The ninth generation of consoles began in 2020 with the launch of the Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5. Boasting better hardware than ever with a built-in SSD, faster loading times, better world rendering, 3D sound, 4K resolution, and up to 120 fps gameplay. The leap in technology here was enormous, and the promise of a better and more immersive gaming experience was there. Among all the promised features, there was one that caught the attention of a lot of people, and that feature was none other than ray tracing. A technology that’s fairly new, very expensive to work on, and delivers a lighting experience that is as real as it is breathtaking. Powerful and pricey GPUs like the Nvidia 2080, 90, and 3080 90 were/are delivering ray tracing on PC, but the cost was too high, and the hit to the game’s performance they gave was massive, so the promise of a $500 console delivering that was kind of sketchy, to begin with. Today, two years later, we have seen the power of these consoles firsthand and can confirm that ray tracing is a feature they can handle and isn’t just smoke and mirrors. While not every game comes equipped with ray tracing, the ones that do mostly come with the option of a performance mode, and the results are impressive, to say the least. Let’s dive in and talk about some games that offer ray tracing on consoles right now. A quick note before we begin: we won’t be talking about every single game that supports ray tracing on consoles, and we’ll only talk about the games that you can play right now, so things like “Stalker 2” and the next-gen update for “The Witcher 3” are out of the picture for now. Without further ado, let’s jump in.
Watch Dogs: Legion
Let’s start with a launch title of sorts: “Watch_Dogs Legion” came out pretty much alongside the new consoles and brought with it an open-world, near-future London for you to explore and hack your way through. A feature Ubisoft promised that was added with an update to the game was ray traced reflections. Seeing the game with our own eyes was a sight to behold, as this was the first time we got to see ray tracing in action on consoles, and the results were very impressive. The aesthetic London was going for in this game was kind of cyberpunk, so to see the light bouncing around and being reflected by the surfaces alongside the reflections of cars and passersby was a treat for the eyes. That’s not all, though, as the wet pavements of London, especially after it rained, turned the streets into a mirror of sorts, with everything being reflected as accurately as it could. Everything on offer here was amplified, all thanks to the brilliant use of ray tracing, which made the game even more immersive than it already was. “Watch-Dogs Legion” is a gorgeous game and is made even better, all thanks to the fantastic use and optimization of ray traced reflections to give the game a sense of immersion unlike any other.
A more recent example of ray tracing in games goes to “Gotham Knights.” An open-world, third-person superhero action brawler is coming to us from WB Games Montreal. This game gets a lot of slack for not being like the “Arkham” series, so let me set the record straight and say it’s not trying to be “Arkham,” and while the game does have its problems, it’s still a damn good time. While you have four heroes to choose from, I’d like to say that the main hero of this game is the Gotham City that these guys have created. A vast, urban metropolis with neo-noir inspiration that looks even better thanks to the ray traced reflections. Much like the previous entry on our list, the world of “Gotham Knights” is beautiful on its own, but thanks to the accurate representation of light reflecting off of surfaces, it looks even better. The rain-soaked streets of Gotham City act as the perfect canvas for lights reflecting off neon signs, giving it a crime thriller kind of look. While the performance of this game was kind of an issue at launch, it’s all been fixed now thanks to patches, and the game runs smoothly and looks pretty thanks to light bouncing around and reflecting off just about everything.
So far, of all the games that have come out that support ray tracing on consoles, I think “Metro Exodus” is the clear winner here. Supporting ray traced global illumination while running at 4K 60fps is a feat that developers of 4A Games have crafted. What ray traced global illumination does is generate light naturally from any source, so there’s no need to place points that produce light manually; the source of light does that automatically for you. This feature is very expensive and very taxing on the hardware, yet it just works on your $500 machines. You have to see the game for yourself to understand and believe what I am talking about here, as every frame of this game looks breathtaking, all thanks to the lighting. There’s not much to say here other than go play the game and see it for yourself, and if you are interested, then you can check out our review for this game on our website!
“Control” is another example of a talented team pulling off an incredible feat. “Control” is a third-person action shooter developed by Remedy; it is a very supernatural game taking heavy inspiration from the SCP foundation and is set inside a building known as The Oldest House. The building itself is not bound by the rules of reality, and its existence will leave you scratching your head at the very least. Shapeshifting corridors, architecture that’s not bound by the laws of physics, and a clean aesthetic are what bring the world of “Control” to life. You can enjoy ray traced reflections and shadows here, with pretty much everything reflecting off of everything, as the interiors here are glossy and clean. The color palette also adds to its look, making it a visually stimulating experience. The chaotic combat of this game and its crazy particle effects add to its reflective nature and make it an experience that is a treat for your eyes. A game this heavy on effects and crazy with its combat running nigh flawlessly with ray tracing enabled on consoles is definitely an achievement that is well worth checking out.
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
“Spider-man Miles Morales” and “Spider-man Remastered” for the PlayStation 5 both support ray traced reflection. I am choosing Miles over the original game because the snow-covered aesthetic of New York City in this game just works wonders and is a perfect encapsulation of the city as a whole. Watching Spider-Man swing across the streets and tall buildings of New York while all of his movements are being accurately reflected across the windows is just a small added touch that makes the world feel even more alive. The game is gorgeous on all fronts and is made even better thanks to the incredible ray tracing features added by Insomniac Games. And with how densely packed and crowded the city is as a whole, seeing reflections so accurate with no hindrance in performance will definitely put a smile on your face.
Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy
From one Marvel game to the next, “Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy” is another stunning example of ray traced reflections on consoles. A linearly story-driven third-person action game puts you in the shoes of Peter Quill, aka Starlord, with the other Guardians alongside him on a quest to save the galaxy. The art in this game is breathtaking, with environments so vibrant and popping with colors, and the reflections being ray traced add to that and make it pop even more. Other than the levels themselves, the reflections truly come to life when inside your ship in the middle of space, as the glass panels reflect the interior of the ship, and the glossy finish of the surfaces on the walls bounces the reflections of items in proximity. “Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy” is a stunning game with a great story and fun but repetitive gameplay, and ray traced reflections add on top of that to make this game and its world stand out even more and make it worth playing.
Dying Light 2 Stay Human
After many delays, “Dying Light 2 Stay Human” came out and is an enjoyable game packed with tons of content. The world this time around is a giant post-apocalyptic city and its surrounding countryside, and it brings with it ray traced global illumination. Just like the case with “Metro,” ray traced global illumination makes the world of “Dying Light 2” come to life with lighting that looks natural and bounces off surfaces to give it a realistic feel. Dark areas are especially dark here, and every source of light emanates its glow with accurate spread and fading. A game of this magnitude running with RT global illumination, despite the compromise in resolution and framerate, is nonetheless a feat. It’s another case of seeing it for yourselves as the reflections are easy to describe, but global illumination changes the scene and ambiance so much that it has to be seen with your own eyes to believe. Either way, “Dying Light 2 Stay Human” is a gorgeous game with incredibly fun gameplay that you should go and check out.
The final entry on our list is a weird one. “Maneater” is an open-world SharkPG where you swim around different bodies of water to evolve your shark from a baby to a Megalodon and exact vengeance. It’s one of its kind, to say the least, and is incredibly fun to play. It also supports ray traced reflection, which makes a huge difference as the game is mostly set underwater. Swimming with your fin out while the environment around you reflects on the body of water elevates the stalking your prey vibe exponentially, and even when you go underwater, the reflections you get are just “the chef’s kiss.” “Maneater” is a weird, fun, and interesting game with a large world with tons of variety and a crapton of aquatic life to have duels with, so do yourselves a favor and play this game. There’s nothing like it out there.
These have been some examples of games that support ray tracing on consoles, and while there are more games like “Cyberpunk 2077” and “GTA 5” with their ray traced shadows and more, these stand out the most and make great use of the technology available. The promise that these new-gen consoles made is being fulfilled and delivered slowly but surely, and with so many games coming out in the near and far future, it’ll be interesting to see how developers work with this technology and give us games that look even better. What’s your take on ray tracing as a whole? We’ll keep you posted about more games that support this feature in the future, among other topics.