The Witcher 3’s latest patch delivers the best console performance yet

The Witcher 3's latest patch delivers the best console performance yet

The Witcher 3 revamp in 2022 was meant to be the best version of the game possible, harnessing the performance and features of new consoles and modern PCs – except this next-gen release also brought its own issues. Performance issues and crashes proved problematic and since then CD Projekt RED has focused on gradually ironing out the issues and getting the game back into shape. However, it wasn’t smooth sailing: the latest 4.01 patch actually made the frame rates worse in performance mode, while improving frame rates in RT quality mode. The good news is that the recently released 4.02 update now offers the best experience we’ve ever seen. It’s not quite the finished article, but it’s much closer to ideal.

The CDPR developer patch notes are as comprehensive as ever. At the very top – for console – we have a note that performance mode frame rates are improved, which we can confirm. Other highlights include the return of the HBAO option on PC and improved CPU optimization on DirectX 12. There is also a motion blur intensity slider on all formats, which resolves another issue at launch with the intensity of the effect when activated. Finally, there’s a subtle improvement to screen space and ray-traced reflections across all formats, with the addition of refraction to reflections through bodies of water.

Looking at PlayStation 5 to begin with, the good news is that the hit to performance in 60fps mode has been reversed. Wish I could say it’s a perfect 60 across the board now, but some areas are still dropping below target – so yeah, Novigrad City is still struggling to lock in at 60. Overall though, for the PS5, it’s a definite improvement overall, setting Novigrad apart at least. The optimization is carried out without noticeable impact on the overall visual features of the game either.

It’s taken months with setbacks along the way, but the fact is patch 4.02 is the best shape The Witcher 3 has ever seen.

The Xbox Series X is where there’s an even bigger bump in performance gains. In all areas it is a marked improvement: from combat to riding, the new patch restores us to 60 frames per second. But what is especially encouraging is that the city of Novigrad is also clearly improved in the same breath, unlike the PS5 version. It’s worth saying that the Series X started at a much worse point here, performance-wise, and so there was a lot more ground to cover. Once again, the latest update puts The Witcher 3 in a better place than ever. Performance mode at 60fps is still my recommended method for gaming – hands down – even sacrificing the ray-tracing features at 30fps. For Xbox Series X users, it was a shame to see frame rates struggling to hit 60fps before, where they often fell below the PS5 level, but now it’s a much greater choice. easy to do.

So where does that leave us in console comparisons? Bearing in mind that both premium consoles are getting an upgrade here, how do they rank side-by-side on the latest patch? Interestingly, the game is now locked at 60fps for much of the game on PS5 and Series X and where it dips – Novigrad, again, in particular – the two are virtually identical in their playbacks. And, if we have to split hairs on this, the Series X performs slightly worse when horse-racing in Heirarch Square – 2-3 fps on average. The Series X also plays with infrequent screen tearing flashes, just at the top of the frame, unlike the PS5. But in general? That’s a decent turnout if you have variable refresh rate – VRR – support on your TV. The VRR handles these 50-60 fps playbacks well. The only other thing to note is that some cutscenes work better on Series X, which is interesting – so it’s not an absolute case of one being better or worse.

Our original look at how the console performed when The Witcher 3: Complete Edition first launched.

All of this leaves us with a quick note on the status of the 30fps ray tracing mode. In a nutshell, there are no obvious improvements over the latest patch. On PS5 it still comfortably hits 30fps, although less than 30 drops remain in place in Novigrad. And it’s the same story on the Series X – no changes from the 4.01 patch, although that RT mode was still 30fps more consistent on this machine anyway. In comparison between the two on the last patch, the X series therefore maintains its lead across the board. In Novigrad, the PS5 drops as low as 26fps for consistent stretches, in Heirarch Square, where Microsoft’s machine goes to 30 without too much trouble. This is even the case for GPU-intensive cutscenes, where the Series X regains the lead.

So if you want to see ray-traced ambient occlusion and global illumination in effect, the Series X still performs best as of the last patch. Combined with motion blur, RT mode is also much more pleasant to use. But I will say – on PS5 or Series X – the input latency using this mode is still noticeably high, and personally this has been a dealbreaker in using the mode. Even on the 4.02 patch, latency is 140ms on the PS5’s RT mode for example, compared to a much lower 74ms using its 60fps performance mode. It’s a huge difference, and it’s immediately felt in the camera movement when switching between the two.

Is this the ultimate version of The Witcher 3 then? Well, we’re not 100% there, let’s be honest, but it’s great that CDPR’s effort continues unabated. Performance mode is getting all the love in patch 4.02, and it’s paying off – especially on Xbox, where frame rates are bumped up to 10fps. The Complete Edition has never looked better on Xbox. As for the PS5, it shows promise again, restoring it to launch day framerate levels, or better. The only lingering issue is the ray-tracing mode: a mode that looks gorgeous, benefits from a new motion blur slider – but still suffers from sub-30fps drops on PS5. I’d say the game is in great shape now, overall, and I’ll be intrigued to see if it’s “work done” by CDPR or if there’s more to come.

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