WCCFTech recently interviewed the lead programmer for Far Cry 6, discussing some of the graphical upgrades we’ll see when the game launches on October 7. More importantly, it seems the next generation consoles won’t be getting all the enhancements, specifically the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X won’t get ray tracing effects—or FidelityFX Super Resolution and CAS. There are good reasons to limit the consoles, but what it all boils down to is that the consoles simply aren’t as powerful as PCs with the best graphics cards, and the visual improvements offered by ray tracing in particular aren’t worth the loss in performance. Shocking, right?
It has now been over three years since Nvidia attempted to usher in the era of real-time ray tracing for games with its RTX 20-series Turing GPUs. There have been some good examples of how ray tracing can improve the look and feel of games, the best being Control, Cyberpunk 2077, and Minecraft—and Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition probably warrants inclusion in the list as well now.
All those games make use of multiple ray tracing effects for reflections, shadows, lighting, and more. I’ve also been impressed with the visuals in the upcoming Bright Memory Infinity, which will also use multiple RT effects. But for each of those games that makes better use of RT, there are multiple games with RT effects that make me wonder why the developers even bothered.
Let’s just be blunt. The ray traced shadows in Call of Duty, Dirt 5, Godfall, Resident Evil Village, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and World of Warcraft feel like a waste of effort. It’s not that they’re bad, but they’re just not enough of an improvement over good shadow mapping—and they still cause a 15–30% loss in performance, depending on the game and hardware you’re running on.
The global illumination used in the original Metro Exodus also only mattered in select scenes, and RT reflections that are only visible on a few surfaces also don’t make a huge difference in how a game looks and feels (Battlefield V, Doom Eternal, MechWarrior 5 Mercenaries, Watch Dogs Legion, and Wolfenstein Youngblood). Again, it’s not that ray tracing is bad… it’s just not good enough that it’s really necessary in most games.
Of course, I’d say the same for the ultra presets that are in a lot of games as well. It’s often a placebo setting, providing negligible improvements over the high preset for a 10–20% loss in performance. PC gaming enthusiasts have become conditioned to think that if we’re not running with every setting cranked up to the maximum, at more than 144 fps, we’re missing out. Console gamers manage to survive with 30–60 fps gameplay and predefined settings, and they’re happy. But that’s a separate topic.