|System: PC, Xbox 360*|
|Dev: CD Projekt RED|
|Pub: Atari, Warner Bros.|
|Release: April 17, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Nudity, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Use of Drugs|
by Angelo M. D'Argenio
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings was a great game that didn't get the sort of recognition it could have because it was a PC exclusive. However, now the game gets to show itself off to console gamers with The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition. Does the game still appeal to the console crowd, or does its PC pedigree alienate it from other AAA console blockbusters?
Not much has changed in the Enhanced Edition. In fact, if you've never heard of The Witcher 2 before, you should check out our review of the PC version before deciding whether this is a game for you. In terms of core gameplay and story, the Enhanced Edition is nearly identical. It's a rich, forty-to-sixty-hour experience with a large number of meaningful gameplay choices that make each playthrough different. You'll enjoy the game's crafting system, character development, and story, and you'll spend hours searching for loot just to outfit the perfect character. It's dark, it's controversial, and it's just a well-made western RPG. Long story short, it's good.
One of the high points of The Witcher 2 on the PC was the graphics engine, and the fact that CD Projeckt got this game to run on the ancient Xbox hardware is nothing short of amazing. The Xbox version is, unfortunately, the uglier of the two versions. There is a huge loss in resolution and textures are noticeably blurry. Animations are less fluid than in the PC version, which is a problem because the PC version's animations were stiff to begin with. Nowhere can this be seen more than in the facial animations. It may just be that the game is showing its year-old age, but character movements strike me as some of the worst of any current day AAA Xbox title. It doesn't really ruin the game, but it does take you out of the experience at times.
Luckily, much of the rest of the game is still incredibly pretty. Environments, though less detailed than the PC version's, are still absolutely gorgeous. The lighting effects are noticeably turned down, but they are still more impressive than most other games on the console. Characters models are incredibly intricate, right down to tiny chinks in individual soldiers' armor. Once again, while the textures are certainly blurrier and there's noticeable graphical loss, the attention to detail is still there. Compare Enhanced Edition to any other recent Xbox 360 RPG. It's still prettier than Dragon Age II or Fallout: New Vegas, and I'd even say it gives Mass Effect a run for its money.
The gameplay hasn't changed much though. Granted, the game has been altered to fit a controller rather than a keyboard and mouse, but this actually doesn't affect much of the core gameplay. Sure, it means certain things, like quick-saving, require a finicky amount of menu traversal, but you can still attack and cast spells at the push of a button. In fact, I'd say that the controller-based control scheme makes certain things feel more natural. Movement, for example.
And speaking of saving, auto-saves seem to be much less frequent in Enhanced Edition than they were in the original Witcher 2. They are awkwardly spaced at best and unreliable at worst. This can be alleviated with saving your game early and often, but this feels like a chore due to the game's menu system. Still, it's better than the alternative: replaying hours of progress because the game didn't feel like what you did was important enough to auto-save.
Using a controller to manage your items and equipment is, unfortunately, rather infuriating. Your inventory gets clogged quickly, and while the PC version allows you to manage everything in a few short clicks, you'll be doing the menu dance for a while in Enhanced Edition. Of course, then you find a new item of some sort and you have to do it all over again. The game introduces a new way to store your items, and this is certainly an improvement over the original PC version, but it's still more finicky than I would have liked.
A new tutorial has been added to The Witcher 2 since its original PC release, and it feels like it was designed specifically for the modern console market. Unfortunately, it's not enough to help out most people. Slip up once and you'll die before you even realize what's happening. Enhanced Edition is still unforgiving in its difficulty curve, just like the original. As it stands, the tutorial just serves to break up the intro to the game, and, as a result, it feels kind of out of place.