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What is ray tracing?

Ray tracing is becoming more commonplace as time goes on, with high-end GPUs and the PS5 and Xbox Series X consoles boasting this premium feature. But what is ray tracing, and how can it impact your game’s performance?

In this guide, we’re going to run through what ray tracing is and why it’s important, as well as how it can affect the quality of video games. And if you happen to own the right hardware, we’re going to explain how you can get this feature up and running, and what games actually support the software.

So, without wasting any more time, here is everything you need to know.

What is ray tracing?

Ray tracing is a rendering technique that helps make games look more realistic, as it better emulates the way that light reflects and interacts in the real world, therefore making games more immersive.

It works by simulating real light rays and using an algorithm to trace the path it would take, which allows developers to better simulate how light bounces off objects and create realistic shadows. This results in more realistic scenes, whether you’re looking at a character’s shadow, reflection in a mirror or sunlight shining down on the world.

What GPUs support ray tracing?

There’s a lot of gaming hardware that supports ray tracing now, including the PS5 and Xbox Series X.

Nvidia’s Ampere generation of graphics cards supports ray tracing. This range is made up of the RTX 3060, RTX 3060 Ti, RTX 3070, RTX 3070 Ti, RTX 3080, RTX 3080 Ti and the RTX 3090.

Nvidia is also set to announce several new GPUs as part of the upcoming Nvidia RTX 4000 Series, which could include the RTX 4070, RTX 4080 and RTX 4090.

While nothing has been confirmed yet, we are expecting the Lovelace GPUs to offer improved ray tracing capabilities. We will be sure to update you on the capabilities of the Nvidia RTX 4000 series when they are announced.

The RTX GPUs feature hardware called Tensor Cores and RT Cores, which are needed to make real-time ray tracing work as efficiently as possible. Nvidia also coined the term ‘Giga Rays’, which refers to how successful the racy tracing performance of the GPU is.

Nvidia claims that five Giga Rays per second is the minimum amount of virtual light ideally required to fully illuminate a typical room in a video game environment. The RTX 2070 offers the standard five Giga Rays per second, but if you upgrade to 2080, it offers eight Giga Rays per second, with the 2080 Ti capping out at 10 Giga Rays per second.

AMD also offers up ray tracing solutions, with the AMD Radeon 6000 series being the brand’s first attempt at implementing the technology. The company is a little further behind when compared to Nvidia, seeing as the GPUs are still in their first generation.

You can find support in several AMD cards, though not as many as Nvidia, including the RX 6600 XT, RX 6700 XT, RX 6800, RX 6800 XT and RX 6900 XT.

Unlike Nvidia, AMD does not have a dedicated set of hardware cores, instead, AMD GPUs use hardware cores that handle the ray tracing while also performing other functions at the same time; AMD refers to these as Ray Accelerators.

Is ray tracing worth it?

Ray tracing has come a long way since it first launched, with multiple games now supporting the technology.

Seeing as GPUs that boast the technology are getting cheaper and more abundant, and the latest consoles are making ray tracing more accessible and less demanding, it seems that within the next few years the technology will be available to most gamers.

While the level of detail that ray tracing brings is impressive, it is also not essential for every game. The makers of Forza Horizon 5 specifically only implemented ray tracing in one section of the game, claiming that the benefit would be lost during the racing sections of the game and it would actually hinder the game’s performance and quality of the visuals overall.

The worthwhileness of ray tracing depends on both the setup you have and what game you’re planning on playing. If you have a high-end GPU that won’t struggle effectively implementing the technology, you likely won’t see other aspects of your game falter as a result.

The PS5 and Xbox Series X offer reliable solutions for ray tracing since both consoles do generally prioritise stability over high performance while still giving the option for support in certain games.

We would suggest that any gamers who are curious about ray tracing check out their own internals and see if their current setup is viable, especially if they are interested in a title that already supports ray tracing and won’t put too much strain on their PC.

Which games support ray tracing?

More games than ever now support ray tracing technology, with both AMD and Nvidia having solutions as well as mainstream consoles. Not every PC or console game will support the technology though, with some games also only allowing the feature in certain modes or sections of a game.

The list of PC games that support ray tracing is as follows:

While this is not a conclusive list of all the PC games that support ray tracing, the number is high and still growing, which may be enough of an incentive for some gamers.

For console gamers, here is the list of all the PS5 games that support ray tracing:

And here are all the Xbox Series X games:

  • Bright Memory: Infinite
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War
  • Call of the Sea
  • Chorus
  • Control: Ultimate Edition
  • Cyberpunk 2077
  • Devil May Cry 5 Special Edition
  • Doom Eternal
  • Enlisted
  • Fortnite
  • Forza Motorsport
  • Gears 5
  • Halo Infinite
  • Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
  • Hitman 3
  • Maneater
  • Metro Exodus: Enhanced Edition
  • Minecraft
  • NBA 2K21
  • Observer: System Redux
  • Poker Club
  • Resident Evil Village
  • RIDE 4
  • S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2
  • The Medium
  • Watch Dogs: Legion

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