Disclosure ‐ I was given a ruler and dog tags
On Friday, I had the chance to sit down with representatives from NVIDIA in a closed-door session to show off their new Ray-Tracing technology, which forms the backbone of the recently released RTX Graphics Card Series. During this demonstration, I also got to see Ray-Tracing’s Global Illumination in action for Metro Exodus.
You may have only clicked on this article to see what I have to say about Metro Exodus, and in that case, you’re in luck because I’m going to talk about it first.
From the outset, Metro Exodus gave me mad S.T.A.L.K.E.R vibes. Now, I never played Last Light, so that could very well be a holdover from the previous game, but the demo began in a forested area and directed me through some abandoned shacks.
Straight away it was very clear what the developers wanted us to focus on: The lighting. To there credit, it was unlike anything I had ever seen before; the shadows cast throughout the forest and decaying buildings were absolutely mesmerising. It truly was a level of immersion that felt so uncanny its made me reconsider whether or not I want an RTX GPU. In fact, the environment in general was gorgeous. There were tree houses woven into the forest, a ‘not-so-abandoned’ town, and terrifying looking mutant werewolves that made normal wolves sprint past me out of fear.
Gameplay wise there isn’t a HUGE amount to say. The demo was in alpha state and acted more or less a walking simulator with guns. That being said, the guns felt pretty good, especially the shotgun which decimated these weird forest-living folk giving me grief. A crossbow was also present, and I could see a fleshed out crafting system within the menu, but wasn’t able to interact with it.
Ultimately, despite being essentially a press tech demo, merely the control scheme, graphical fidelity and general ‘feel’ of the game were enough to make me excited for Metro Exodus’ release.
What is Ray-Tracing
Fundamentally, Ray-Tracing is the realistic simulation of light inside a game engine. Prior to RTX GPUs, reflections and light effects were meticulously faked across games, which takes an incredible amount of time and effort. Primarily, Ray-Tracing is used in an effort to produce real-life reflections and shadows.
Below are some examples which should help you identify the differences.
That really is a difficult question, and its one I struggled with throughout the course of the meeting. Currently, I’m pretty close to upgrading from my dusty old 970 right now, so I’ve been jolting back and forth between buying a 1080Ti or one of the new RTX GPUs.
There’s no doubt in my mind that ray-tracing is the next step in graphics technology. Developers are steadily adopting it into their games, and once enough progress has been made it will significantly reduce the time it takes to make titles.
However, is it worth it to upgrade now, rather than waiting until what will likely be a better, more improved RTX series next year? I posed this question to the NVIDIA representatives and their perspective was quite illuminating.
Oftentimes we see companies as needing to constantly justify their products to us, based on our own view that “if you want us to buy this you need to tell us why!” Though, I believe the boots on the ground opinion in the NVIDIA office is that they just want to make cool stuff and progress the industry. In the end, it is the consumers’ choice to decide whether the upgrade is worth it or not, and the people I spoke to believe Ray-Tracing technology is already a worthwhile addition to recent and forthcoming games.
Beyond Ray-Tracing, the RTX series also adopts a new form of anti-aliasing technology that I feel has gone under-reported since the announcement of the cards. Without diving into the nitty-gritty, DLSS is a more accurate form of anti-aliasing which places less of a burden on the processing power of the GPU. You can see a couple of comparisons and benchmarks in the images below.
Granted, the benchmarks are also comparing RTX cards with the older GTX series, though I was told that in addition to the standard framerate jump from GTX to RTX, DLSS has a significantly positive impact on performance.