Up For Debate - Graphical Downgrades

Written by Jon Sutton on Sat, May 23, 2015 2:00 PM
System Requirements Optimum 1080p PC Build Low vs Ultra Screenshots GPU Performance Chart CPU List That Meet System Requirements GPU List That Meet System Requirements

The thorny issue of graphical downgrades has become a hot topic in recent years. The Watch Dogs controversy was far-reaching, but it’s The Witcher 3 that’s ended up lighting the touchpaper once more. After a two-year wait since its E3 2013 unveiling, expectations were sky-high CD Projekt RED was going to deliver a visual tour de force.

Make no mistake, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is still a looker, but a number of gamers have latched on to the differences between pre-release footage and the final version. There’s no denying there’s some clear changes between what was shown all those years ago, and what’s sitting on our hard drives now, but is it CD Projekt RED’s fault, and is it an acceptable outcome?

I myself fall down heavily on the side of not being bothered by the (in my eyes) minor visual changes. In terms of the game itself, everything CD Projekt RED promised is intact, and it can be a truly majestic experience. Throwing all that out the window and getting hung up on foliage detail is a non-starter for me, but I know for plenty of others it’s a sticking point; a sign that CDPR has attempted to hoodwink early buyers, selling an experience that wasn’t quite what it seemed.

Ultimately, every slice of pre-release material you see for any game, bar genuine gameplay leaks, is an advert. Everything about those images and trailers is engineered for maximum impact and to show the game in the best possible light. By now we should know advertising is seldom the same as the finished product. We’ve all walked into McDonalds and glanced at that perfectly stacked Big Mac with its golden bun and a juicy burger, only to get lumped with a soggy burger in a bag with the topping thrown on haphazardly. There's an expectation with games that isn't there with many other things.

Back to CDPR, and it’s clear The Witcher 3’s downgrade wasn’t intentional. That initial footage from E3 2013 was a stripped-down chunk of gameplay based on what CDPR through plenty of hardware would be more than capable of handling two years down the line. Once the vast open-world was put in, everything changed. The huge scale necessitated a drop on visuals, all the while CD Projekt RED was attempting to marry it up with gamer expectations.

The Witcher 3 isn’t alone either, practically every AAA title doesn’t live up to the visual promise of its marketing material. Whether that be Far Cry 3, Assassin's Creed Unity, or Battlefield: Hardline.

Now, it’s over to you. What do you think of visual downgrades? Do you feel duped by CD Projekt RED? Have the visual changes soured the experience for you?

What do you make of the Witcher 3 downgrade?

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08:59 May-26-2015

I expected it, same with Dragon Age: Inquisition.
But GTA V does lives up to expectations.

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10:10 May-26-2015

because GTA 5 isn't as graphically intense as those games.

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14:01 May-26-2015

How about DA: Inquisition?
In my opinion, the game's graphics are inferior compared to some AAA games released within the same year.

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14:08 May-26-2015

indeed, even inferior to Witcher 2 which was released more than 3 years earlier :P

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19:06 May-25-2015

does it bother me in a way. no? because i know better and i kinda expect that from AAA companies same with all this dlc pass and preorder this and that and its usually a dissapoint however thats another topic what bugs me about it though is its basically false advertising and thats not right if someone wants your game

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19:07 May-25-2015

theyll purchase it for other reasons besides amazing graphics just my 2 cents but overall i stand that its wrong to do so but it doesnt bug me much ether probably considering i dont play many AAA games anymore most went to junk i think

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13:57 May-24-2015

All the screenshots post-release I've seen so far completely dissapoint me.
Yes, it's a huge downgrade to what was presented. No, I don't agree that the game even looks decent for this year..

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02:39 May-25-2015

I dont see much difference in the gameplay videos that was released before the game. And even pictures if you put the game on 4k res ultra setting and take a screenshot.

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12:28 May-25-2015

Downgrade is one thing. But saying "the game doesn't even look decent for this year" is different thing. What are those games that look decent for this year?

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16:26 May-25-2015

That's a bit harsh, it still looks good

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12:44 May-24-2015

Look at the trailer of games like Europa Universalis and then compare that to the game. 90% isn't even in it.

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11:58 May-24-2015

Who cares?? The game's beautiful!

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09:54 May-24-2015

I'd say many people need to understand how making a game happens and to be aware of the obstacles and the steps devs face while making a game, then they will gladly accept the fact about every downgraded game which I quote CD Projekt when I refuse call it a downgrade. We all know too well that Consoles and many of the PC Users can't run some of the visuals we see in the first trailers so why dwell on it? It's not a conspiracy to make you drop your money, it is what they really intent to give you :)


PS. Assassin's Creed Unity looks as beautiful as it was advertised.

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10:03 May-24-2015

ACu looked great you just couldn't run it, that was a pretty unacceptable port as I would rather an ugly game that actually works then a pretty one that can barley run on SLI configs.


The witcher on the other hand is very well optimsed and I really can't understand why everyone is complaining,it looks fliping great!

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10:09 May-24-2015

Yea that is true and it gives us the comparison we need! Ubisoft - regardless all the bugs of the game - refused to downgrade the game and delivered their entire vision. The outcome was a game that worked terribly (not about bugs but about how the game was demanding). Customers hated that. When CDPR does the opposite and optimize their game by toning it done a bit, customers still hate it!! Customers are really difficult to satisfy. I remember a rumor that a GTX 780 Ti couldn't get 30FPS in Witcher, I guess this was true before what they did, so we could face another ACU.

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03:12 May-25-2015

Hmm, I actually do agree about acu. But why can't people turn down the settings and leave those other settings for the future like if they get another GPU etc. etc.

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08:44 May-24-2015

The game is great, it looks great, so stop bitching and play this masterpiece

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08:33 May-24-2015

that is why i dont watch prerelease videos and trailers

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08:25 May-24-2015

lol, not bothered at all my rig cant even get past high without some tweaking

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07:11 May-24-2015

As long as we can get that amount of E3 gameplay's detail I am not disappointed(GD did talk about those graphics tweaks to get you more than ultra), If devs didn't downgrade it then the game requirements they said would probably be true.

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07:01 May-24-2015

Witcher 3 still looks amazing and for me downgrade was a good news because my rig is weak.In case of Watch dogs the open world looks terrible imo and haven't even completed that game.

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05:00 May-24-2015

I can play a "nice looking" game to test the power of my rig but i return over and over to play the best games i played: fallout 2, farcry 3, etc. Good stories, very enjoyables. Witcher 3 is good for the story and the graphics too.

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06:51 May-24-2015

Well i must reply here... Witcher 3 has a good story and graphics indeed but man gameplay on Death March is freaking amazing. And by far the best game i ever played.
Death March is hard and forces you to really explore everything u can

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02:43 May-25-2015

Every open world RPG should be played at high difficulty i can imagine how boring this game would be if you would just run and kill everything easily. But maybe its just me since im huge fan of Gothic 1 and 2.

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03:48 May-24-2015

It use to be that games would look better at release than when they did in demo. Like Halo 2 for example. The demo used the exact same engine as the first Halo, but with a couple new features enabled. When Halo 2 was release, it looked far better. Just as good, if not better, than Halo 3 when the Elites would stand in a light with real-time shadows enabled.

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03:02 May-24-2015

What I think is going on is simple. There are only a handful of PC gamers that have the hardware to run a game with exceptional graphics. Developers want to appeal to the larger audience. This seems to be the case with The Witcher 3. You can push the settings past Ultra through .ini editing, so at least the Witcher devs gave PC gamers the means to increase the graphical fidelity of their game. The false advertising is just to build hype. All companies do it.

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03:04 May-24-2015

What we saw at E3 was two year old footage. For all we know, they ran into problems optimizing the game large scale, so had to cut back. We don't want another Watch Dogs do we.

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06:27 May-24-2015

I agree, but maybe they could of kept the graphics settings in the game and just told everyone you'd need an insane rig to run it on ultra or something. Then turn the original ultra into high settings or something. Idk why'd they have to cut down the whole game. It's like everyone wants to run something on ultra just to say they can even if it means cutting down the gfx.

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09:57 May-24-2015

You are talking about entire features stripped out of the game simply because they couldn't be embedded into consoles. It isn't about some features that you as a PC Gamer can turn off if you can't handle them. Consoles can't have those features at all and the console's visuals aren't customizable. Of course they won't build a specific copy for PC, that would just make them lose money. Face it we know that consoles sell better and those devs are like any workers, got their families to feed.

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11:44 May-24-2015

If they did that there would be uproar from people who don't know the difference between demanding and badly optimized. Nobody would release a game with ultra settings that current high end hardware can't run. The settings can be tweaked in the config file way beyond ultra if you feel disappointed with the visuals. There will no doubt be an enhanced edition in the future.

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11:51 May-24-2015

Yea that we can agree on. It's what the Creative Assembly did in their Atilla. They claim that the MAX settings are not meant for any Single GPU.

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02:37 May-24-2015

I mean, I do understand trailers looking epic and stuff and pre rendered. But they showed some game play didn't they? So maybe that's the problem.

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00:25 May-24-2015

To be fair they released hours of game play footage in recent months that didn't look quite as pretty as the original trailers, so we haven't exactly been lied to. Downgrade or not it's one of the best looking games to date.

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00:49 May-24-2015

You right the last trailers shows downgrade so it was known already and the game look fantastic even with the downgrade and even on low settings is still good looking game

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00:03 May-24-2015

I call it scamming. They advertised with something better than with what you would get. But I don't really care. As I know I am not able to max out the settings

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23:26 May-23-2015

Honestly, graphics is just one small part of the game, but it can help with immersion. They should have atleast given us the option to make the game look as good as it did in 2013, not that I'd be able to play at those settings, but it would have been nice to have the option that's what PC gaming is about, open options

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03:06 May-24-2015

Right from release, they gave us access to config files that allowed us to push the settings past ultra.

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06:44 May-24-2015

they rewrote the whole engine, the lighting is rewritten, the shaders are rewritten. With .ini files you would never be able to push that far. but they couldn't add this as a setting, because you would have 5 gb of extra code to optimize.

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22:21 May-23-2015

I have just received the CE and the statue is totally worth the money.As for the visuals , i don't worry because like they did with witcher 2 and they released a heavy patch for visuals they can do it again. :D

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22:17 May-23-2015

So every game will always be a downgrade?

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22:30 May-23-2015

unless you don't want to play it on release, then yes downgrades are necessary.

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22:52 May-23-2015

Well what a shame people pay more to play the new games with their overpowered hardware ending up being a waste in the end

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00:13 May-24-2015

even as it is it's not a waste, you need a titan X to play the game at 1080p full ultra with 60fps avg and not even 60fps min, so it's not a waste.

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03:06 May-24-2015

Well that's what I am talking about people feel they had their wallets and bank accounts violated because they bough top tier hardware which ends up playing at the same level as a bunch of consoles that cost 5-10 times less

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Can They Run... |

Core i7-11800H 8-Core 1.90GHz GeForce RTX 3050 Ti Mobile 8GB
| 30FPS, Low, 720p
Core i5-6260U 1.8GHz UHD Graphics 620 12GB
| 60FPS, Ultra, 1080p
Core i3-9100F 4-Core 3.6GHz GeForce GTX 1070 Gigabyte Windforce OC 16GB
| 30FPS, Low, 1080p
Core i5-2500 3.3GHz GeForce GTX 750 8GB
| 30FPS, High, 1080p
Core i5-3470 3.2GHz GeForce GTX 1060 Inno3D Compact 3GB 12GB
| 30FPS, Ultra, 1080p
Core i7-10750H 6-Core 2.60GHz GeForce RTX 2060 Mobile 16GB
Core i7-10750H 6-Core 2.60GHz GeForce RTX 2060 Mobile 16GB
| 30FPS, Low, 1080p
Core i7-3770 4-Core 3.4GHz GeForce GTX 1650 MSI Ventus XS OC 4GB 16GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
| 60FPS, Medium, 1080p
Core i3-9100 4-Core 3.6GHz GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB 8GB
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Core i5-3470 3.2GHz Radeon RX 470 Sapphire Nitro+ 8GB 16GB
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Core i5-10300H 4-Core 2.50GHz GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB 16GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Core i3-1005G1 2-Core 1.20GHz UHD Graphics 630 4GB
| 60FPS, Medium, 720p
Core i3-1005G1 2-Core 1.20GHz UHD Graphics 630 4GB
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Ryzen 5 3500 6-Core 3.6GHz GeForce GTX 1660 Super Zotac Gaming AMP 6GB 16GB
50% Yes [6 votes]
| 30FPS, Low, 1080p
Core i5-7300HQ 4-Core 2.5GHz GeForce GTX 1050M Ti 4GB 12GB
Core i7-10750H 6-Core 2.60GHz GeForce RTX 2060 Mobile 16GB
| 60FPS, Medium, 720p
Core i5-4440 3.1GHz Radeon HD 6670 v2 Gigabyte OC 1GB Edition 16GB
| 30FPS, Low, 720p
Core i5-10400F 6-Core 2.90GHz Radeon RX 560 4GB 16GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
Ryzen 5 2600X 6-Core 3.6GHz Radeon RX 5600 XT Gigabyte Gaming OC 6GB 16GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Core i7-10700 8-Core 2.90GHz GeForce RTX 2060 6GB 16GB