With the release of Cyberpunk 2077’s RT Overdrive upgrade, a modern triple-A game achieves a new level of visual fidelity through path tracing – the purest form of ray tracing. However, the perception is that only RTX 40-series GPUs or the best 30-series cards can run these graphics, but what if I told you that it’s easily possible to get 1080p at 30 frames per second ? Experiences with the RTX 3050 – Nvidia’s entry-level RT-ready desktop graphics card? It can be done – and this opens the door to all the 20 and 30 series cards I’ve tested that have had a surprisingly good experience. Not only that, but high-end AMD RDNA 2 and RDNA 3 graphics hardware is also in the mix.
I first got the idea of making some kind of performance piece to RT Overdrive when I added some benchmarks to the RTX 4070 review. The frame-generated 4070 can run the game at over 60 frames per second using a combination of DLSS 2 balanced mode and DLSS 3 frame generation – and it looks pretty good. We’re already in playable framerate territory for the RTX 3080, but the 3070 struggles. While we have options – reducing the resolution, reducing the DLSS quality level – what’s most intriguing is that a mod has recently appeared that increases performance by 20 to 35 percent in my tests. Unfortunately Intel is off the table at the moment, likely due to driver issues, but Arc has great RT hardware and it’s certainly only a matter of time before those GPUs join the fray.
The mod is available here on Nexus Mods, created by Erok and Scorn and I’ve found that the extra performance it delivers combined with reasonable quality settings for the GPU you have can make the difference between an experience that’s in the low 20 fps range up to power one that should keep you consistently above 30 fps. From there, either run unlocked or use the game’s built-in 30fps v-sync cap. A consistent frame rate always looks good, but I have to warn you that the lag this introduces to Cyberpunk 2077 is pretty terrible. However, I was very surprised at how good the experience was. The mod mentions “almost free FPS” but there’s no such thing as free lunch when it comes to rendering, so what does it actually do?
Join us for a video breakdown of how we got Cyberpunk 2077 RT Overdrive to downscale on 20- and 30-series RTX cards – including the slowest of the slowest RTX 3050.
At its core, ray tracing is about literally tracing the path of light and its reflections against geometry. With the default settings, the game simulates two impacts of indirect lighting and this is reduced to one impact with the mod. The most obvious degradation in fidelity comes from reflections. In the case of the lighting visible on objects in reflection, indirect lighting is completely absent since the secondary reflection is no longer present. Objects in the reflection can appear almost black except for areas directly lit by the sun or local lights. Obviously, this is a noticeable step backwards in terms of visual realism.
With diffuse lighting easily seen throughout the game world, the impact here is that every area is now technically darker and indirectly lit areas are even darker, while the reduced light means the game’s post-processing changes: Less light invades the virtual camera so that the adaptation of the eyes becomes more extreme. It’s a downgrade in quality then, but the lion’s share of the impact of the path-tracing presentation remains intact. There’s also precedent for this reduction in light jumps – Nvidia’s own Portal RTX allows you to configure the number of jumps to open up the game to more GPUs. I would imagine that once RT Overdrive migrates from a technology preview to a full product, quality settings like this will be added to the game.
So if you want to sample RT Overdrive on the RTX 3050, the recommended settings are 1080p, DLSS performance mode. Switch that to DLSS quality on 2070 Super, 2080 or RTX 3060. If you look at the benchmark chart on this page, you can see at the very bottom a grouping of GPUs with the RTX 3050 almost sitting at the foot, with only the RX 6800 XT worse off. I would say that any card below the RTX 3070 threshold should be able to produce a decent 1080p30 experience – the further up you go the better the reconstruction technique you can use. Despite this, I was still able to get 30 fps with the RX 6800 XT and use the FSR2 balanced mode. While it’s not a fully consistent 30fps, you can judge the results for yourself by looking at the footage in the video.
Cyberpunk 2077 RT Overdrive, 1440p, balanced upscaling
The RTX 3070 Threshold is interesting, however, because theoretically the RTX 2080 Ti should be just as potent – but it isn’t. All 20-series cards perform worse according to existing benchmarks. The 3070 beats the 2080 Ti, while even the 3060 outperforms the 2080 by around 11 percent. Going back to the RTX 3070, while 1440p looks doable, the 24 fps minimum is onerous. However, Erok and Scorn’s mod bumps the worst case up to around 30 fps, meaning 1440p is viable with DLSS balanced mode. Increasing the rendering resolution and reconstruction quality does wonders in improving image quality. The fuzz has been lifted and we’ve returned to a level of fidelity befitting the hardware. This is where Cyberpunk 2077 RT Overdrive really delivers a fantastic visual return and the news only gets better when you dump the same 1440p balanced setting onto an RTX 3080.
You’re not locked into 60 frames per second with the mod, but you’re usually within the VRR window, giving you a perceptibly smoother experience. The truth is, once you start hitting 3080 level hardware, the unmodded experience is superbly playable at 1440p – the mod simply reduces RT in the manner previously outlined, giving you a good chunk of performance back.
The RTX 3080 is a great card and allows you to get some very, very impressive results from RT Overdrive without having to use the mod and lowering the path tracing quality level. I found that I was able to get some impressive results by using the Nvidia Control Panel to set up a custom 3200×1800 resolution. At this point, I can run RT Overdrive in DLSS performance mode, aim for 30fps, and the vast majority of the game hits the framerate target. The only exception to the rule was a run across the Cherry Blossom Market near Tom’s Diner, where the frame rate dropped. Overall though, this was a very enjoyable presentation – although 1440p with the mod will keep you in the high 40s to over 60fps, so a good fit for G-Sync, FreeSync or VRR screens.
Our first preview of RT Overdrive from last week – a deeper dive into how this is possible on current-gen hardware is in the works.
At this point, it would be remiss not to point out that you don’t need a separate GPU at all to get a 4K RT Overdrive experience – you can stream over the cloud via GeForce Now at the 4080 level. This is by far the best streaming experience I’ve ever had. The servers essentially run a stripped-down version of the RTX 4090 silicon with 24GB of VRAM, delivering desktop 4080 ballpark performance supported by a 16-core Ryzen 5000 CPU. Normally I’d say you’re looking at frame rates of 50-75fps, although there are occasional dips into the 40s – and that’s with active imaging. I was also impressed with the input lag, even with frame gen in the picture. It’s not as accurate as a local experience, but headshots were doable.
In summary, CD Projekt RED suggested at launch that RT Overdrive would only run on 40-series cards and the best Ampere GPUs, but the truth is that it will run on any DirectX12 Ultimate-class graphics hardware and with Strategic Settings Management and providing a mod, it’s possible to experience path tracing on any RTX card and a good selection of high-end AMD offerings. It’s true that the 40-series performance and DLSS 3-frame generation combine to deliver massively improved returns – 4K really is something on RTX 4080 and RTX 4090-class hardware – but the tools are there to break the game running better than expected on current generation GPUs.
What we’ve shown today might not be the best RT Overdrive experience you can get, or even the best way to play Cyberpunk 2077 on your PC, but a playable triple-A path-tracing game already borders on the unbelievable – and the idea of it being able to run on even the cheapest RTX card only adds to the general disbelief surrounding this release.
To see this content, please enable targeting cookies. Manage cookie settings