The saga of Cyberpunk 2077 is one of the more interesting in recent gaming history. The highly anticipated role-playing video game was released in December 2020, but its launch was marred by several technical issues and bugs, particularly on the older PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles.
Many players reported experiencing frequent crashes, visual glitches and other problems that significantly impacted their gameplay experience. The issues were so severe that Sony removed the game from the PlayStation Store and offered full refunds to players who had purchased it.
Microsoft also offered refunds to Xbox players who requested them. Since the game’s launch, developer CD Projekt Red has released several major patches and updates to fix the game’s technical issues, and have committed to continuing to improve the game over time, including adding new features and content.
One of the biggest updates came in February 2021, when CD Projekt Red released a patch that addressed over 500 issues, and restored the game to something resembling its pre-release promo materials.
Over a year on from that update, another major patch is being released. This time it’s one that is more focused on improving the game’s graphical features on PC, and the ‘RT Overdrive’ update could genuinely present a major-stepping stone in the development of video game graphics.
The update brings path-traced ray tracing (RT) to the game, transforming the futuristic Night City into a gleaming metropolis, realistic lighting effects bringing every nook and cranny of the sprawl to life. Here is everything you need to know about it.
What is ray tracing?
Ray tracing is a rendering technique used in computer graphics that simulates the behaviour of light as it interacts with objects in a virtual 3D environment. It calculates the colour of each pixel in an image by tracing the path of light rays from the viewer’s eye to the virtual objects and back to a light source.
In traditional rendering, scenes were divided into polygons, with the colour of each pixel determined by computing the intersection of the viewer’s line of sight with those polygons. This technique was fast, but lacked the realism of ray tracing.
Ray tracing requires a lot of computational power, and until recently, it was too slow for real-time rendering. However, with the advent of powerful graphics hardware and new algorithms, real-time ray tracing is becoming more feasible, and it is now used in many video games and other interactive applications.
Ray tracing can simulate the reflection, refraction, and scattering of light in a more realistic way, making it ideal for rendering photorealistic images and visual effects. It can simulate shadows, reflections and other lighting effects that are difficult or impossible to achieve with traditional rendering techniques.
Cyberpunk 2077’s Overdrive update goes one further and uses path tracing, a variant of the ray tracing rendering technique that simulates the behaviour of light by tracing random paths of light rays as they bounce around a virtual scene.
Is it on consoles?
We’ve already seen other path-traced video games before; Nvidia (the American technology company best known for its high-performance graphics cards used in gaming computers) and modders have gone back to classic PC games from decades past and updated their lighting with full path tracing.
But the addition of path tracing to one of the most aesthetically stunning PC games currently available is the most ambitious RT implementation yet.
The thought of a path-traced version of a triple-A game that is already difficult to run sounds like a performance nightmare for anything other than the best hardware, and Cyberpunk’s Overdrive upgrade needs some seriously competent graphics gear.
So for now, Cyberpunk 2077’s Overdrive update is only available on PC. Games consoles like the Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 5 simply don’t have enough computing power to handle the game’s updated visuals.
That being said, Xbox Series X and PS5 players did recently receive a separate update that introduced a type of ray tracing, however it was a constrained implementation of the technology that concentrated exclusively on ray traced shadows.
It could be that one day a version of the update is made available for consoles, but while it would mark a definite upgrade in graphics features, it likely won’t be able to stand up to the impressive looking scenes we’ve seen coming from powerful PCs.
What graphics card do I need to play it?
So just how powerful does your PC need to be exactly? Overdrive Mode is currently recommended on NVIDIA GeForce RTX 40 Series (4070 Ti and up) graphics cards only.
It will also run on a NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090, but will be constrained to 1080p resolution at 30 fps. FOr more information on the system requirements of Overdrive mode, head to CD Projekt Red’s website.
When can I play it?
Cyberpunk 2077’s RT Overdrive update is available as a free update right now. It will be set to ‘off’ no matter how powerful your gaming setup is, so you’ll need to head into the game menus and toggle it on once you have it installed.