on) but this version? This version hits different.

The fact that this is a free upgrade blows my mind. Frankly, it makes Rockstar Games look a bit silly, given what they charged gamers for the new-gen GTA V update. This is, hands-down, the best new-gen patch we’ve received for a last-gen game so far, and a fantastic excuse to jump back into The Witcher 3’s vast, gorgeous world.

I won’t bore you by going on and on about what makes The Witcher 3 such a fantastic RPG. Everything that made it a critical darling remains, from the excellent performances and beautifully written quests to the expansive and richly detailed open world. Everything is just shinier, smoother, faster, and generally more beautiful to look at. The Witcher 3 was far from an ugly game before, but the extra detail CDPR has managed to squeeze into this seven-year-old game is wondrous.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt/
CD Projekt

There are two graphics modes to choose from in The Witcher 3: 60fps and ray-tracing. Both modes offer up enhancements like improved textures, increased foliage, and better lighting, so what it really boils down to is whether your favour performance or detail. The 60fps mode is my preferred way to play, lending Geralt’s adventures a buttery smoothness that has long been lacking on the PS4 version of the game. I noticed the occasional dip here and there, especially while exploring Blood And Wine’s Toussaint, but for the most part it's near-perfect.

Then there’s the ray-tracing mode, which is admittedly stunning to look at but comes at the expense of framerate. This mode targets 30fps, but doesn’t always quite manage it, especially during combat or particularly demanding moments (heavily wooded areas, cities, and such). It's far from unplayable and rarely noticeable. Even if you favour framerate, the trade-off is worth it if you just want to switch off the HUD and take a walk through a lush green forest and watch the sun sparkle and dance along the surface of a river. I have to admit on more than one occasion I forgot I was playing an adventure RPG, and my nature walks would end with an unpleasant Drowner or bandit attack.

If you didn’t like The Witcher 3 before, I don’t think this new version will win you over. While improvements like faster loading times and slightly smoother combat will be welcome news to returning fans, there’s no getting around the fact that scrapping with monsters and men in this game is still a little clunky. If you couldn’t get on with the divisive combat in 2015, CDPR has done nothing to change your mind here. Although really, was anyone expecting this to be the case? And, you know, if you don’t like The Witcher 3 then there’s a fundamental piece of you missing and I don’t care what you think, like, or want from life.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt /
CD Projekt

Aside from the sparkly new visuals, there’s plenty to tempt back returning players. Not that you’ll need much tempting, as I must stress once again for those of you who haven’t quite grasped it, this shit is free. CD Projekt RED has incorporated some of the more popular mods that PC gamers have been enjoying for years, as well as some new content inspired by the Netflix series.

It’s worth noting before you get too excited that The Witcher 3’s modding scene is nowhere near as expansive as The Elder Scroll V: Skyrim’s so don’t dive in expecting a boat-load of brand-new quests and story content. There are some fun new surprises to discover, certainly, but it’s the overall visual and gameplay improvements that are the real star of the show.

I also can't leave without telling you about the game's brilliant new photo mode, which I lost hours to. Not only can you take gorgeous pictures of some of The Witcher 3's more stunning vistas, you can also pause at the perfect moment to take a grisly action shot of Geralt liberating a bandit's head from their body. I also took a photo of Geralt, the Baron, and the botchling which accidentally ended up looking like the poster for some bizarre horror sitcom.

Overall, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s new-gen update is staggeringly good, to the point where I genuinely feel like I’ve stolen something from CD Projekt RED. Any cynics out there ready to give the game another go may well be won over with this definitive version of the adventure, while returning monster hunters will find countless reasons to stick around and put another few hundred hours into one of the best games of all time.

Featured Image Credit: CD Projekt Red

Topics: The Witcher 3, CD Projekt Red, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series S