In 2015, the first part of Dying Light was released, which successfully combined the idea of surviving in the world of zombies with parkour. The game was successful and gathered a large army of fans. After several years of active support with the release of additional content, the Techland studio presented a full-fledged second part, which instantly burst into the tops of sales. Parkour has become more convenient and spectacular, the presentation of the story is more cinematic, and the world is more interesting to explore. Graphics pulled up to modern standards and even added ray tracing.
We decided to study in detail the features of ray tracing in Dying Light 2 Stay Human. Let’s evaluate the visual changes in the graphics in different tracing modes and compare the performance using several video cards as an example.
Dying Light 2 Stay Human is based on the C-Engine, which is Techland’s own development. The game can run on API DirectX 11, DirectX 12 and DirectX 12 Ultimate. There is a high-quality graphics profile without tracing, which by default includes DirectX 11. In DirectX 12 mode, you can additionally enable asynchronous calculations, which in theory should provide a slight acceleration on modern video cards. In reality, the difference between DirectX 11 and DirectX 12 on current generation solutions is minimal. There are two profiles for ray-based graphics, Ray Tracing and High Quality Tracing. Comparison of graphics and performance is carried out in these three modes.
The game has five effects related to ray tracing:
Sun shadows (soft shadows) Ambient Occlusion Global Illumination Reflections Lantern light
When you select the normal ray tracing profile, only soft shadows and advanced shading with tracing are activated, and some other parameters are reduced to a medium level. Obviously, this is a compromise mode with a slight drop in performance relative to regular graphics. With a quality tracing profile, all effects are active with the highest quality of other parameters.
Let’s compare the picture in several scenes with different graphics settings. The comparison was made on the basis of the MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Suprim X 10G video card at a resolution of 2560×1440. Standard tracing quality profiles were used.
Below are screenshots with different settings. It is better to compare them in a full-format form.
Enabling tracing noticeably changes the city location. In the normal ray tracing mode, all shadows are enhanced and the display of trees is completely changed. The uneven shading of the branches is better transmitted, but the effect of translucent foliage disappears. There is a blurring of the contours of the shadows (noticeable in the right part of the frame) and an increase in the shadows at the junction of objects. In the maximum ray tracing quality mode, the intensity of the shadows is less, the scene looks softer and more pleasant.
Next, consider an example with evening lighting.
Normal tracing enhances all shadows at once. At the same time, the perception of the roof covering changes, and the grass looks completely different. Here, the scene with tracing seems definitely more alive and reliable, and the transition to the maximum quality brings the picture to the optimal level, when there is a feeling of soft evening light without oversaturated shadows.
For clarity, below is a direct comparison of fragments with conventional graphics and high-quality tracing.
With the rays, all surfaces are lighter, there is a shine on the glasses, the sense of volume in vegetation is better conveyed. The difference in perception of this scene is significant.
Let’s move on to another example.
Normal tracing blurs the contours of shadows and darkens areas hidden from direct sunlight. Maximum quality adds a reflected light effect that makes the scene brighter and closer to the first frame. Unevenness appears in the illumination of the upper beams, suspended lanterns, boxes and other objects, which gives them additional volume. Glare from the light on distant windows also appears.
You can evaluate the changes in the scene during the transition from normal graphics to the maximum quality of the tracing using an animated comparison:
The normal tracing mode sometimes gives an ambiguous effect, so you need to deal with the nuances. The advantages of this mode are clearly visible in the lower comparison with the shadow of the tree.
With rays, the contours of the shadows from the near branches are clearer and blurry from the distant ones.
Many scenes look too dark if tracing is only active for soft shadows and Ambient Occlusion. This can be corrected by tracing-based global illumination. As an example, a scene where, at full tracing quality, the Global Illumination effect is first disabled.
As you can see, it is Global Illumination that is critical for the correct display of shadows. Global Illumination complements Ambient Occlusion by creating realistic scene shading, taking into account reflected and indirect light. This eliminates excessive “darkness” and better conveys the unevenness in the illumination of objects.
How are the reflections? Tracing affects puddles, glass, and some shiny surfaces. Does not affect large bodies of water (rivers, etc.), as in Far Cry 6. For clarity, a couple of examples below.
In the near puddle, the outlines of the surrounding trees appear, and the distant puddles in the dark zone lose their luster.
On dark glasses, the contours of the surrounding world appear and the glare on the surface looks different.
Next, let’s talk about performance in different modes.
For comparative testing, three video cards of the top segment are involved:
Nvidia solutions are represented by MSI models with improved performance.
These graphics cards are equipped with powerful cooling and work with factory acceleration.
The test bench configuration is as follows:
Processor: Intel Core i9-9900K; cooling system: be quiet! Silent Loop 280mm; motherboard: ASUS ROG Maximus XI Formula; memory: Kingston Fury Renegade KF436C16RB1K2/32 (DDR4-3600); system disk: Kingston SSDNow UV400 480GB; Optional Drive #1: Kingston A2000 NVMe PCIe 1000GB; Optional Drive #2: Kingston KC2000 NVMe PCIe 1000GB; case: Antec NX800; power supply: Antec HCG850 Gold; monitor: ASUS PB278Q (2560×1440, 27″); operating system: Windows 10 Pro x64; AMD Radeon Adrenalin Edition 22.2.1 driver; NVIDIA GeForce 511.79 driver.
Testing was carried out by repeating a run along a certain route. For testing, a location with a mansion and a pool from the prologue was chosen.
The standard High quality profile in normal mode and the standard quality profiles with tracing are used. In heavy modes, Nvidia DLSS and AMD FSR scaling technologies are involved.
First, let’s do a little performance research in different APIs. Below is a comparison of three video cards with the same graphics quality in DirectX 11 and DirectX 12.
Almost identical results in the test scene. The GeForce RTX has a slight uptick in DirectX 12, and the Radeon is slightly better in DirectX 11, but it’s a negligible difference. It is noteworthy that in the old API the scene uses less than 4 GB of video memory, and in the new one more than 7 GB. And in the case of weak video cards with a small amount of memory, definitely choose DirectX 11.
Now let’s look at the performance of each video card in normal mode and with ray tracing.
The older MSI GeForce RTX 3080 delivers excellent frame rates in all modes at Full HD. There is a twofold drop in performance when switching from regular graphics to a full set of ray tracing effects. Loading video memory in the heaviest mode exceeds 8 GB.
The MSI GeForce RTX 3070 Ti performs well with normal tracing, but with full effects it can be uncomfortable to draw. You can achieve high frame rates with DLSS scaling, but the clarity of the picture in Full HD will suffer from this.
The AMD video adapter handles tracing worse than the GeForce RTX 3070 Ti, it fails to provide 60 frames even in normal ray tracing mode. AMD FSR scaling will raise the frame rate, but there will still be serious drops in quality mode.
Moving on to a higher resolution of 2560×1440.
The MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Suprim X 10G easily hits 100 frames with standard graphics and up to 60 with simple tracing. To play with the best quality of the rays, you will have to turn on the zoom. But there is enough high-quality DLSS mode, in which the picture is minimally different from the full-fledged 1440p. In the heaviest mode, the game can load the entire memory of the GeForce RTX 3080. The performance loss when switching from regular graphics to Ray Tracing High is up to 2.7 times at the minimum. DLSS Quality provides 60-80% acceleration for the heaviest duty.
The MSI GeForce RTX 3070 Ti Gaming X Trio is about 30% weaker than its older comrade. The high-quality Nvidia DLSS smart scaling mode pulls out this format during normal tracing, for maximum quality with comfortable fps, you will have to turn on the balanced mode or put up with periodic performance drops.
An AMD representative shows a slideshow when trying to activate high-res tracing. AMD FSR scaling in quality mode does not help the situation, you need to lower the quality. At the same time, AMD FSR Balanced already provides for a 1.7x multiplier, i.e. the input resolution will be 1505×847, which will provide a full-fledged “soap” at the output.
Against the backdrop of the results obtained, it is clear that 4K is available only to the most powerful video cards. It will be the final test for the MSI GeForce RTX 3080.
With normal graphics, the video card did not reach 60 frames a bit. Enabling DLSS Quality provides 33-50% speedup. The combination of normal tracing and DLSS Balanced allows you to get about 50 frames, and for complete comfort you will have to turn on DLSS Performance. 4K performance with beams is comparable to Cyberpunk 2077.
Ray tracing has a noticeable effect on the graphics in Dying Light 2 Stay Human. Maximum tracing quality nicely transforms scenes with complex shading and lighting, better emphasizing the direction of the light and taking into account the influence of reflected light. In some places, this well enhances the feeling of depth in the frame and gives additional volume to objects. Reflection tracing does not affect large areas of water, only puddles and glass, which is also noticeable in urban scenery. The normal tracing profile gives an ambiguous effect due to too saturated dark shadows. Therefore, the best solution would be to stop at the maximum quality of the tracing or play in normal mode without rays, if the potential of the video card is not enough.
The requirements with tracing are serious, at the level of the most difficult modern games. Nvidia solutions are the best choice for such settings. The tested MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Suprim X 10G and MSI GeForce RTX 3070 Ti Gaming X Trio graphics cards confidently handle full HD with active tracing. At higher resolutions, tracing must be combined with DLSS to achieve comfortable fps. The potential of the GeForce RTX 3080 allows you to use the maximum level of tracing with high-quality DLSS in 1440p format, and in the case of the GeForce RTX 3070 Ti, you will probably have to turn on the balanced DLSS mode or select the optimal tracing parameters. At 4K with beams, the game is able to bring any top-end graphics card to its knees, and for the GeForce RTX 3080 or GeForce RTX 3090, you will have to enable the fastest DLSS mode.
On AMD graphics cards, you can forget about tracing in Dying Light 2. The Radeon RX 6800 XT chokes even in Full HD, requiring upscaling to be activated. In the same tracing modes, the Radeon RX 6800 XT is inferior to the GeForce RTX 3070 Ti by about 40-60%. But the game looks great without tracing. At the same time, the developers ensured compatibility with all video cards thanks to DirectX 11 support. Therefore, not only owners of top systems, but also owners of budget PCs will be able to enjoy the game.