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Behold, the Cyberpunk 2077 path tracing mode your GPU probably can’t run

Overdrive Mode is coming on April 11th

Nvidia have previewed the upcoming Overdrive Mode for Cyberpunk 2077, showcasing how it replaces the game’s already extensive ray tracing effects with full path tracing. Why Nvidia and not the developers, CD Projekt Red? Well, that might have something to do with Overdrive Mode being such a graphics card shatterer that it will supposedly take a GeForce RTX 40 series GPU – with DLSS 3 in effect – to run.

Overdrive Mode will be patched into Cyberpunk 2077 on April 11th. You can see all of Nvidia’s before 'n' after shots in this video, or go check out the full preview on the GeForce site.

Path tracing is a subset of ray tracing, using essentially the same techniques, though is simultaneously more advanced, more demanding, and potentially much more lifelike. It involves simulating practically all light sources in a scene, using randomly bouncing rays that can hit any object – so it isn’t limited to producing specific kinds of shadows or reflections, like ray tracing usually is in games. The result, on paper, is an even more drastic lighting overhaul that’s supposed to more accurately match how light behaves in real life.

We’ve already had a taste of path tracing in games like Portal with RTX and Minecraft, while mods have brought it to Quake II and Half-Life. Cyberpunk 2077 will likely prove the tech’s biggest test yet, even if any chances of it heralding a new age of path traced graphics must be considered with the sky-high GPU requirements in mind. Nvidia’s preview shows a top-of-the-line RTX 4090 running Overdrive Mode, at native 4K, at as little as 16-17fps. It will take both upscaling and DLSS 3’s AI frame generation to get it up to a playable framerate.

In fairness, Nvidia also suggest DLSS 3 can get the RTX 4090 pumping out well over 100fps, though doesn’t specify which quality setting the DLSS upscaler is running at. I’m guessing Performance or Ultra Performance, which yields a drop in sharpness in exchnage for speed. Because DLSS 3 is only available to RTX 40 series models, older GeForce cards and AMD Radeon cards will be out of luck. Even those that can usually handle 4K quite comfortably, like the Radeon RX 7900 XTX.

I have an RTX 4070 Ti knocking around, so I’ll probably check out Overdrive Mode once it’s available and see if it’s a viable option for less ultra-luxe GPUs than the RTX 4090. Whether it actually looks sufficiently better than the existing ray tracing settings, or indeed the rasterized settings used in Nvidia’s comparisons, I’ve leave between you and your eyes- though I am curious as to how Idris Elba's path traced visage will look in the upcoming Phantom Liberty expansion. It's surely impossible to dent such handsomeness.

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About the Author
James Archer avatar

James Archer

Hardware Editor

James had previously hung around beneath the RPS treehouse as a freelancer, before being told to drop the pine cones and climb up to become hardware editor. He has over a decade’s experience in testing/writing about tech and games, something you can probably tell from his hairline.

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