From PC to Console
I didn't think it could be done really, but CDProjekt RED managed to do it. They took a great PC rpg (probably one of the best if you read the GX review of it) and managed to bring it to the Xbox 360 with everything about it intact. There are some graphical pop-ups now and then and a few texture issues here and there, but it's never going to be as pretty as the Witcher 2 was on a friend's high end game rig. Since a lot of people may not have the specs to run the game at all, this is a viable and great alternative.
Witcher 2 Enhanced Edition on the Xbox 360 (Also as an upgrade on the PC) is not a port; it's a great addition to the Witcher franchise. So much so that there's a new CGI intro, many expanded cut-scenes that fill in the gaps of the story and even a brand new epilogue at the end of the credits that definitely speaks of a new story in Geralt's history. The console version comes with all the DLC that was previously on the PC, all the upgrades/patches that the PC version has received since release and several additions of its own.
You are Geralt of Rivia, a Witcher: a supernatural monster slayer that can use magical powers known as Signs. You have been wrongfully accused of a murder that you did not commit (the assassination of a king) and now you must clear your name. The story is incredible in the game really, with so many twists and turns, divergent paths and unexpected moments. It is interactive storytelling at its finest with a dark, mature non-linear style of gameplay.
Witcher 2 is an action RPG with a strong emphasis on player choice. This also comes down to the difficulty level you play the game at as well, with the addition of Dark Mode (where you can get unique swords and armour) that is a hard mode and probably comparable in places to the difficulty curve of Dark Souls at least. Even on Easy at times Witcher 2 can be quite punishing, thankfully there's a brief and effective tutorial to smooth out the learning curve and help determine the difficulty level for you to start the game on.
The game is third person with responsive combat controls, levelling up, skills to buy and secrets to uncover. It's not an open world game but there is a definite sandbox approach to some of the area design allowing for multiple paths through zones and hidden goodies to uncover. Using the 360 gamepad in combat is fluid and effective, the Witcher's moves chain well into one another and later on down the line you get some pretty impressive abilities as long as you invest your talent points wisely.
There are three main skill trees, Swordsmanship that allows you to become a master of the blade, with lightning quick flurries and incredible adrenaline fuelled multiple kill-moves that can take down 3 enemies at once. Alchemy that allows you to become a master of the Witcher's alchemical arts, making potions that can do wondrous things to your metabolism and even allow you to see in the dark. Magic that allows you to extend the power of the Witcher's Signs and unlock a very powerful hidden Sign that can slow down time in a radius around Geralt.
You can also put points into a basic Witcher path that lets you learn to throw daggers, block and reflect arrows and more.
The Witcher 2 revolves around questing, with a few fetch quests here and there. There are contracts to complete on monsters and sometimes these yield unexpected and cool rewards, such as a new sword. It is important to remember that in the Witcher mythos, a silver sword is used against monsters and a metal sword works against humans/non-monstrous foes. The swords can be used quickly via the d-pad and the UI is superb for that.
At most times Geralt can meditate, to drink potions and wait for a specific time, as well as create potions from his alchemical ingredients. Again, these systems are simple and effective with no complicated UI decisions. The right bumper brings up the menu and slows time, it allows you to quickly change Signs, swap quick-slot weapons and switch swords if you want. It's a radial menu and it works superbly.
In combat the game is brutal, the enemies are pretty clever and will use pack tactics against you. So the game forces you to think on your feet, change your tactics and switch up your Signs. There are numerous ones, such as Igni that lights foes on fire, or the Yrden Sign that acts as a magical trap. The tutorial does a good job explaining what these Signs do.
The main story quest isn't straightforward and it certainly isn't a hum-drum affair at all. Not many of the Witcher 2's quests can be considered typical of the genre; there are some really great ones with some unexpected twists to be found.
There could have been a quick-sell button to dump all your junk and perhaps a better way to sort your inventory/items. Overall though the menu/UI of the game is good and it does a good job of keeping your attention focussed on the right items that you might need. The Quest Log is a good solid one and the text is written like a story, rather than a checklist of things that you have to do (though you get one of those too).
Witcher 2 is a good looking game, dare I say that it is one of the best looking games on console for a while that I have seen. It isn't as grand looking as the big brother on PC but this game is no slouch either. The graphics/textures are superb and whilst there are some issues in terms of pop-in at times when running through mountainous areas and ravines, these are minor and don't detract from the game all that much. Day/Night and weather are all replicated really well in Witcher 2.
Witcher 2 is well animated with lots of feel to the characters, and the combat. The combat is some of the finest action rpg combat to date with sweeping sword moves and reactive attacks/defences making up the core of the whole thing. You feel as though each blow connects to the character in question and there's a real weight behind Geralt's movements in and out of combat, but in combat he's a force to be reckoned with and kicks lots of ass.
There are a lot of things that can break, monsters/Geralt can get thrown around by the force of some blows and there's a sense of kinetic combat here.
The AI for the game is good stuff. The monster enemies all have different attack patterns, the human foes are sneaky in their attacks, especially wizards and at the higher levels of difficulty they adapt their tactics to your style. Forcing a combination of alchemy, Signs and dirty tricks in combat.
You can't fault Witcher 2 in the sound department, every thunk, thud, scream and clash of steel sounds great.
A really stirring and powerful score that has many great moments from the sweeping opening theme to the adrenaline pumping combat score. This is how music should be done in a game!
There are a few choice voice actors in the game, Geralt sounds great along with his companions and I have a soft spot for Vernon Roche and Ves. There's nothing wrong with the majority of the voice work and compared to Two Worlds or Risen, you are looking at Mass Effect levels of professional quality. All in all basically it's great.
When CDPR say Mature they mean it. There are curse words galore and anyone who is offended by such things best remember that. The writing is pretty solid and evocative.
There are tasteful but frank depictions of sex and violence in the game. It earns that mature rating bigtime and Witcher 2 should set the bench-mark for this kind of thing. As adults we are often overlooked in favour of the Political Correct crowd and everything is done to protect and shelter the children in that regard. There's nothing wrong with that, but I tell you I prefer to have the choice made myself. I would not let my child play the game until she was old enough so the 18 rating is a good one.
Just remember that it's 18 and if you don't like seeing naked bodies etc in your games, you're going to want to skip it. If you're well adjusted and not prudish however, go nuts!