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Cyberpunk 2077 Update 2.0: How NVIDIA DLSS 3.5 is redefining visual fidelity in games

Cyberpunk 2077 Update 2.0: How NVIDIA DLSS 3.5 is redefining visual fidelity in games

Over at HardwareZone, we always welcome technological advancements that push the boundaries of what's possible in the gaming world. And I think CD Projekt Red (CDPR) and NVIDIAseem to have achieved just that with Cyberpunk 2077's Update 2.0(read our review here)and its brand-new feature – Ray Reconstruction. But what does this actually mean for gamers and, perhaps more pointedly, for the graphical arms race in which NVIDIA seems to be perpetually embroiled?

At its core, Ray Reconstruction is a part of thenew DLSS3.5(or Deep Learning Super Sampling ver. 3.5)feature designed to make the game’s graphics more realistic, more grounded. It's as if NVIDIAand CDPR are redefining the gaming lexicon for 'realism' by placing the term on a much higher pedestal. While the previous Overdrive ray tracing mode was lauded for its visual fidelity, Ray Reconstruction takes it to another level, making Overdrive seem almost naive in comparison.

DLSS 3.5 is available for all RTX-based GPUs, although performances will obviously differ with each generation. IMAGE: NVIDIA

The kicker? It's less burdensome on your GPU, and that's a welcoming trend amid soaring hardware prices. The feature isn't just exclusive to the high-end NVIDIA RTX 40 series cards; it's available across the board. This is good news for gamers clinging to older GeForce RTX hardware but still looking to squeeze out performance gains. That is, unless you're in the AMD camp, where no such feature exists as of yet, making the green team’s latest venture look even more enticing.

Current ray tracing methods track a much smaller number of rays bouncing off the geometry in your game scene and use that as a representative sample. The output is a noisy, speckled image with gaps, but good enough to ascertain how the scene should look when ray-traced. IMAGE: NVIDIA

At Gamescom 2023, NVIDIA highlighted its approach to AI-driven denoising of real-time ray-traced scenes. Having now seen it firsthand, I can vouch for the effectiveness of Ray Reconstruction, particularly as you dash through the rain-soaked streets of Night City. It does more than just clean up ‘noisy’ graphics; it enhances the game’s believability – a feature you didn't even know you were missing until you experience it.

Denoisers have been a staple in the graphics pipeline, tasked with refining raw, speckled images rendered by limited ray tracing. They essentially fill in the blanks by interpolating between existing pixels, making the scene less ‘noisy.’ But this traditional approach comes at a cost; it introduces weird graphical artefacts, like ghosting, and can smear details.

These denoisers are manually tuned and processed for each type of ray-traced lighting present in a scene, adding complexity and cost to the development process. IMAGE: NVIDIA

Ray Reconstruction is NVIDIA's salvo against these issues. The feature uses a supercomputer-trained AI neural network that complements DLSS, filling in those blanks far more accurately. It’s no longer just 'stealing rays from the past', a cheeky term that the tech companyhas used to describe the limitations of previous methods. This new approach employs motion vectors to maintain a stable, realistic image during fast movement, thereby overcoming the shortcomings of previous techniques.

Trained with 5 times more data than DLSS 3, DLSS 3.5 recognises different ray-traced effects to make smarter decisions about using temporal and spatial data, and to retain high frequency information for superior-quality upscaling. IMAGE: NVIDIA

I tested the feature using an NVIDIA Founders EditionGeForce RTX 4090, and the results were, in a word, impressive. While running the game in path tracing mode at 4K with DLSS set to Quality, enabling Ray Reconstruction led to a significant FPS boost, from an average of 67fps to a much smoother 106fps. This is a clear indication that the feature is not just a pretty face; it’s also a performance enhancer, at least for those with GPUs capable of ray tracing.

But does Ray Reconstruction live up to the hype when it comes to in-game experience? The answer is a resounding yes. The realism in Cyberpunk 2077with the latest Update 2.0 patchgoes beyond skin deep. It redefines the interaction between characters, vehicles, and the environment. For instance, while Overdrive had vehicles seemingly gliding over terrain, Ray Reconstruction offers a more physically connected experience. The cars feel like they’re actually a part of the world, not just floating entities. The same goes for characters, who now interact with the environment in a more tangible manner, whether it’s their reflection in a puddle or the way the light from a streetlamp casts a shadow.

Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty’s newest location Dogtown is possibly one of the most beautiful part of the game with DLSS 3.5. IMAGE: NVIDIA

Here's another screenshot of the Japantown West location with Ray Construction turned on. IMAGE: NVIDIA

Enabling Super Resolution with the RT Overdrive preset will automatically turn on Ray Reconstruction in Cyberpunk 2077 (after Update 2.0).

AMD might be feeling the heat right now, considering NVIDIA's consistent advances in graphics technology. As it scrambles to catch up, the green team’s newest features like Frame Generation and Ray Reconstruction are setting new benchmarks for what’s possible in real-time game rendering. While still under the DLSS umbrella, Ray Reconstruction offers a level of detail that's hard to overlook. Given its performance benefits and enhanced realism, flipping the switch on seems like a no-brainer for those with compatible hardware.

For a feature aimed at enhancing the realism in a cybernetic future, Ray Reconstruction feels very much rooted in the present – defining what gamers should expect from the next generation of ray-traced titles. It’s a brave new world out there in Night City, but with technology like this, it's a future that's increasingly coming into focus, looking sharper and more believable than ever before.

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