A whole year has passed since the first accelerators of the GeForce RTX series appeared with the function of ray tracing in real time, but the NVIDIA initiative – arbitrarily promising from a technical point of view – has yielded rather modest results. We have not missed a single game with DXR support: Battlefield V, Metro Exodus, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Quake II RTX – that's all there is now (not counting the updated Minecraft). We'll have to wait a little while while the developers are mastering new rendering tools. But not so long: many projects planned for 2019 and 2020 will soon join the pioneers. Just do not have time to NVIDIA hardware grow old by the time the ray tracing finally go into fashion? In the spring, we tested the power of video cards in the Atomic Heart demo – one of the most promising projects with DXR – and saw how much game demand will grow in the near future.

But wait, maybe this time has already come? More recently – and without loud fanfare – the Control game was released, based on the "home" graphics engine of the Remedy studio. Old-timers will remember that the Finnish developer most of all became famous not at all for such projects as Quantum Brake and Alan Wake, but for the first series of Max Payne. This association is more relevant than ever, because Max Payne was one of the first games with pixel shaders, which then caused gamers no less skepticism than DXR now. Control embodies the best that ray tracing is capable of today, and you and I will now see this.

⇡ #Graphics Quality Settings

The graphics configuration menu in Control is not rich in options and contains eleven parameters combined under the control of the main setting – low, medium or high (but in reality – maximum) quality. We will not analyze each item individually, but highlight one point: even with medium granularity, Control uses MSAA 4x as a full-screen anti-aliasing method. In the vast majority of modern games on graphics engines with deferred rendering, multisampling causes an extremely strong drop in performance, so the relatively simple and undemanding smoothing by the TAA method has become the de facto standard. However, Remedy was able, by some miracle, to make MSAA friends with its home engine, and here it lowers FPS by no more than 10%.

Graphics quality settings in tests
Low quality Medium quality High quality
API Direct3D 12 Direct3D 12 Direct3D 12
Far Object Detail (LOD) Low Medium High
Texture resolution Medium High Ultra
Texture filtering Low Low High
Shadow resolution Low Medium High
Shadow filtering Low Medium Medium
Volumetric lighting Low Medium High
SSAO On On On
Screen Space Reflections Quality Medium Medium High
Global reflections Off Medium High
MSAA Off 4X 4X
Film grain On On On

Another good news is that the difference between low and high graphics settings is not too striking. Playing with the settings, Control cannot be turned into a "potato", like other multiplayer games, where you need the maximum FPS at all costs. In the new creation of Remedy, in order to understand which profile is active on the screen – low, medium or high – sometimes you need to look at the subtle details.

Low quality

Avg quality

High quality

Low quality

Avg quality

High quality

Low quality

Avg quality

High quality

Low quality

Avg quality

High quality

Low quality

Avg quality

High quality

Low quality

Avg quality

High quality

Low quality

Avg quality

High quality

Low quality

Avg quality

High quality

⇡ #Ray tracing

All DXR games that we have seen so far use ray tracing to render one or two key components of the image – reflections, shadows, or global lighting, and even Metro Exodus cannot boast a complete set. The only exception for the time being was Quake II RTX with a fully traced graphics engine (and now Minecraft has been added to it). But even if the creators of Control did not go so far, at Remedy they are proud that their approach to ray tracing in combination with rasterization is currently the most profound and elaborate. And reflections, and shadows, and global lighting – all this is created using DXR. Provided, of course, that the video card supports tracing in one form or another: on hardware RT-units in the GeForce RTX series or software on all other NVIDIA accelerators, starting with the GeForce GTX 1060 with 6 GB of RAM.

Ray Tracing Settings
Medium quality High quality
Ray traced reflections On On
Ray Traced Transparent Reflections On On
Ray Traced Indirect Diffuse Lighting Off On
Ray traced contact shadows Off On
Ray traced debris Off On

The Control settings menu allows you to adjust the five main parameters related to DXR: reflections from transparent and opaque surfaces, global (indirect) lighting, and contact shadows. The last option allows the graphics engine to apply DXR effects to debris resulting from the destruction of environmental objects, and in both directions: garbage flying in the air is reflected in shiny surfaces, casts shadows and, in turn, receives reflections and shadows from everything around .

Traced reflections off

Traced reflections incl.

Traced reflections off

Traced reflections incl.

Transparent reflections off.

Transparent reflections incl.

Transparent reflections off.

Transparent reflections incl.

Contact shadow off

Contact shadows incl.

Contact shadow off

Contact shadows incl.

Contact shadow off

Contact shadows incl.

Indirect lighting off

Indirect lighting incl.

Indirect lighting off

Indirect lighting incl.

Debris ray tracing off

Debris ray tracing incl.

Debris ray tracing off

Debris ray tracing incl.

⇡ #DLSS quality

In all real-time ray tracing projects, with the exception of Quake II RTX and Minecraft, hybrid rendering goes hand in hand with DLSS. The computational load of DXR is so great for modern GPUs that only older NVIDIA models (both versions of GeForce RTX 2080 and RTX 2080 Ti) can maintain a high frame rate without this backup, and then only in relatively undemanding modes – 1080p and 1440p. Due to DLSS, the graphics processor renders at a lower resolution, and the neural network, sharpened for a single game, enlarges the frame to the target size. The experience of using DLSS in igrodelov is still rather scarce, and NVIDIA itself provides computing power for training the neural network, therefore the results are very different from project to project. We have seen examples with reference (like Shadow of the Tomb Raider) image quality, and with fairly high quality (Final Fantasy XV), and frankly failing – like Battlefield V. In addition, DLSS itself is not given free of charge in terms of performance . As a rule, the frame rate with honest rendering at a lower resolution is higher than when scaling to the target (for example, from 1440p to 2160p).

A year ago, NVIDIA claimed that DLSS capabilities will grow over time, as neural networks for new games rely to some extent on the data collected in previous ones. Control was supposed to be the first project with a mature implementation of DLSS, eliminated from old flaws. And this can be seen if only by how flexible the “home” Remedy engine allows you to adjust the scaling parameters. The target DLSS resolution here is not tied to any GeForce RTX series video cards – all models can use a neural network in 1080p, 1440p and 2160p modes – and each mode gives you two initial resolutions to choose from. In 4K native rendering is performed at a resolution of 1920 × 1080 or 2560 × 1440, in 1440p – 1706 × 960 or 1280 × 720, and in 1080p – 1280 × 720 or 960 × 540.

However, as we have already noted, previous games managed to tarnish the reputation of this technology. After Battlefield V, every new DLSS-enabled project comes under suspicion. But, fortunately, Control did not disappoint. We took some screenshots at a target resolution of 2160p with native rendering at 1440p, without relying on carefully selected NVIDIA materials, and we can say that the scaling quality is at least no worse than in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and the gaming environment, in truth , rather monotonous – does not throw up neural networks frames that are difficult to process, in which artifacts arise. However, judge for yourself.

⇡ #Test stand, testing procedure

Test stand
CPU Intel Core i9-9900K (4.9 GHz, 4.8 GHz in AVX, Fixed Frequency)
Motherboard ASUS MAXIMUS XI APEX
RAM G.Skill Trident Z RGB F4-3200C14D-16GTZR, 2 x 8 GB (3200 MHz, CL14)
ROM Intel SSD 760p, 1024 GB
Power Supply Corsair AX1200i, 1200 watts
CPU cooling system Corsair Hydro Series H115i
Body CoolerMaster Test Bench V1.0
Monitor NEC EA244UHD
operating system Windows 10 Pro x64
AMD GPU Software
All graphics cards AMD Radeon Software Adrenalin 2019 Edition 19.8.2
NVIDIA GPU Software
All graphics cards NVIDIA GeForce Game Ready Driver 436.15

Since Control does not have a built-in benchmark, performance testing was performed using the OCAT utility during a two-minute run in one of the game's starting locations. The average and minimum frame rates are derived from an array of individual frame rendering times that OCAT records.

The average frame rate in the diagrams is the reciprocal of the average frame rendering time. To estimate the minimum frame rate, the number of frames generated per second of the test is calculated. From this array of numbers, the value corresponding to the 1st percentile of the distribution is taken.

⇡ #Test participants

Note: In the specifications of the graphic cards Radeon RX Vega, Radeon RX 5000 series and Radeon VII as the highest frequency (Boost Clock) AMD indicates not the maximum allowed at standard settings, as in previous generations of the GCN architecture, but the upper limit of the range in which the GPU works at typical load. But, since utilities for monitoring and overclocking, including the proprietary WattMan, ignore the Boost Clock and still show the maximum frequency, it is indicated in the list of devices and on the diagrams.

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