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Should you install The Witcher 3 patch 1.07?

Valuable gameplay features added, but performance takes a hit on consoles.

It's the biggest update so far for The Witcher 3, with patch 1.07 demanding chunky 7.3GB of space on your PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. With that HDD footprint comes some suitably big features - most anticipated of all being a new stash system for your inventory, and an alternative animation system designed to make control of Geralt more responsive. But contrary to expectations, its touted benefits to performance aren't apparent on close examination. In fact, frame-rates in many areas are noticeably worse on both platforms once the patch is installed. Suffice to say, we weren't expecting that.

Let's start with Xbox One. Our analysis shows Microsoft's console retains its advantage in frame-rate over the PS4, but there's a downgrade in effect with the transition from patch 1.05 to 1.07. A horseback tour around Novigrad city remains largely stutter free on the latest update - as was the case before. However, charging through Crookback bog during heavy rainfall tells another story as we stress the engine to its fullest.

Essentially, gameplay on Xbox One now appears to rely on a similar double-buffer v-sync set-up to the PS4 game, locking its frame-rate to 20fps during these lulls in performance. This means that the reading on our graph is consistently lower on patch 1.07 as compared to 1.05, where it was free to waver between 20-30fps freely. On a matching route through the bog, frame-rate can be up to 8fps slower on the latest version of the game.

Rather than improve PS4 and Xbox One's frame-rates as expected, patch 1.07 actually shows a regression for each. Microsoft's platform now appears to use a double-buffer method of v-sync to match PS4, causing it to lock at 20fps when the going gets tough in the swamps.Watch on YouTube

It's a set-up that matches PlayStation 4, which also locks at 20fps for this section of gameplay. Ultimately we're still getting a very choppy experience with both platforms, but it's surprising to see a noticeable degradation in performance on the updated Xbox One release. Meanwhile, effects-heavy cut-scenes still show the same pattern of drops on our graph as before, while frame-rates during a griffin encounter remain prone to dips when using the Igni fire spell. Nothing has changed here.

With the new patch installed, the PS4 version doesn't get off lightly either. A route through the bog shows frame-rates lower than our original 1.05 test, where its lock at 20fps holds more consistently as we pass through the boggy thicket. On top of that, even traveling through simple countryside roads (or Novigrad's central city) continues to produce single-frame stutters every few seconds - a rough point we had hoped would be ironed out by now. Overall, little has improved in PS4's bid for a smooth 30fps reading here, and in fact, the tail-end of our Novigrad test shows dips to 25fps as we hit the marketplace - something not seen on the last patch.

Compared side-by-side, the gap has narrowed between PS4 and Xbox One, but only due to the latter's apparent degradation in performance, forcing the two to run at a matching 20fps in challenging areas. Otherwise, PS4's performance profile on patch 1.07 doesn't give us much to celebrate - it still stutters in places where Xbox One runs at a perfectly smooth 30fps, and in cut-scenes, Sony's console produces the lower readings overall.

That said, patch 1.07 comes with an exhaustive changelog that impacts more than just frame-rate, but overall image quality remains static. A cursory glance suggests the visual settings remain the same between the two, up to and including foliage and shadow LODs. Xbox One's curious dynamic resolution also shows no gains in holding a genuine 1080p during open-world travel or combat - it continues to upscale from a lower resolution.

Performance on Xbox One is very similar in most areas to version 1.05, except for the swamp areas, which see a big hit to frame-rates of up to 8fps.Watch on YouTube

Alternative analysis:

However, the good news is that control response of Geralt has improved. An 'alternative' option is added in the gameplay options, letting players twist and turn with less delay. For full 180 degree about-turns, this effectively cuts out the deceleration in his movement, meaning his momentum carries straight over to a new direction. With this, it's now possible to walk in smooth figure-eights that were not possible using the original mode - but if there is a criticism, it's that realism is sacrificed for playability here. However, Geralt could often prove frustrating to control prior to patch 1.07, but this newer, agile animation at least gives more direct feedback from the analogue stick.

So back to the question: should you install patch 1.07? Even with its negative impacts on frame-rate on PS4 and Xbox One, it's hard to overlook the wealth of positive changes to The Witcher 3. Weapon stats are rebalanced, the inventory systems are streamlined, and bug fixes too numerous to mention bolster the core package. With the new movement system, everything is snappier, with crowded pub areas now much easier to navigate. The switch to 1.07 is recommended overall, but with some reluctance: we were promised improved performance and it's surprising to see that this controversial area of The Witcher 3 actually seems to take a hit with the new update. The wealth of new features is clearly welcome and obviously improves the game, but we really would like to see the console versions' frame-rate and stability problems comprehensively addressed.

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