An upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 tech preview from CD Projekt Red will show us the power of path tracing. Move over ray tracing, there’s a new kid on Cyberpunk’s block.
Path tracing, also known as full ray tracing, has been used in computer-generated imagery for film and television for some time, with notable examples including some Pixar animation. It “accurately simulates the light throughout an entire scene, making things even more realistic.
Now that technology is coming to Cyberpunk 2077 on April 11th in the game’s Raytracing: Overdrive mode.
How Cyberpunk 2077 achieved photorealistic graphics using NVIDIA tools.
Nvidia has described it as “a little taste of 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, and then uses AI.” and GeForce RTX Tensor Cores to reconstruct the rest, dramatically multiplying frame rates and delivering crisp, high-quality images that rival native resolution.
An Nvidia blog post accompanying this Cyberpunk 2077 preview states: “With full ray tracing, virtually all light sources now cast physically correct soft shadows. Natural colored light 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 gamers better graphics, but also promises to revolutionize the entire pipeline of game development.”
The post continues: “Since the 1970s, video games have relied on rasterization techniques. More recently, in 2018, Nvidia introduced RTX GPUs to support ray tracing. Path tracing is the ultimate frontier for the most physically accurate lighting and shadows.”
You can see a comparison between these three techniques in the image below:
Path tracing, ray tracing, and rasterization. Image Nvidia.
The full specs for Cyberpunk 2077’s upcoming Overdrive mode are not mentioned in the blog post.
However, since the post mentions that it wasn’t possible to bring “path tracing” to real-time graphics until “the GeForce RTX 40 series and DLSS 3 were available,” it seems likely that your kit needs to be on the higher end of the range Order of magnitude for this tech preview to be realized.