Preview: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

Platform: Xbox 360

Style: 1-player action/role-playing

Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive

Developer: CD Projekt Red

Release: Spring

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By now, console owners may be tired of their PC-playing buddies singing effusive praise for "The Witcher 2." Luckily for the rest of the game-playing world, the excellent action/RPG is headed to the 360 this spring, along with some big improvements. I played the new console port and came away confident that the excellent game is receiving the transition it deserves.

For those not in the know, "The Witcher 2" is a third-person game of fantasy battles and political intrigue starring a mysterious monster hunter named Geralt. The number "2" on the title shouldn't scare anyone away, as the new story stands largely independent from its predecessor and is a perfect jumping on point for -new -players.

The PC version of "The Witcher 2" already plays well with a gamepad, and developer CD Projekt Red has used the last few months to make the controls feel even better. A new optional camera system follows the player and rotates the camera without the need for manual control, always moving to an angle that offers a good view of the action and where you're going. At the same time, players can still use the right stick to alter their view and can turn off the automatic camera if desired. Battles now have an excellent lock-on mechanic that keeps your focus on a single target, and a flick of the right stick switches to other enemies. Overall responsiveness in battle has been improved, and the team is currently locking in a new inventory management system, though it wasn't in place for our demo.

Beyond improvements to gameplay control and mechanics, the console version has a wealth of new story content. CD Projekt Red added new CG cutscenes throughout the game to deepen the plot, from opening movies that delve into the characters and world to closing movies that summarize the results of your various decisions throughout the game.

Best of all, CD Projekt Red added over four hours worth of new missions that feature new characters and locations. The new plot circulates around locating some royal heirs with the help of an alluring spy named Brigida, who had once posed as their caretaker. In playing through a lengthy part of this mission, I fought a number of battles versus brigands and mages aligned against Geralt's efforts to find the truth and saw several new conversation-driven role-playing sequences, like a plot to embroil a nobleman in the kidnapping. Like the rest of the game, excellent writing, smart dialogue, and morally ambiguous character choices characterize these sections.

PC players have been excited about "The Witcher 2" for a reason; the complexity and breadth of choices you face as a player are like nothing else in modern RPGs. If development continues apace, expect "The Witcher 2" to draw some big attention from console gamers this spring.

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