Nvidia has released a list of games with upcoming support for its new RTX ray-tracing feature, as well as a brief discussion of how that feature will be deployed in a shipping title. With a wide range of games promising support, these new features have a good initial showing for debut, though there are questions about the size of the visual fidelity improvement and the performance hit from enabling. We’ll discuss those shortly.
Nvidia’s default list is rather difficult to parse because it contains duplicates. We’ve reorganized it to show the list of PC games that support real-time ray tracing, the games that’ll support Nvidia’s new DLSS (Deep Learning Super-Sampling), and those titles that’ll implement both capabilities:
Ray tracing is a minority feature thus far, though support for it is being integrated into three major titles (Metro Exodus, Battlefield V, Shadow of the Tomb Raider). Support for DLSS, on the other hand, is stronger, with an announced 10 games planning to implement the capability. (Six games support ray tracing, 10 will implement DLSS, and five will have both features.) There’s also a larger number of AAA / heavy popular titles implementing DLSS, with FFXV, Hitman 2, PUBG, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider all using the feature. Thus far, Shadow of the Tomb Raider is the only AAA title to announce support for both features, and images from PCGamesN raise the question of how far along SotTR’s implementation actually is.
But PCGamesN raised some serious concerns about just how much of a performance impact these features are going to have, writing:
[I]t’s tough not to be a little concerned when the ultra-expensive, ultra-enthusiast RTX 2080 Ti isn’t able to hit 60fps at 1080p in Shadow of the Tomb Raider. We weren’t able to see what settings the game was running at as the options screens were cut down in the build we were capturing, but GeForce Experience was capturing at the game resolution and the RTX footage we have is 1080p.
With the FPS counter on in GFE we could see the game batting between 33fps and 48fps as standard throughout our playthrough and that highlights just how intensive real-time ray tracing can be on the new GeForce hardware… While the shadows in my play-time did look pretty good, in that brightly lit instance it’s hard to see where they look that much better than the traditional way that shadows are faked in-game. And to enable the ray traced shadows you’re obviously having to pay a huge performance penalty for the privilege.
As PCGamesN notes, this an early game build running on early drivers on hardware that isn’t launched yet. Given this, it’s entirely reasonable to extend Nvidia some runway room to improve final performance. But even allowing for this, 33-48fps on a $1,200 GPU running at 1080p is not reasonable by any objective measure. Performance doesn’t just need to improve — it needs to double or triple at 1080p for the game to have a prayer of running well in 4K at the same frame rate.
PCGamesN writes that while Battlefield V looks impressive as hell with ray tracing enabled, again, there’s a huge performance hit for doing so. The game was still running in 1080p, and while no frame rate counter was shown, they claim they’d bet BF5 isn’t hitting 60fps, either. Again, for a $1200 GPU to struggle to maintain a 60fps smooth frame rate in 1080p is at least mildly surprising — even when we allow for the early state of adoption. And it’s more important that BFV deliver high frame rates than pretty pictures, given the priority competitive gamers put on robust performance.
We’re explicitly not recommending that gamers look at these early results and conclude that Nvidia’s ray tracing technology is DOA. The cards won’t ship for a month, and all footage is early, with early drivers. But by the same token, the basic purpose of a GPU launch is to establish that your GPUs will deliver better performance and more features in next-generation titles. Nvidia has definitely demonstrated some visual milestones, but its own $1,200 GPUs are gasping to deliver them. Its performance in current games isn’t known, but the math doesn’t look good.
In short, instead of writing about how the math behind Pascal virtually guarantees a huge performance uplift over Maxwell (which is the situation we were in back in 2016), we’re telling you that the basic math doesn’t point in Turing’s favor at all. In order to deliver the kind of proportional uplift it offered in 2016, Nvidia will need to have sharply increased GPU IPC or found other methods of boosting efficiency. And no matter what, you’re going to pay more for these GPUs than you did last generation (assuming you bought at MSRP).
We won’t know if Nvidia actually pulled this off for a few weeks yet, and ExtremeTech recommends refraining from preorders until these questions are settled, even if that means waiting for the cards to launch. Nvidia may have delivered substantial performance improvements in addition to its new ray tracing technology, but the company has shown no benchmarks to demonstrate that it has done so.
Now Read: Don’t Buy The Ray-Traced Hype Around the Nvidia RTX 2080, How Nvidia’s RTX Ray Tracing Works, and Nvidia Announces RTX GPU Family