Inside Battlefield 5: GeForce RTX’s most impressive ray tracing showcase

The embargo lifts today on video capture of Battlefield 5’s beautiful new Rotterdam map, which looks all the better when rendered in RTX – Nvidia’s brand new ray tracing technology for its upcoming 20-series cards. We had the chance to go hands-on with an RTX-enabled version of the game, and to talk directly with the graphics engineers responsible. How does ray tracing work? What are its limitations? And with performance such a hot topic surrounding RTX titles, what are DICE’s plans for future optimisation and further features?

Performance is under the microscope with regards RTX, in particular with Shadow of the Tomb Raider, which had noticeable frame-rate issues in the behind-the-scenes demo we played. However, what we do have to understand is that it is early days for RTX development. Nvidia seeded developers with Titan V hardware earlier this year – but this lacks specific ray tracing acceleration. Cards can be used in parallel to offer up something close to actual RTX performance but the bottom line is this: DICE had just two weeks with final hardware, which was dubbed simply as an ‘Nvidia Graphics Device’ in the device manager. In short, the developer wasn’t even sure which RTX device they were working with. And as we shall discover, there’s still plenty of work to do before launch in optimising an already impressive showing.

Ray tracing as it stands in the demo is used to render Battlefield 5’s specular reflections – replacing ‘fake’ rasterisation approximations including standard cube maps and screen-space reflections. The ray tracing lines up perfectly with other lit sources in the world, including area lights, the sun or sky lighting. To get a sense of what RT reflections do differently and better, it’s good to point out the limitations of the systems that it replaces.

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