Packaged with all existing content, a new quest line, some quality of life changes, and overall visual engagements, this PS5 version of the critically acclaimed fantasy-RPG is nothing short of a recipe for success. While not all perfect, the heart of The Witcher 3 remains very much beating as strong as ever.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt PS5 Review – Bringing A Classic to The Current Gen In Style
This review surprised me the further I dug into it. At the start, I felt like I was playing the same game to the letter but with better frame rate. Naturally, overall this felt a bit underwhelming at the start.
It has been a fairly significant amount of time since I popped the Platinum Trophy for The Witcher 3 back in 2016, so the game as a whole felt altogether the same. To its credit, it was already gorgeous, and polishing a precious stone takes a great deal of effort to make it noticeable.
However, the longer I played, the more I felt the changes. A lot of it comes from little things, like picking herbs without a menu popping up or the way the weather shifts from sunny and calm to dark and dreary. Ultimately, no one thing about the current gen update blew my mind. It was the improvements to the visuals and presentation across the board that made this update feel great.
Something I did miss during my first playthrough were the Heart of Stone and Blood and Wine expansions. For those of you in the same boat as I am, you will love to know that you can jump right to the content in those expansions by selecting it from the main menu. The Witcher 3 gives you the appropriate levels needed to start that content, automatically completing all of the main quests up to that point. This makes for a fantastic way to jump right into what I missed, which I did almost right away.
New Quest, Same Quality
Once you reach level 10, you can go straight to a brand new quest designed specifically for this current-gen upgrade. You benefit the most from waiting at least a couple more levels before attempting it, because those enemies are level 15.
Still, you can complete it. Even with the level discrepancy, you can complete this short quest line in an hour or so. It doesn’t offer much, but it keeps to the level of quality that came with the Blood and Wine expansion.
While this offers only a smidge of extra content, what this additional quest line does do is enforce that CD Projekt RED still has a great deal of love for the franchise. The team did not skimp on the integrity of the content it adds to its award-winning game, which bodes well for future Witcher installments.
Polishing The (Heart Of) Stone
Swapping between the Ray Tracing and Performance Modes make obvious visual changes, with water reflecting images and details popping even more than before. This extends especially to enemy character models, showcasing delightfully detailed levels of fidelity.
Much of the enemy graphical improvements come from the gaming community that provided visual mods for the game. The developer took those mods and applied them to the core game, touching up the presentation even more. These make the varied and intense spread of enemies that much more impressive.
While these fights feel familiar, the added spectacle and visual glamour helps to elevate it past what I expected from my time unlocking the Platinum. Going back to completed games, even after a few years, I usually need a great deal of effort to rekindle the same energy and drive to play.
As mentioned before, the longer I played, the more it felt both new as well as nostalgic, making it altogether a fun romp into a familiar world, reminding me of my initial love for the game as well as all the little things I forgot I loved.
Not The Perfect Upgrade
One addition that comes with this upgrade is one of camera enhancement, though the word “enhancement” proves quite relative. A new camera option, which sits as a default setting, places the camera much closer to Geralt, focused over his right shoulder. While exploring or riding horseback, this setting feels great, offering a more intimate perspective on much of the what the game offers.
However, this close-up camera bottlenecks combat. When enemies come from all sides, you only see the ones in your immediate field of view. This leaves you either dodging just to see everyone or taking hits you don’t see coming.
Thankfully, the game allows you to set the camera based on what type of scenario you are in, such as setting the standard camera distance in combat and the new distance in exploration and on horseback.
Lost Camera Potential
Unfortunately, the way The Witcher 3 PS5 determines the change between exploration and combat happens in the middle of battle. If you dodge, the camera comes in and out, but it returns to the standard distance when you start swinging.
If you go down a small step, the camera comes in, detecting a change in status, even when in combat. When I change the exploration camera to the standard distance, this issue stops happening.
The issue with this comes down to how you like the camera settings, but plenty of people will face this problem at some point or another. Even making the permanent change to facilitate this oddity can easily be acclimated to.
Either way, the addition of a new style of presentation just to limit its use feels like an unfortunate waste of potential. Lower difficulties won’t express the consequences of this issue nearly as much. Still, even when only taking a bit of damage, getting hit and staggered out of nowhere still feels annoying.
A Current-Gen Retrospect
One final point I want to make from my return time with the Witcher 3 is one on a fundamental side of the game. Controlling Geralt feels stiff. I instantly remembered how I felt when I first played The Witcher 3 and how it took me a couple cracks at it to get absorbed.
I bring this up here because the close-up camera emphasizes how stiff Geralt moves. His movement is likely by design, since Ciri moves more fluidly. At the same time, combining the stiff movement with the closer camera brings back old frustrations for me.
This might be part of the reason why the game felt somewhat underwhelming at the start. Getting used to an old issue feels odd, and I cannot help but be surprised I didn’t remember it.
The mind can get used to just about anything, and I find myself in the same place I was when I went after the Platinum Trophy. I still notice the issue, but I don’t think about it as much. I actually got to the end of my previous point and almost forgot it. Only my review notes reminded me.
Instead, I’ve acclimated to Geralt, feeling what I need to do instead of fighting against the game to work how I expect it to. What separates the greats from the rest is how their flaws take a back backseat to what we love about them.
This isn’t an inherent negative or a positive, so this point does nothing to affect the final score. However, I find it important for the sake of transparency for those who never experienced The Witcher 3 and for those who in their love for the game may have forgotten the few peculiarities that we grew accustomed and blind to.
The Wild Hunt Never Looked So Good
Jumping back into The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt proved to be something both nostalgic and eye-opening. With change in perspective and camera came a reinforcement of the familiar and the forgotten, while Geralt’s stiff movement combined with the new up-close camera can easily cause frustration.
At the same time, the writing, voice acting, world building, and overall presentation feel almost brand new with its new coat of paint and enhancements. Even if you spent hundreds of hours in the game before this, I can’t help but recommend The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt on PS5 to anyone even remotely curious.
Considering the PS5 update is completely free to all PS4 owners, the risk in dipping a toe into the new version is practically zero.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt will be available for PS5 and Xbox Series X/S on December 14, 2022.
Review code kindly provided by publisher.