The new generation of consoles and PC hardware is now upon us with some serious juice under the hood wherever you go. Loading times, thus far, have been rendered inconsequential thanks to SSD’s but one of the latest graphical updates has to do with the new GPU’s and Ray-tracing lighting techniques. A computationally expensive procedure, Ray-tracing has been relegated to pre-rendered frames for animated movies for years with real time usage a pipe dream for ages. Now, thanks to the latest GPU’s real time Ray-tracing is here and is the latest visual upgrade for games pushing visual fidelity to all new highs. Not only are we looking at real time reflections but a much higher quality of in-game lighting as well. If you’re lucky enough to own one of the newer consoles or GPU’s then you can already see the quality difference that this brings to the table in the games that support the features or have been designed with them in mind.
With that in mind, Andrew and I are taking a look back at some games from yesteryear that Ray-tracing – whether for lighting or fancy reflections – would really make stunning.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution:
Now you may be wondering why I didn’t pick the sequel, Mankind Divided as that was a visual stunner at launch with some fantastic materials and lighting to push the dystopian cyberpunk vibe. Part of it has to do with the fact that Mankind was already beautiful at launch but the other part has to do with the fact that I think Human Revolution is a better game. When Human Revolution came out, it too was a visual marvel during the PS3/Xbox 360 era, though you may not think that now. It became the standard by which I wanted to see cyberpunk visuals, and it also became one I wished I could see running at much higher resolutions. It’s setting alone is prime ground for the enhancements brought along with more realistic lighting and there’s a wealth of neon light and metallic and glass environments that could do with some reflections. It would go a long way to making a great game even better.
DICE’s phenomenal parkour game didn’t light up the charts on launch, becoming a cult classic that, surprising everyone, birthed a sequel. Once again the sequel on PS4 boasts better visuals, but I believe the first game needs an update and to be released back into the wild for new players to discover. With its minimalist and stylised colour palette, Mirror’s Edge is groundbreaking in visual design whose limited use of colours still makes for one of gaming’s most breathtaking playgrounds. And though it’s use of mostly whites, oranges and reds may make you wonder why Ray-tracing would be needed, the materials themselves are perfect for enhanced lighting and reflections on metal and glass surfaces. The way light is rendered with a Ray-traced system in the games outdoor areas would be jawdropping alone.
Need For Speed: Heat:
Racing games have always been – and still are – a perfect showcase for next gen hardware. Complicated visuals along with pure speed really show off a systems power. Now while Heat is not an old game, and already has some gorgeous visual effects in it, it’s still a “last gen” game meaning that those complicated visuals are built on old techniques. Yes there are reflections, but they’re built around the Screen Space Reflection techniques rather than been real time. The game also showcases some gorgeous nighttime visuals with a whole lotta neon and rain effects that blast by at a stupendous pace. It doesn’t hurt either that it’s actually a pretty good game. Now take those already sumptuous visuals and throw some next gen Ray-tracing power at them and imagine just how much better it will all look. Real time reflections on the cars, windows and puddles along with even better lighting during both the day and the neon powered night time. Tell me that doesn’t get your V8 revving.
Bioshock 1 and 2:
I’m conflicted about this choice as the visuals in the Bioshock are incredibly stylised and adding accurate, more-realistic reflections may alter the look irreparably. That said, I’d still be interested to see what a crumbling Rapture would look like given the amount of glass and water present in both games.
Plenty of time is spent trudging through dark, ruined locations, but it’s rare you’ll go more than a few minutes without seeing reflective glass windows, ceilings, and transit tunnels with views of the seafloor. Given the ongoing collapse of Rapture in both games, there’s also water everywhere – plenty of opportunity for puddles and other water-slicked surfaces to reflect their surroundings.
Crysis 2 and 3:
I’ll happily admit I played this sequel before going back to the original and, if you forced me to pick one, I’d sooner replay it (or the third game). Maybe it was the fact I had shifted towards console gaming at the time but I found exploring a ruined New York, with so many identifiable locations, thrilling.
Breaching quarantine in Crysis 2 was still an incredible moment, looking up at massive skyscrapers and down full of streets wrecked vehicles, flaming storefronts, and burst water pipes. It’s a prime opportunity to have Ray-traced reflections everywhere. Even the more overgrown version of New York in Crysis 3 has plenty of shiny CELL facilities to explore. It could even introduce a novel tactical option if you could spot enemy patrols by their reflections while stalking the ruined streets.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection:
To be fair – given the focus on battling across the titular Halo rings – this update may be unnoticeable for large chunks of each game. However, there are still plenty of shiny human and covenant-made locations in each game that could be improved with Ray-traced reflections (just think of how incredible accurately-reflected plasma trails would look in enclosed spaces?).
The otherwise bland “Library” level in Halo: Combat Evolved, Cairo Station in Halo 2, the towers you raid during “The Covenant” mission in Halo 3, any time spent as the rookie exploring the Mombasa streets at night in Halo 3: ODST, Promethean facilities in Halo 4, and New Alexandria in Halo: Reach – all of these iconic locations could look even more spectacular with ray-traced reflections.
Are there any other titles from yesteryear that you think would benefit from Ray-tracing? Feel free to let us know by dropping us a comment or telling us on our social media.