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Here's what The Witcher 3 looks like at 4K on PS4 Pro

First impressions from Digital Foundry.

We've been waiting for this for a long time. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was one of the key titles we were looking to see upgraded for Sony's super-charged PS4 and finally, ten months from the system's release, patch 1.51 with full Pro support finally dropped today. The question is, has full 4K been delivered? On top of that, has anything else changed or seen improvement?

We've only just started to look at the upgraded version of the title, but it's pretty clear from the outset that CD Projekt RED is using checkerboard rendering to boost the presentation of the game from its native 1080p on base hardware. This technique effectively sees the developer render a 1920x2160 framebuffer in a checkerboard configuration, typically filling in the gaps using information from prior frames.

It's proven particularly effective in games like Horizon Zero Dawn and Destiny 2, with little in the way of artefacts visible to the naked eye - it's an excellent technique for a GPU better suited to 1440p gameplay to achieve a good presentation fit for a 4K screen. The Witcher 3's implementation varies in quality - thanks to the high pixel density and 'sample and hold' blur found in LCD technology, the game scales up well to ultra HD displays.

However, while some titles even pass muster on close-up screenshot inspections, the Witcher 3 isn't quite so effective and it's actually easy to spot tell-tale checkerboard artefacts. If you play the game with the default motion blur mode active, the break-up is hidden more effectively.

It's early days with our testing so far, but some changes and improvements are in play. Texture filtering is improved, though the base assets - including art quality - look to be the same as the game running on the standard PlayStation 4. Curiously though, ambient occlusion looks as though it's pared back in some of the scenes we tested - something we intend to investigate in further depth [UPDATE: Ambient occlusion is actually enhanced and looks like Nvidia's HBAO). Initial tests also suggest that some of The Witcher 3's most challenging areas - such as Crookback Bog - actually run slower than base hardware, which in turn was a touch slower than the Pro running the old code under boost mode.

PlayStation 4 Pro 4K PlayStation 4 Pro 1080p PlayStation 4
The Witcher 3 now supports PS4 Pro, increasing the native resolution to 2160p via checkerboarding while in its 4K output mode. Thankfully this also benefits those on 1080p screens - where super-sampling is in effect.
PlayStation 4 Pro 4K PlayStation 4
It's a sharper image in cut-scenes too. Curiously though, the ambient occlusion effect on PS4 Pro is visibly stripped back with this patch engaged, compared to the thick pockets of shadow on a regular PS4. UPDATE: Further tests suggests it's actually an enhancement generally - a move from SSAO to Nvidia's HBAO.
PlayStation 4 Pro 4K PlayStation 4
Texture filtering is boosted on PS4 Pro! Looking to the execution platform on the left, the ground texture has a far clearer presentation - better fitting a 4K picture.
PlayStation 4 Pro 4K PlayStation 4
Character models, effects and textures are otherwise as they appear on a base PS4.
PlayStation 4 Pro 1080p PlayStation 4
A final shot comparing PS4 Pro at 1080p and a standard PS4 - without scaling at a pure 1080p. Here the differences in anti-aliasing and texture filtering are clear.

Finally, rounding off this very early look at the patch 1.51, the good news is that we can confirm that full super-sampling is in effect for PlayStation 4 Pro users with 1080p displays, meaning pristine-looking anti-aliasing, while the enhanced texture filtering also scales down nicely too.

We're still playing the game and running through our benchmark areas so we suspect there'll be much more detail to unearth, but right now, performance dips aside, the Witcher 3 on PS4 Pro does indeed deliver an improved presentation overall, though perhaps not quite the flawless upgrade users may have hoped for. We'll have a full analysis and video breakdown as soon as we can.

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About the author

Thomas Morgan

Thomas Morgan

Senior Staff Writer, Digital Foundry  |  cataferal

32-bit era nostalgic and gadget enthusiast Tom has been writing for Eurogamer and Digital Foundry since 2011. His favourite games include Gitaroo Man, F-Zero GX and StarCraft 2.

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