The Witcher 3 Next-Gen looks amazing on PC…. when it works

It’s been a very long road to releasing The Witcher 3 Next-Gen. It was in early September 2020 when CD Projekt RED first announced to fans that its most successful and acclaimed game, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, would receive an update dedicated to improving the experience on PC and next-generation consoles. Here’s the official teaser from that ad:

Developed to take advantage of gaming’s most powerful hardware, The Witcher 3 Next-Gen will feature a host of visual and technical improvements – including ray tracing and faster load times – across the base game, expansions, and all additional content.

At the time, CD Projekt RED said the update would arrive sometime in 2021. Early that year, The Witcher 3 Next-Gen was confirmed to arrive in the latter half of 2021, but in October 2021 the Polish studio was forced to delay by at least six months, with a new launch window expected in the second quarter of 2022.

Development of this next-gen update for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was assigned to a third party, Saber Interactive, who had already taken an interest in the Nintendo Switch port. However, in a surprising turn of events, CD Projekt RED announced in April 2022 that it would take development back into its own hands, which also meant The Witcher 3 Next-Gen received an indefinite delay.

The news inevitably worried investors, so CD Projekt RED had to quickly reassure them that the new version had somehow not entered development hell. Any lingering doubts were likely dispelled the following month when the studio reconfirmed The Witcher 3 Next-Gen for holiday 2022. Then, in November, we got the final launch date of December 14th.

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The free The Witcher 3 Next-Gen Update is finally here, which brings a host of quality of life and gameplay improvements as well as all the technical improvements. On PC, gamers can enjoy an all-new Ultra+ graphics preset. Then, on top of that, they can enable four ray tracing effects: global lighting, ambient occlusion, shadows and reflections, with the latter two not being available on consoles.

With everything turned on, the game looks absolutely amazing. Granted, it had a great base to begin with, but the textures are clearly higher quality here (in part thanks to the built-in tweaks), and the draw distance is greatly improved, as is the accuracy and sharpness of reflections and shadows. The star of the show is the beam of global illumination that elevates game lighting to new heights.

A walk through the capital of Toussaint-Bouclair offered stunning views left and right. At first glance, the game performed fairly well on a high-end platform (Intel i7 12700K, GeForce RTX 4090), delivering around 120fps with DLSS 3 enabled. However, problems soon began, from annoying stuttering that temporarily lowers rates. Tires halved into a seemingly endless series of collisions. Seriously, it felt like The Witcher 3 Next-Gen crashed every two or three minutes or so, making our testing a real pain. We had to put three different sessions together to put together thirteen minutes of gameplay embedded above, and you can actually see a crash coming right at the end of the video.

Unfortunately, both problems seem to be widespread. Official Twitter account He confessed Several of these reports, adding that an update on specific issues will be shared as soon as possible by the developers.

Frankly, it’s not the flawless presentation that fans, or CD Projekt RED executives, were hoping for after Cyberpunk 2077’s infamous launch issues on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It’s even more aggravating when you consider that the game has been delayed a good year from its originally scheduled release window. Granted, these problems may be much easier to fix than those seen in the previous debacle.

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As a side note, we also noticed that The Witcher 3 Next-Gen doesn’t support High Dynamic Range (HDR) displays after all, despite previous claims to the contrary. We recommend turning off HDR in Windows for now. On the bright side, the haptic feedback and adaptive triggers available in the PlayStation 5 version can be experienced on PC as well if you have a DualSense controller. This implementation is rather subtle but remains a welcome addition.

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