Real-time Ray Tracing Might Finally Be Here
Metro Exodus’ Enhanced Edition has done something new in the realm of triple-A games. They went and released a version of their game that requires a ray-tracing capable graphics card. Although it can be one from either the Nvidia or AMD camp, both actually utilising DirectX 12’s DXR capability despite what Nvidia’s ‘RTX’ branding might attempt to have you believe.
When I first looked at a Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition vs Original video, I wasn’t exactly blown away. In some scenes, it was difficult to determine any meaningful difference at all. In others, it seemed to either be akin to a minor shift in colour-filters or worst of all an excessive brightening of what would otherwise have been a darker, more moody scene.
The official PC enhanced edition trailer did a better job but given what I’d already seen — I remained skeptical.
It’s hard to believe just how skeptical I was, now, from the perspective of having seen it in motion myself. Single-handedly, Metro: EE has taken my expectations of RT for gaming up several notches.
It’s not just a gimmick here. It isn’t just to add some shinies here and there for the early adopters of RTX cards to ‘Ooh’ and ‘Aah’ over. It’s hard to adequately put words to it — but I don’t think it too much of an exaggeration to say it is on the order of the switch over from software rendering to hardware-assisted. Or from single white lights to multiple capable of projecting colour.
It’s a big deal.
The video that convinced me enough to take a look for myself was this great one from Digital Foundry:
I always find it easier to appreciate something when I understand at least a little of what is going on to achieve the result. And this video helped a great deal in that respect.
But it would all be for nothing if it wasn’t performant.
One thing I’ve been taught to expect from enabling RT features to date, is that they carry significant performance penalties. Ones that, so far, have been of debatable worth.
Metro Exodus: Enhanced Edition runs incredibly smoothly. To be sure — I’m on using an RTX 3080; no slouch of a card but the performance issues I mentioned for other titles applied to me nonetheless. I’m running Metro on ultra settings, full RT, and at 5120×1440 (almost as demanding as a 4K resolution) and getting >80 FPS with DLSS 2.11 set to ‘Quality’.
All of which together leads me back to how I titled this post.
Raytracing in games, with a meaningful impact — not only to us the end users, but even to developer flow — has finally been demonstrated. And demonstrated in a way that leaves the game capable of running well even with all the bells and whistles turned on.
I suspect Metro Exodus: Enhanced Edition is going to be the title by which all other RT implementations are held up against for some time to come. But my hope is that we’ll see more like it, following this example, before too long. It’s going to be difficult to go back!