An upcoming tech preview for CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077 will show us the power of path-tracing. Move over ray- tracing, there is a new kid on Cyberpunk’s block.
Path-tracing, which is also known as full ray-tracing, has been used in computer-generated imagery for films and TV for a while now, with notable examples including some Pixar animations. It “accurately simulates light throughout an entire scene”, making things even more realistic.
Now, this tech is coming to Cyberpunk 2077 on 11th April, in the game’s Ray-tracing: Overdrive Mode.
Nvidia has described it as a “sneak peek into the future of full ray-tracing”, possible thanks to CDPR’s use of Nvidia’s DLSS upscaling technology which “allows games to render an eighth of the pixels, then uses AI and GeForce RTX Tensor Cores to reconstruct the rest, dramatically multiplying frame rates, while delivering crisp, high-quality images that rival native resolution”.
A Nvidia blogpost on this Cyberpunk 2077 preview reads: “With full ray-tracing, now practically all light sources cast physically correct soft shadows. Natural coloured lighting also bounces multiple times throughout Cyberpunk 2077’s world, creating more realistic indirect lighting and occlusion.”
As Nvidia’s Pawel Kozlowski explains: “This not only gives better visuals to the players but also has the promise to revolutionise the entire pipeline of how games are being created.”
The post continues: “Since the 1970s, video games have relied on rasterisation techniques. More recently, in 2018, Nvidia introduced RTX GPUs to support ray-tracing. Path-tracing is the final frontier for the most physically accurate lighting and shadows.”
You can see a comparison between these three techniques in the image below:
There is no mention of the full specs for Cyberpunk 2077’s upcoming Overdrive Mode in the blog post.
However, given the post mentions it wasn’t until “GeForce RTX 40 series and DLSS 3 was available that it was possible to bring path-tracing to real-time graphics”, it seems likely your kit will need to be at the higher end of the scale for this tech preview to be realised.
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