After yesterday’s announcement from NVIDIA, we finally know what’s coming: the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, GeForce RTX 2080, and GeForce RTX 2070. So naturally, after the keynote in the Palladium venue, NVIDIA provided hands-on demos and gameplay as the main event of their public GeForce Gaming Celebration. The demos in question were all powered by the $1200 GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition, with obligatory custom watercooling rigs showing off their new gaming flagship.

While also having a presence at Gamescom 2018, this is their main fare for showcasing the new GeForce RTX cards. In a separate walled-off area, NVIDIA offered press some gameplay time with two GeForce RTX supporting titles: Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Battlefield V. Otherwise, they also had a veritable army of RTX 2080 Ti equipped gaming PCs for the public, also demoing Battlefield V and Shadow of the Tomb Raider (without RTX features), along with Hitman 2 and Metro: Exodus. Additionally, there were a few driving simulator rigs for Assetto Corsa Competizione, including one with hydraulic feedback. These games, and more, support real-time ray tracing with RTX, but not necessarily Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS), another technology that NVIDIA announced.

NVIDIA RTX Support for Games
As of August 20, 2018
Game Real-Time Raytracing Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS)
Ark: Survival Evolved No Yes
Assetto Corsa Competizione Yes No
Atomic Heart Yes
Battlefield V Yes No
Control Yes No
Dauntless No Yes
Enlisted Yes No
Final Fantasy XV No Yes
Fractured Lands No Yes
Hitman 2 No Yes
Islands of Nyne No Yes
Justice Yes
JX3 Yes
MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries Yes
Metro Exodus Yes No
PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds No Yes
ProjectDH Yes No
Remnant: From the Ashes No Yes
Serious Sam 4: Planet Badass No Yes
Shadow of the Tomb Raider Yes No
The Forge Arena No Yes
We Happy Few No Yes

GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Hands-on: Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Starting with Shadow of the Tomb Raider, I got to play through a platforming puzzling sequence that was amusingly difficult to navigate. I thought I was just bad, but the neighboring gamer fared just as poorly and we ended up trading tips on each successive obstacle. Poor skills aside, the game was rendered in 1080p and capped at 60fps with the graphics settings locked, but I could definitely notice framedrops, even though the gameplay was rather slow-paced.

The game was rendering an outdoors scene, but because of the 1080p quality on a roughly 24” screen, I couldn’t see much of an overall quality improvement. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize until afterward that we had the option of capturing our footage, though honestly I’m glad no one was subjected to a video recording of my gaming incompetence.

Because we only had a certain allotted time, we didn’t get to finish that puzzle sequence, but from a real-time ray tracing perspective, it was hard for me to distinguish any added effects. It appears that this opinion was similar enough to others’ that the Tomb Raider Twitter issued a clarification.

GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Hands-on: Battlefield V

For Battlefield V, the situation was similar with a 1080p 144Hz monitor, playing on the Rotterdam map over LAN. There were framedrops during fast-paced scenes and in general it didn’t seem like it could keep up with the game. Again, there was no FPS info available but the RTX 2080 Ti was almost surely not cranking out constant 60fps. Here, the real-time ray tracing was quite noticeable, with vivid dynamic reflections in puddles, windows, and river. Even at 1080p, those features added to the overall image quality, though the ultimate performance cost was unclear. Framerates aren't a good tradeoff for image quality in fast-paced FPS', though for the record, I’ve always been terrible at shooters (except maybe Halo 2).

While the in-game real-time ray traced footage trailer is obviously putting the game and RTX in the best light possible, there is visible merit in explosions and lighting being reflected where they should. This time around, recorded gameplay footage could not be published until a later date, so words are all we have.

Assetto Corsa Competizione, Custom Models, and GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Photo Ops

Venue-goers try out the racecar rig after my turn is up

I also tried out Assetto Corsa Competizione on the rig with hydraulic suspension feedback, the whole setup being apparently worth over 40,000 euros. Only to find out what I already knew: I can’t drive a racecar (or non-automatics). The game is less intensive than Battlefield V or Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and on that note I didn’t notice any framedrops as I was half-racing half-crashing around the track.

In Gamescom proper, there were a few GeForce RTX 20-series AIB cards on display, including EVGA and Palit/Gainward. The Palit/Gainward representative mentioned their custom cards would be due mid-September, and that they had yet to start shipping, an interesting but unsurprising tidbit considering NVIDIA had just announced a firm date.

With real-time raytracing, games will be able to recreate realistic reflections as seen in bad photos like this one...

...or this one

NVIDIA even had a Gamescom booth with just the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti in a glass display stand, meant for photo ops. People got an NVIDIA RTX T-shirt out of it but it was somewhat amusing to see people line up to take a picture with a graphics card in the middle of a million public gaming demos.

Somehow, I think it would've been more 'normal' to see people take selfies with a graphics card

In any case, I think there are a few relevant takeaways from the hands-on:

  • RTX in terms of real-time ray-tracing is still in development, which is something confirmed by developers themselves for Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Battlefield V;
  • As presented thus far, RTX in terms of both real-time ray-tracing and deep learning super sampling (DLSS) require developer support and implementations may vary between them;
  • As presented thus far, RTX in terms of a technology or a platform is fairly confusing for gamers, because includes a few different technologies like real-time ray-tracing and deep learning super sampling (DLSS), but also provides the namesake for the “GeForce RTX” 20-series and “GeForce RTX” branded games (we will explain all this in detail when the time comes);
  • The demos didn’t clarify apples-to-apples performance differences between the GTX 1080 Ti and RTX 2080 Ti
  • September 20 is a long time to go without third-party objective analysis
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  • Devo2007 - Wednesday, August 22, 2018 - link

    True, but there wasn't a whole graphics card lineup centered around Hairworks like there is for Ray-tracing. Having your primary marketing point for the 20 series be the feature that'll pretty much get turned off to maintain ideal framerate is a bad thing!
  • eva02langley - Wednesday, August 22, 2018 - link

    And it made graphics worst. This is another Gameworks scam by Nvidia. This is worst than Physix because they are charging their customers big time for it.
  • piiman - Saturday, August 25, 2018 - link

    " they are charging their customers big time for it."

    For something NO ONE ASKED for!
  • Dug - Tuesday, August 21, 2018 - link

    Disappointed and excited at the same time. I'm glad they are moving forward with this, but I can't help but think there is a more efficient way to do realistic graphics. I believe better artists that know how to draw realistic and know how to implement the correct dynamic range would go a lot further. Look at Uncharted 4 for example on lowly ps4 hardware. It looks better than most PC games that require a 1080.
  • MadManMark - Friday, August 24, 2018 - link

    There is no way an artist can substitute for what raytracing does with illumination -- except to artfully disguise with their artistic design much of what is being lost in the scene because there is no ray tracing.
  • piiman - Saturday, August 25, 2018 - link

    Which is why I felt like the keynote speech was for dev's. "it just works"!
  • CaedenV - Tuesday, August 21, 2018 - link

    what is with all of the down and disappointed posts here? Yes, it is a $1200 GPU that cant hold a solid 1080p/60 WITH RAY TRACING TURNED ON!!!!!!
    Know how many fps a 1080 ti can do with ray tracing in a modern game? I would give it a generous 2-5fps. I mean, this is a really big deal people! Turn the ray tracing off and render on traditional graphics and these things are going to be 4k monsters! The fact that they can keep above a solid 1080/30 is super impressive. A gimmick in the real world for sure. But in future generations this is going to be the new normal for graphics rendering and it is going to allow far more realistic (or varied stylistic) games in the future. The RTX part is going to be a feature that few use (I mean... if you drop $1k+ on a GPU you are *probably* playing on a 4k display), but that does not make this a bad card.
    Wait for the reviews; RTX rendering will be pretty an slow, while traditional rendering will finally be a solid 4K/60 on just about anything... and maybe the first playable games at 8k (if you can find the TV to put it on).
  • stephenbrooks - Tuesday, August 21, 2018 - link

    I wonder if the hardware collision detection (bounded volume hierarchy) for rays can be repurposed for game physics?
  • Mat3 - Tuesday, August 21, 2018 - link

    According to the Powervr guys who also have a GPU with dedicated ray tracing hardware, they seem to think so.
  • Destoya - Wednesday, August 22, 2018 - link

    It's disappointing because it's ~15% more performance in traditionally rendered games for double the price, and enabling RTX kills performance so much as to relegate the feature to tech-demo status. 7nm cards from both Nvidia and AMD are both on the immediate horizon (12 months or less).

    Paying $1200+ for a 2080Ti is madness when the 1080Ti can be found for $600-650 new or $400-450 used. Even for folks still rocking GTX 700/900 series, buying a cheap 1000 series or simply waiting for RTX 2100 is a much smarter decision

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