Cyberpunk 2077‘s long-awaited Overdrive function is right here. Introduced alongside the Nvidia RTX 4090, the brand new ray tracing mode brings full path tracing to the world of Evening Metropolis — and it seems unbelievable. It’s additionally extraordinarily demanding, and though there’s some argument that the visible enhancements are price it, after testing it myself, the brand new ray tracing mode doesn’t really feel like a cause to exit and purchase a brand new graphics card.

Path tracing is actually the arduous means of doing ray tracing, and it’s solely attainable now with the immense energy of current-gen GPUs and a few artful AI body era. So should you don’t have entry to the most recent and biggest, you possibly can’t activate the function. Don’t be apprehensive, although; for as spectacular as path tracing is on paper, it doesn’t overhaul the look of Cyberpunk 2077 totally.

Path tracing isn’t simply ray tracing

Cyberpunk 2077 | Ray Tracing: Overdrive Mode – 4K Expertise Preview Reveal

It’s vital to set the scene for the way demanding path tracing actually is. Path tracing is ray tracing, however it’s a way more strenuous model of ray tracing than what we’ve seen in numerous video games over the previous a number of years.

Below its fundamental definition, ray tracing works by following a ray out out of your digicam. That ray goes all through the scene, bounces off of objects, and circulates round till it reaches the unique gentle supply.

Right here’s the trick, although: With the ray tracing you usually see in video games, solely a number of the rays truly matter. They’re calculated — the sport solely takes a pattern of the rays to calculate the ultimate coloration of the pixel.

Path tracing is the arduous approach to do issues. It’s typically referred to as full ray tracing as a result of it takes under consideration the a number of bounces and floor nuances that conventional ray tracing can’t account for. Builders typically discover methods to avoid wasting on efficiency with conventional ray tracing, too.

As I described in my dissection of Portal RTXa ray-traced function just like the flashlight in Dying Mild 2 saves on efficiency by not calculating shadows or coloration reflection properties from the rays.

The consequences of path tracing in comparison with ray tracing aren’t all the time noticeable, which I’ll dig into subsequent. When the impact issues, although, it actually issues. An excellent instance is one thing like fog, which could not tackle coloration properties in a sport with ray-traced reflections and shadows. With full path tracing, the sunshine bouncing round within the fog will tackle the colour from sources round it.

Earlier than getting deeper, it’s vital to level out that the most recent replace for Cyberpunk 2077 provides rather more than path tracing. It sees the introduction of Nvidia’s Deep Studying Anti-Aliasing (DLAA), together with Intel’s XeSS Tremendous Decision function. The replace additionally overhauls the benchmark display screen, now displaying system specs, driver model, and extra.

Not all the time simple to identify

Path tracing in Cyberpunk 2077.

It’s not all the time simple to identify the variations between ray tracing and path tracing. In an enormous outside scene just like the one above, for instance, there are solely minor variations between the ray-traced and path-traced variations.

Within the path-traced model (left), there’s barely much less reflection of the bushes above because the puddles get nearer to your character. Evaluate that to the ray-traced model (center) the place you get the notorious shiny floor impact.

At first look, the picture with out ray tracing (proper) truly seems a bit higher — the reflections are sharper and the colour is extra moody. There are some trade-offs, although. In contrast to the ray-traced and path-traced variations, the reflections of the bushes are minimize off as a result of they aren’t seen to the digicam, and there isn’t bloom from the massive purple lights.

Path tracing in Cyberpunk 2077.

These small variations can matter, as evidenced by the comparability above. With out ray tracing (proper), the massive lights on the suitable don’t mirror off the stone pillars. There are another notable variations between path tracing and ray tracing right here, too.

The shadow forged by the ledge above is way much less noticeable within the path-traced model (left). As a substitute, the overwhelming energy of vivid daylight washes out the shadow like it could in the actual world.

Path tracing in Cyberpunk 2077.

And equally, within the scene above, the shadows are a lot much less intense within the path-traced model (left). As a substitute, objects just like the bench tackle extra pure shadowing. That is significantly true with the sunshine proper subsequent to bench. With out ray tracing (proper), there’s a stark direct reflection on the bench. With each ray tracing and path tracing, although, that reflection is swallowed up by the a lot brighter gentle from the solar. This picture can also be an excellent illustration of what path tracing can do for shadows (take a look at the bushes within the background).

In my time with the brand new path tracing mode, inside scenes caught out probably the most. That is the place path tracing actually shines over ray tracing. Evaluating the 2, you possibly can see the reflection on the ceiling barely registers with ray tracing, whereas it practically blows out the scene with path tracing.

Equally, the reflection off the bottom isn’t current, and also you don’t get that delicate mix of the white and purple lights mixing collectively on the ground.

Path tracing in Cyberpunk 2077.

For those who take a look at the model with out ray tracing (proper), you get loads of the reflections which can be current within the path-traced model (left). The satan is within the particulars right here, although. The bench doesn’t tackle any of the purple reflections from the desk subsequent to it, and the backwall doesn’t mirror the massive white gentle. As well as, the counter is roofed in shadow, moderately than being lit up by the open doorway that’s simply off digicam.

That’s the facility of path tracing. It’s outstanding when you possibly can spot the nuances of lighting in a scene and see how this costly method can elevate the look.

There’s the issue, although; path tracing is dear. For pretty much as good as it could actually look, the variations between path tracing and even conventional display screen house methods might be powerful to identify in regular gameplay, and turning on path tracing can vastly scale back your efficiency.

Nothing comes free

A hand grabbing MSI's RTX 4090 Suprim X.
Jacob Roach / Digital Tendencies

You might not need to activate path tracing for the efficiency hit, however there’s an excellent chunk of people that merely can’t activate path tracing. Cyberpunk 2077‘s path tracing solely works on RTX 40-series graphics playing cards, so that you’ll want not less than an RTX 4070 Ti to show it on. It technically works on the RTX 3090 as effectively, although the developer says that it is best to count on the sport to run at 30 frames per second (fps) at 1080p.

I examined path tracing out with the RTX 4090 and Intel’s Core i9-13900K, which is, by practically any metric, probably the most highly effective gaming PC cash can purchase proper now. Going from the very best preset with out ray tracing to path tracing dropped my body fee from 118 fps to 31.4 fps — a 74% dip.

Even with the very best ray tracing preset, you possibly can comfortably play the sport at 60 fps. Additionally take into account that I used to be testing on an Alienware 34 QD-OLED monitor with a decision of three,440 x 1,440. At 4K, the sport is much more demanding.

Path tracing performance in Cyberpunk 2077.

You’re not supposed to make use of path tracing like this, although. There’s a cause that you just want an RTX 40-series GPU, and that’s DLSS Body Era. It’s no coincidence that DLSS Body Era boosts efficiency to across the similar stage as native efficiency with out ray tracing. Certain, turning on DLSS with out ray tracing ends in even greater efficiency, however at round 120 fps? That’s not unhealthy for one of the crucial demanding video games a PC can run proper now.

When you’ve got among the best graphics playing cards in the marketplace, Cyberpunk 2077‘s Overdrive mode is a good way to raise the look of the sport. As my testing and pictures present, although, it’s not a revolution. It’s nonetheless very demanding, locking out a big swath of in any other case highly effective {hardware}, and though it seems the most effective, the variations are typically powerful to identify.

So, activate Overdrive should you can. However don’t fear should you can’t; you’re not lacking out on a lot.

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