UPDATE 13/8/15 10:15am - We've updated this piece with a full analysis of how disabling post-process blur effects can improve performance, most noticeably on PlayStation 4. The video is embedded at the foot of this piece.
Original story: Rolled out to Xbox One and PlayStation 4 owners last weekend, patch 1.08 puts frame-rate tweaks at the top of the bill, with its notes stating "improvements to performance, including some issues that may have been caused by 1.07". To recap on this point, the last patch introduced some surprising downgrades in frame-rate - most alarmingly a hard 20fps cap on Xbox One in the Crookback Bog area where before it ran in the region of 28fps. Fortunately, having tested the latest patch in the same areas, we can confirm a definite frame-rate gain once the new update is installed.
On Xbox One this means that the hard drops to 20fps are now removed. Performance is now in line with patch 1.05, letting the game run freely at any number between 20-30fps during the bog stress-test. In other words, CD Projekt Red delivers on its headline promise with the new code, and the 20fps lock we saw in our 1.07 analysis is replaced by a more variable, but always superior read-out. This also returns Xbox One's frame-rate advantage over PS4 for this demanding segment - where Sony's platform continues to keep its frame-rate capped at 20.
Meanwhile, PS4 benefits in its own way from patch 1.08. A horseback ride through Novigrad City still gives us the same one-off stutters (not seen to the same extent on Xbox One), but the sustained drop to 25fps in the marketplace brought about by patch 1.07 is now gone. We now get an average of 30fps here as we turn the corner on the latest patch, and PS4's overall delivery is once again very close to that of patch 1.05's. The negative side-effects seen in the last patch are undone, and we're essentially back where we were.
- The Witcher 3 PlayStation 4 patch 1.08 vs patch 1.07/1.05 performance
- The Witcher 3 PlayStation 4 vs Xbox One patch 1.08 performance
So what does this mean? On the one hand, we can celebrate the fact that The Witcher 3's last, most optimal state has been restored with patch 1.08. And of course, we keep all the other benefits the 1.07 update introduced at the time, such as a smoother movement mode for Geralt, its revised inventory system, plus a laundry list of bug fixes. However, those expecting a real vault forward in performance shouldn't get their hopes up here; this simply gives us what we had in the first place with patch 1.05.
Needless to say, this is The Witcher 3 in its best state on either console, though it's clear certain issues persist even after six updates. Sony's machine in particular suffers from stuttering in busy areas, and both console experiences are marred by pop-in around built-up city areas. As you can see in our three-way comparison between patches 1.05, 1.07 and 1.08, we still have NPCs wandering about with no limbs, torsos or heads, while textures can fail to stream in as we canter through Novigrad's city gates. It's still an issue, though the manifestation of it is different for every re-test of this route.
As a summary of where things stand, Microsoft's machine continues to give the smoothest performance of the two, though it's shorn of the true, native 1080p output seen on PS4. It's also fair to say both could use additional refinement on a technical level, and that after so many false dawns the likelihood of a major break-through in performance is growing increasingly smaller. But three months on from The Witcher 3's original release, at least patch 1.08 puts us back on track.
We've also had a number of requests to test performance in the game with post-processing turned off - a feature added in patch 1.07. Initially we tested this on Xbox One and any performance differential was in the margin of error, so thought little more of it - and that's a state of affairs that remains the same on the latest code. However, returning to it in 1.08, we find that disabling both blur and motion blur does make a significant improvement on PS4's most troubling areas, as you can see in the shots above (tests we've re-run to confirm). Disabling these effects doesn't actually impact image quality that much - so owners of Sony's console might want to check it out. We'll update with a full video as soon as we can.