A detailed review from a lucky, thankful, early reviewer - User Reviews - www.GameInformer.com
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A detailed review from a lucky, thankful, early reviewer

As the title says, I was one of the lucky 1000 chosen to review The Witcher 2 for Xbox, and I am really appreciative of the chance. Even though The Witcher 2 has not become my all-time favorite game, CD Projekt Red is now one of my all-time favorite companies. After listening to developer diaries, seeing them interact with people on the site, and (obviously) getting a chance to get a great game for free made me a HUGE fan of the company and its people. So I'm proud to continue supporting these fine ladies and gentlemen.
I got my copy of The Witcher 2 on the afternoon of April 16th (about half a day before it released) so I didn't have the opportunity to come anywhere near finishing this expansive adventure yet. I did want to uphold my end of the bargain with CD Projekt Red though and put my opinions of the game into a review. Even though I haven't come close to finishing the game, this is (if you haven't already noticed) a detailed review. If you want a quick glance about the game, I recommend checking elsewhere.

8.0

The Good:
fantastic world of lore; majority of characters are very entertaining; embraces its mature rating… maturely; morality system is more than good/bad and has meaningful results; looks fantastic

The Bad:
probably better off played on the PC; a lot of weird inconsistencies; combat takes a lot of getting used to; likely won't appeal to most non-RPG fans

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings: Enhanced Edition for Xbox 360. The game's title hints at how complex and involved the game is; there is a lot to this edition. There are a few bad qualities that you have to overlook from time to time, but overall this is a very good game.

Storyline and Characters
I'll start with the best: The Witcher 2 houses an incredible world and seems to be an incredible journey. I've never played The Witcher 1 or The Witcher 2 before (sadly, fancy computers are pretty expensive…) so I was going into this game almost blind after watching a few cursory videos from CD Projekt Red. The first cutscene (new for the 360, I believe) when you turn the game on is brilliant and sets the tone for the game fantastically; an epic adventure with some dark, dry comedy and very mature themes. I haven't had time to finish much of the game in only two days, but I can already tell it is going to be a thrill ride from what I've seen so far. I've seen brutal assassinations, giant monsters, epic battlefields, sarcastic humor, and all of that was just in the Prologue. As I didn't know much about the background before playing, after finishing the tutorial and populating my journal with characters, I took time to read about them and enjoy their humorous descriptions from Dandelion. I would highly recommend checking the journal when you get a chance, and you'll soon find yourself engrossed in the thrilling world.
The characters in this engrossing world are just as enjoyable to spend time with. Nearly all of the characters I've met so far have entertained me with their spot on voice-acting, witty dry humor, well written dialogue, and bold personalities. The King Foltest was my personal favorite so far. Rarely will you find yourself tired of chatting with a character.

Still a PC Game
One of the biggest problems I have with The Witcher 2 for Xbox is that it still feels a lot like a PC game. I completely understand that it was a PC game so it makes sense in some cases. And don't get me wrong, a lot of it has been updated with new controls, a new targeting system, quick menu in battle, tutorials and more (or so I've heard, I've never played the PC version). However, most of these things have been the downsides of the game so far. If you were to play the game on PC, you could find it at a cheaper price, and all of the content new for the Xbox 360 version was made FREE in a PC version 2.0 download. So because of some poor design sensibilities and lack of anything meaningful new, I'd recommend playing the PC version of The Witcher 2 if your computer is up for the task.

M is for Mature
A lot of games nowadays get branded with a big letter M by ESRB. I'm not trying to criticize ESRB's ratings, but this much more handily earns an M rating than a sci-fi shooter with imaginative guns and masked characters that instantly respawn in multiplayer. However, it isn't just a sadistic sinful romp; the game presents situations that are appropriate and not meant for a shock. You'll see naked women while experiencing Geralt's closeness to them, people decapitated as a killer works hard for his goal, and obscenities spewed in the heat of battle or an intense situation. All of these things make you more immersed in the game world, and a mature person will enjoy.

Quirks/Inconsistencies
Why do I have to exit and re-enter the die-rolling minigame every time I want to gamble? Why do people magically appear and disappear in Geralt's jail cell? Why can you only walk behind Roche and Triss in the forest, when they can walk faster than you and must stop to wait for you every 5 steps? Why do enemies work hard to kill you for 5 minutes while their squad dies around them, and then stroll off as soon as Geralt's knees buckle? Things like these seem to pop up all the time and odd design choices and other quirks can present problems for the game if you're looking for them. You can always find more when you look for them. One loading screen says you can cancel detrimental potions such as Cat from the meditation screen, but that option is nowhere to be found. Characters occasionally trail off their lines in conversations as if someone had interrupted them, but then there is a momentary pause before the next character speaks up. All of these are minor issues and frustrations, certainly, but they do come together to detract from a world that is otherwise so pristine in its scope.

Moral Dilemmas
One huge draw to the game that I have not experienced much (and probably won't until at least a second play-through) is the moral decisions. The game can take drastically different turns based on your choices throughout. The middle portion of the game is supposedly completely different based on a single important choice, almost requiring you to play through the game at least twice. These aren't just be-the-good-guy or be-the-bad-guy decisions either. There is no "right" answer; you simply make the choice that feels right to you based on your experience with the characters and the world. Once again, this makes you more involved with the world and the characters and it certainly doesn't feel like an on-rails game.

Steep Combat Learning Curve
There, I said it; the combat has a steep learning curve. Not necessarily in how it works, that is easy enough to grasp (dodge/block enemies, hit them with magic or appropriate sword attacks, don't get surrounded). But the problem comes when you try to incorporate those moves. Take the Left-Bumper quick menu for example. The slow-down that occurs when you're in the menu is a very nice touch to keep you moving in battle; but it is very sloppy to move away from the enemies, try and select the spell/item, exit the menu, reposition yourself for the move, and execute while your enemy is slowly chasing you. It would have been infinitely easier and more intuitive to be able to use items or spells from the menu (a la Mass Effect), or to simply tap the control pad up to cycle through spells and down to cycle through items. Another big problem is how unresponsive/awkward simply attacking feels, it is hard to tell if it really is because it is hard to direct combat how you want. It seems you don't direct Geralt's every movement, only his general strategy, but this is never explained to the player. So a lot of times you'll move the Left Stick away from an enemy and Geralt will continue staring at it for a moment before moving. Or you might press the A button before your previous swing has completely finished and you'll stand there looking like an idiot. Or perhaps you delay pressing you're A button until you're sure you've finished your previous move, which leaves a few moments for you to stand like an idiot between moves. All of these things seem like they can be overcome with a lot of practice and patience, but they contribute to the very steep learning curve of combat.

Looks Fantastic
I've never cared too much about looks in a game, but this game does blow me away. Beginning with the first cutscene of the Kingslayer, you can see the incredible attention to detail in the scenes. During actual gameplay, most of the graphics still hold up fantastic. The lighting is a highlight; I found a beam of light from a crack in a dark room and spent a good couple of minutes playing with it. Wherever you stand and wherever you turn the camera, the shadow Geralt projects is perfect. The light beam also moves up and down Geralt realistically as you move, even when you let him stand and swing his arms around. A nice & thoughtful option is the ability to switch between HD and SD fonts; if you've played an HD game on a SD TV before, you know how it can sometimes be impossible to make out the smaller fonts on your old TV. One problem that does occur frequently is textures popping in after a scene has changed. But even though it occurs frequently, it doesn't detract from the experience much.

Summary
Overall, I would certainly recommend playing this game, but I can't picture everyone enjoying it to its fullest. I'd point you in the direction of the PC version first, if your computer is up to the task. Finally, since the greatest draws of The Witcher 2 come from the story, the characters, and the world itself, I would have a hard time recommending it to gamers who only like games for immediate action. If you aren't narrow-minded and you can't take a stroll with the PC version however, I highly recommend picking up The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings: Enhanced Edition for Xbox 360.

Comments
  • Naked women? Sounds like teenager bait...

  • Well I already bought this game(along with a 360) but I do like your take on it. Just got to chapter two btw