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Quake 2 rocket-jumps into the future with this RTX upgrade

When Quake 2 launched back in 1997, it changed the FPS landscape forever. Years later, after Nvidia has opened up real-time ray tracing technology, Quake 2 is coming back around again, with a new lick of paint, to show that it can still blow away all challengers.

A demo shown at Nvidia’s GTC 2019 shows Quake 2 taking advantage of some of RTX’s new features, building on a proof of concept released in January 2019 called Quake 2 Pathtraced, and building on it using Nvidia’s resources.

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So, an explainer: Quake 2’s lighting is baked in and static. In the video below, that’s where things start off, with a grungy looking scene familiar to many people playing shooters back in the late 90s. 30 seconds in though, and the team switch the lighting to ray traced lighting, casting accurate reflections and shadows around the place. Immediately, Quake 2 feels like a recent release, and it’s a frankly incredible change.

Here’s another glimpse at regular old Quake 2, and then the same scene again with HDR and ray tracing turned on. Try to guess which is which.

Picture of a Dolby cinema Leeds auditorium Picture of a Dolby cinema Leeds auditorium

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“We’ve introduced real-time, controllable time of day lighting, with accurate sunlight and indirect illumination; refraction on water and glass; emissive, reflective and transparent surfaces; normal and roughness maps for added surface detail; particle and laser effects for weapons; procedural environment maps featuring mountains, sky and clouds, which are updated when the time of day is changed; a flare gun for illuminating dark corners where enemies lurk; an improved denoiser; SLI support (hands-up if you rolled with Voodoo 2 SLI back in the day); Quake 2 XP high-detail weapons, models and textures; optional NVIDIA Flow fire, smoke and particle effects, and much more!,” NVIDIA says about the improved Quake 2.

It’d be great to see a lot of other games using Nvidia’s toolkit to improve their games, but in the meantime I’d settle for being able to spend my afternoon plowing through this new and improved Quake 2.

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