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The Witcher 2 – Xbox 360 Preview

Exclusive titles always seem to be the source of heated interest when looking at the developing wars between video games consoles. Are you a Gears of War or an Uncharted guy or gal? Such decisions can be enough to influence the purchase of one £200 machine over another.

But to me, as an RPG fan, who owns just about all the consoles, the game I have been aching to play most this year is a PC game. The Witcher 2 is one of the most jaw-dropping, beautiful games I have ever seen. With news of an Xbox 360 port on the horizon, I was concerned this notoriously power-hungry game would be much uglier in its console guise. Fortunately, those fears were put to bed by a developers conference at this year’s Eurogamer Expo.

Since it released the PC version of the Witcher 2 in spring, Polish studio CD Projekt has been busy working on what it calls the game’s “adaptation” to the Xbox. As well revamping the camera system for the console, the team has also revamped the game’s script with Tomasz Baginski, an Oscar-nominated animator and filmmaker producing extra content. Showcasing a few minutes from the Xbox version of the game expo, Gerhalt (the hero) was shown walking through a wood, the fidelity of the graphics blissfully apparent as broken sunbeams fell on crisply-animated foliage. Later, as Gerhalt battled a spider-like creature, the controls seemed easy to pull off on a controller. Like the PC version, time slows down as the spell tree is brought on to the screen, allowing players to quickly select an ability without being stomped by a monster.

But CD Projekt didn’t just have good news for Xbox gamers. Because it announced that, from the end of September, the Witcher 2.0 would be released free of charge for owners of the PC game, patching and significantly upgrading the game with new features.

A number of improvements to gameplay (too numerous to list here), an improved tutorial system, and a new arena mode are all part of the new, free content. For serious gamers, who baulked at the game’s hardcore mode, which deletes your save game if you die, there is now Dark Mode. This promises to offer a significant challenge to gamers, but will not delete your save, and allows players to collect a set of “Dark” equipment. Like most cursed gear in RPGs, this swag beefs up players but does damage at the same time. However, if all the Dark equipment is gathered and worn, it will give Gerhalt a huge boost without any penalties.

All this content from the PC’s 2.0 update will feature on the Xbox version, scheduled for release in the first quarter of 2012, alongside some more, unannounced content. But CD Projekt made it clear any unannounced extras for the Xbox would also be released for the PC. It wants all gamers to benefit from its work, without bias. Except for PS3 owners, who are, for the moment missing out, as CD Projekt claims it is focusing all its efforts on the Xbox adaptation.

There was also no word on whether CD Projekt would consider porting the first Witcher instalment to the Xbox in the future. However, it promised it was working on a way for console gamers to catch up on the storyline before they jump into Witcher 2. As things stand, the Witcher 2 is shaping up to be one of the best Xbox RPGs of next year and maybe one of the few games to lure players away from Skyrim.

Words > Adam Gaudry

[Note: the screenshots shown here are from the PC version]

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