The Witcher 2 is undoubtedly one of the finest role-playing games in years--and certainly the most beautiful. Developer CD Projekt Red had already announced that this gorgeous RPG would be coming to the Xbox 360 prior to our meeting at E3 2011, but this is the first time we've seen it running on Microsoft's hardware. The game is not playable on the show floor, but senior producer Thomasz Gop showed us the game in action behind closed doors. Or more specifically, he showed the same section--the Prologue's dungeon escape--on two separate consoles to show off the various ways in which your choices can lead to a different experience.
But chances are you know about the extraordinary ways in which choice manifests itself in The Witcher 2. Your more pressing question may very well be: How does it look? The version we saw was a pre-alpha build, so it did not represent how the game will look at release. But our first reaction was, "Hey, this game looks really great on the Xbox 360." CD Projekt is aiming for the equivalent of the PC version's medium settings on the Xbox 360, and we noticed some animation hitches, screen tears, and a few frame rate dips, but that's par for the course at this stage. The art design still shone through, and Gop was proud of how the art design was always the team's first concern with the visuals. He stated that even Witcher 2 players enjoying the game on low settings are incredibly pleased with how the game looks. The team's goal is to make sure that The Witcher 2 runs smoothly at 30 frames per second minimum.
The demo impressed upon us the Witcher 2's flexibility. While one demo player focused on action during the escape, the other player chose the stealth route. (Stealth might be harder, but it also earns you more experience.) That is a minor difference compared to some of the other differences we saw in action. For example, depending on your choices, you might help Baroness La Valette escape her prison shackles--or team up with her son, Aryan. When you emerge from the castle near the prologue's end, it could be to a dark, quiet night--or the castle may be consumed by fire, all depending on your decisions. The combat looked perfectly natural using a controller, though that isn't a surprise: The game supports a controller on the PC as well. However, Gop assured us that this is not just a simple downscaled port and that the game will feel tailor-made for its new platform.
When released for the Xbox 360, The Witcher 2 will include any fixes and changes applied to the PC version to that point. In addition, just as on the PC, CD Projekt will not charge for downloadable content. That's significant, considering that the PC version has received a healthy number of downloadable packs already. Then, there's the other question we so commonly hear: Is the game coming to the PlayStation 3? According to Gop, The Witcher 2 is not an Xbox 360 exclusive, and the team is absolutely interested in bringing the game to Sony's platform. However, at this time, the team is focusing all of its efforts on the Xbox 360 version so that it is as refined, attractive, and playable as possible before tackling another project. CD Projekt Red hasn't announced a final release date, but it informed us that The Witcher 2 for the Xbox 360 will be released by the end of 2011.