Microsoft’s Xbox One X enhanced programme for classic Xbox 360 games recently added support for a very special last-gen release: The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings. I was particularly keen to check this one out because CD Projekt Red’s 360 conversion effort was absolutely outstanding and with its arrival on the X, you might describe it as one technological miracle layered on top of another. The 360 release wasn’t just a port, it was a top-to-bottom revamp of a PC original specifically built for the strengths of a far more capable platform. The port had many cutbacks, of course, but in some respects, I thought it actually improved on its counterpart. So with that remarkable port now upgraded for Microsoft’s latest console, how does it look running on 4K displays? And how does the PC original hold up running at an equivalent ultra HD resolution, almost seven years on from its initial release?
Whether it’s a driver problem, or simply the concept of running a game never designed for operating at extreme resolutions, the fact is that running the PC version of The Witcher 2 at max settings on a 4K screen is surprisingly onerous to say the least. Combine rich layers of alpha transparency textures with the game’s still beautiful bokeh depth of field implementation, and even with a top-end Titan X Pascal, you’ll still see frame-rates dip beneath 30 frames per second. In this sense, the game’s actually harsher in terms of hardware requirements than its sequel – and that’s without the notorious ‘uber-sampling’ preset active.
But this is a game built for PC and it looks gorgeous, bespoke and like nothing else on the market and it even stands apart from its successor in many ways. Of course, there are aspects that date it somewhat – animation and facial movements in particular – but beyond that, it’s simply beautiful. For its part, Xbox One X can’t really compare to the PC version at its most majestic, but there are still plenty of ‘wow’ moments to savour, and similar to many of the other X-enhanced releases, side-by-side comparisons show a careful teasing of the original renderer to bring out the console port at its very best, albeit still within the confines of the Xbox 360’s pared back feature set.
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