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?