Watch Dogs: Legion with Ray-Tracing Takes the Open World Next-Gen
Post by KostaAndreadis @ 03:37pm 02/11/20 | Comments
Powered by the latest in GeForce RTX hardware we’ve spent many hours in Watch Dogs: Legion’s dystopian London setting, and through the chaos found beauty - reflected.
Watch Dogs: Legion RTX On Gameplay Highlights
Watch Dogs: Legion presents the definitive case for ray-tracing being a game-changer, especially when implemented across a large open-world setting. Legion’s digital London is a sandbox of high-tech gadgets, colourful characters, and a tale involving police-state tactics employed in a city of millions. With ray-tracing enabled, Legion’s London truly becomes immersive thanks in part to the sheer abundance of reflections born from rays bouncing around the environment.
The next-gen technology sees these reflections pop-up across all shiny surfaces – from windows, to the roofs of cars, to the metallic vents you sneak through as you take control of your trusty spider-bot. Plus, in a city known for its grey skies and puddles the results are nothing short of immediate and stunning – from that very first moment you place a digital foot on textured pavement.
It’s having the effect present in a real-world city-setting that proves to be the most transcendent, because of course windows and cars are everywhere in a modern urban environment. What makes real-time ray-tracing one of the most talked about visual effects in years is tied to the fact that it can add a more realistic representation of light, shadow and reflections across objects and surfaces. Effects that have been present in games for years, but not in a way that is more akin to a Pixar or CG-heavy film than, say, something we’ve all played before.
Pure visual wizardry and set dressing, perhaps ray-tracing is not all that relevant to gameplay or mechanics. Eye-candy with sugar levels off the charts. But, even in the case of Watch Dogs: Legion, when you’re fleeing from an Albion officer, if you position the camera just right you can see their reflection on the side of a building and react long before they come into frame. A subtle thing no doubt, but something that would be just-about impossible to pull off without ray-tracing. In Watch Dogs: Legion you can flex your inner-crim, do something illegal, make a clean getaway, and then find a nice spot in front of a windowed cafe to watch the aftermath play out as a movie, reflected.
Like increasing the draw distances as we went from N64 to PS2 and then to Xbox 360 – simply seeing more, adds to the interactive experience.
Watch Dogs: Legion presents the definitive case for ray-tracing being a game-changer, especially when implemented across a large open-world setting.
Walking down Piccadilly Circus past shops and seeing not only pedestrians, but lights and traffic reflected all around you, is the stuff of pure immersive goodness – it adds depth to an environment that would otherwise look and feel like another open-world game. Ray-traced reflection in Legion adds life too, where looking at clothing displayed on a mannequin inside a trendy store is then complimented by the moving image of pedestrians and taxis and classic London-style double-decker buses behind you.
Of course, with ray-tracing disabled, Watch Dogs: Legion still manages to push PC hardware. Thanks to a suite of high-end effects and the often fine but ‘you can see the seams’ use of screen-space reflections, it builds on the technology seen across the franchise. From the first game’s depiction of Chicago in the original Watch Dogs to Watch Dogs 2’s vibrant San Francisco. At launch Watch Dogs: Legion’s performance was a little rocky, but thanks to a mix of Game Ready drivers and regular updates the PC version is now almost entirely smooth and stable.
Working in partnership with NVIDIA and leveraging the power of GeForce RTX hardware (of which we experienced Legion using the latest GeForce RTX 3080) Ubisoft has managed to create an experience that feels next-gen when you go RTX On. And when paired with NVIDIA’s DLSS rendering, which leverages AI to improve performance and image quality, the effect is also present at a silky smooth 60fps.
Much of what is being said here will apply to the next-gen PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X updates the game will get starting November 10, but it’s worth noting that Ubisoft has confirmed that those versions of Legion, with ray-tracing enabled, will only run at 30fps. Which also means that Watch Dogs: Legion will present one of the first cases for the technology to console gamers this holiday season.
Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen ray-tracing in games powered by NVIDIA hardware evolve and grow in the PC space, from Battlefield V’s use of reflections through to Remedy’s Control bringing the full ray-traced suite of lighting, reflections, and shadows to the table. And then there’s Minecraft with RTX, which takes what is arguably a visually simple title and transforms it into a visual showcase as a fully path-traced or ray-traced version of the popular game.
Walking down Piccadilly Circus past shops and seeing not only pedestrians, but lights and traffic reflected all around you, is the stuff of pure immersive goodness – it adds depth to an environment that would otherwise look and feel like another open-world game.
Even Fortnite’s use of ray-tracing adds a new dimension to the on-screen action. In all these cases what is important to remember is that ray-tracing, when implemented, means less work on the part of a developer to fake it. To painstakingly light each scene, each texture, and apply tricks and other methods to instead gain an automatic and more realistic effect thanks to ray-tracing. Watch Dogs: Legion may not be that, as it’s also available on current-gen consoles and playable across a wide-range of PC specs, but it points to a future where the effect will be taken for granted in much the same way we do weather effects and day-night cycles.
In Watch Dogs: Legion, a city overrun by technology in the form of surveillance, delivery bots, news bots, self-driving cars, and bright neon lights, the city itself proves to be as important a character to the story as the various faces you recruit to join the fight. The whole recruit-anyone angle is impressive and being able to switch from retail employee to a budding game designer to a retiree looking to pass the time adds weight to a city under siege. As you tackle each mission as anti-fascist hacker resistance movement, DeadSec, looking to free the city from the grip of oppression, the backdrop of London is one full of detail, story and discovery.
Watch Dogs: Legion is a game about struggle, using technology, and employing a seemingly infinite cast of characters to restore hope and order to a city in the shadow of terrorism and oppression. Thematically it’s bold, and in providing a somewhat skewed reflection of the real-world its ray-traced versions are all the more powerful.
But really, seeing the leaves and branches of a tree in full bloom on your car’s roof as you drive underneath it, or the glimmer of an animated billboard reflected in a puddle formed from rain falling down – there’s beauty in even the most unassuming scene thanks to ray-tracing in Watch Dogs: Legion. And on that note alone, it provides enough reason to join the fight. And, to join the next-generation of PC and console hardware.