There's been many features throughout the years for graphics cards to try and differentiate them from the previous generation, or the current competition.
From 4K to 60FPS and HDR, there's too many to list in the last twenty-five years that have been staples of certain graphics cards throughout the years.
But ray-tracing is a feature that's only come into prominence in the last couple of years, with it only gaining headway since it was implemented in the '20 Series' of NVIDIA's GeForce cards in 2018.
With the feature coming to Xbox Series X and PS5, alongside the upcoming GPU cards from NVIDIA and AMD, here's a quick rundown on just what ray-tracing is.
What is Ray-Tracing
First demoed by NVIDIA back in 2008 through 'Enemy Territory: Quake Wars', ray-tracing has only been implemented in games for the last three years, seeing huge strides in how existing games can be transformed by a different render of what the feature is capable of.
Essentially, the graphics component of something, whether if its a PC or a console, has the architecture to render graphics in a certain way, dictated by the programming of the game. The GPU then renders this on the instructions given.
With ray-tracing, a different method is performed, resulting in shaders, colours and graphics being rendered in a completely different way, which renders the graphics dependant on the lighting, reflections, and even colours of whatever room the player is in. In turn, its mimicking how these properties would look like in the real-world to an almost 1:1 scale.
Essentially that is what ray-tracing is in its simplest form. Because of this, it also allows released games to take advantage of this, thanks to mods by developers and the graphics cards that support ray-tracing, such as Minecraft and the GeForce '20 Series', from the 2060 to the 2080 RTX Super.
Where is Ray-Tracing Available
The feature is supported officially, and unofficially, alongside post-launch patches, that include Halo Infinite, which will have ray-tracing. Here's a list of the games so far that support it:
- Amid Evil
- Atomic Heart
- Battlefield V
- Bright Memory
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
- Call of Duty: Warzone
- Cyberpunk 2077
- Deliver Us The Moon
- Doom Eternal
- Dying Light 2
- Halo Infinite (Post-Launch Update)
- Mechwarrior V: Mercenaries
- Metro Exodus
- Quake II RTX
- Shadow of the Tomb Raider
- Stay in the Light
- Synced: Off-Planet
- The Medium
- Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2
- Watch Dogs: Legion
- Wolfenstein: Youngblood
With ray-tracing already announced to be coming to the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5, it's not currently present in the AMD GPU line that's available, such as the 5600 XT. But they have confirmed that their next-gen graphics will have ray-tracing included as standard in the RDNA2 architecture.
It's a feature that can re-render games from long ago, such as Quake II as the above video shows. It can show games in a totally different light (no pun intended) while showing just what a next-gen game could look like.
It's still early days, but ray-tracing looks to be a justified reason to upgrade your current GPU, or even your next-gen console.