No doubt about it. Both literally and figuratively, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is one of the biggest games of the year, and CD Projekt Red’s sprawling open-world RPG is capturing the hearts of both gamers and reviewers alike. Unfortunately, like any popular game, The Witcher 3 is also drawing its share of controversy, particularly with regard to the game’s inconsistent technical performance.
While most reviews agree that The Witcher 3’s fluctuating frame rates and occasional performance hiccup don’t really damage the overall game, a small group of critical fans argue that The Witcher 3’s marketing materials were misleading. A trailer released in 2013 promised a prettier and more technically sound game, and these players argue that CD Projekt Red failed to uphold its end of the bargain.
The Witcher 3 released on three different platforms, too – PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 – and each one runs the game a little differently. That doesn’t help. Thankfully, the good people at Digital Foundry are trying to make sense of this mess; first, they examined The Witcher’s day one patch, which improved framerates while reducing visual quality. Now, they’re comparing how the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 handle the massive game, both with mixed results.
According to Digital Foundry, both consoles have problems running The Witcher 3, although the real difference comes down to frame rates. The Xbox One version of the game tends to have a higher frame rate, but the PlayStation 4 version is more consistent.
On Xbox One, The Witcher 3 has a variable frame rate, often reaching 35 frames per second (FPS) while on the PlayStation 4 the frame rate is capped at 30 FPS. Both occasionally dip below 30, particularly during cinematics; in that case, the PlayStation 4 version tries to enforce a 20 FPS cap, while the Xbox One edition jumps around in the mid-20s.
That makes it sound like the Xbox One version is superior, right? Not so fast. It’s less jarring when the frame rate is consistent – even when it’s a little lower – than when it’s constantly changing, and the PlayStation 4 offers a smoother experience.
Unfortunately, the PlayStation 4 version doesn’t always work as intended, especially in large areas, with frame rates occasionally dropping to 29 FPS. Both versions of the game also suffer from regular texture pop-in, probably as a result of CD Projekt Red’s streaming technology.
Ultimately, despite taking two different approaches towards optimization, both console versions of The Witcher 3 suffer from similar problems, and there’s no clear winner or loser. According to Digital Foundry, the PC version of The Witcher 3 is the definitive option (Digital Foundry estimates that the console versions “lurk at the PC’s mid-point”), but requires a high-end rig for the best results. For players stuck with the console editions, either one should be just fine. After all, The Witcher 3 is a great game, no matter what frame rate it’s running at.
Source: Digital Foundry