Ray tracing is one of the big buzzwords associated with next-gen console and cutting-edge PC video game graphics. The rendering technique creates realistic lighting conditions that do wonders with shadowing and reflections. But hearing what ray tracing offers is different than seeing it, and sometimes a familiar example is needed. Case in point, a new BioShock 2 ray tracing demo recording, showing how a near ten-year-old game can be improved.
BioShock 2 (and the entire BioShock franchise at that) is vaunted for the quality of its lighting. Dark hallways are filled with flickering neon lights and pools of water, delivering a creepy and claustrophobic atmosphere. It was critically acclaimed for its lighting tech in 2010, but to see it with ray tracing and screen space reflection is something else entirely.
Light with the mod enabled pops off the screen, with the color of the lighting carried through each scene in a realistic manner. There's perhaps no better example of this than when the scene includes a flickering neon light, as the flood of blue or red color can be seen clearly as the light goes on and off. As for reflections in the demo, they still utilize SSR, limiting what's reflected to what's visible to the player and not beyond. However, those reflections still capture the ray-traced lighting of the room that's visible, adding realistic depth to the scene that wasn't there prior.
Sony and Microsoft have both touted support for ray tracing in their respective next-gen consoles, the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Scarlett. That doesn't necessarily mean that most or even many games will utilize the technology, as even the latest computer hardware is pushed to its limits when ray tracing is implemented. Yet the opportunity is there for developers who can manage it, so it's worth educating game players in case they want to encourage it.
The technology at show in this BioShock 2 video comes via a mod of sorts from Pascal Glitcher, a custom shader named Global Illumination built on the open source ReShade injector. PC gamers can use ReShade to inject customizations to improve visuals, or like the Pascal Glitcher shader, implement ray tracing. The shader is only available via the Pascal Glitcher Patreon, but there are tutorials tied to how to get it started for PC gamers interested in trying it for themselves.
BioShock 2 is available on PC, PS3, and Xbox 360.