Cyberpunk 2077 is getting some more features that support Nvidia RTX graphics cards. Nvidia and developer CD Projekt Red confirmed today that the game will have these key RTX capabilities when it launches November 19. Only the PC version supports ray tracing for now, though. It could come to Cyberpunk 2077 on Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5, but that will require a separate update specifically for those consoles.
CD Projekt Red’s sci-fi dystopian adventure is coming with support for the following RTX options (which I’ll explain below):
- Ray-traced ambient occlusion
- Ray-traced diffuse illumination
- Ray-traced reflections
- Ray-traced shadows
Let’s break all of that down.
Ambient occlusion is a technique to properly shade corners, cracks, and crevices. With ray tracing, the GPU can quickly determine how many light rays could reach a specific point, and then it can add or remove light based on that result. This is a subtle-yet-crucial effect for adding realism to a scene. It’s also relatively easy on performance compared to some other RTX features.
Ray-traced diffuse illumination is a way of calculating how light changes as it moves through objects or spaces. This makes it easier to determine how light from the sky or from a series of covered lighting panels should behave.
For reflections, Cyberpunk 2077 is using ray tracing to bounce image lighting off of all kinds of surfaces. This should give puddles, mirrors, and brushed metal a lifelike quality.
Shadows, however, are limited to light from the sun and moon. But that’s a good start. Ray tracing is the perfect solution to accurate lighting in an open-world game with a day-night cycle. That’s better than baking light maps for each position of the sun or moon.
Cyberpunk 2077 has robust ray-tracing even if it isn’t going all the way
CD Projekt Red is putting a lot of ray tracing in Cyberpunk 2077. Its current list of supported features is an improvement over what it promised in 2019. At that time, the studio was only going to use ambient occlusion and diffuse illumination. And the truth is that few people would have noticed the difference between RTX on and RTX off.
But by adding reflections and shadows, Cyberpunk 2077 should have a much more dynamic and lifelike quality. These are RTX features that will actually take advantage of expensive video cards like an RTX 2080 Super.
Cyberpunk 2077 still isn’t supporting ray-traced global illumination, though. That is both the most dramatic effect and also the most draining on performance. This is when the GPU calculates the way all light sources bounce around an environment in real-time. It is incredible to see in action in games like Metro Exodus or Minecraft.
But global illumination is likely too much for the detailed and complex environments of Cyberpunk 2077. And since CD Projekt Red’s artists need to design the traditional lighting regardless for older consoles and GPUs, it makes sense to stick with that on RTX cards as well.