Last week, we posed the question: has ray tracing finally found its killer app? While Minecraft RTX and Quake 2 RTX have amazed us, it's Remedy Entertainment's PC version of Control that's our genuine contender in the triple-A space. In fact, between lower quality and ultra-level settings all the way up to a fully enabled ray traced experience, Control actually delivers a chronology of lighting techniques from the last generation, to the current and then on to the next - with dramatic transformations in as we transition from one phase to the next.
What we have here is a beautiful game using the state of the art in today's rendering techniques, taken to the next level via hardware-accelerated ray tracing. Remedy's RT implementation is quite extraordinary, running the gamut from radical, game-changing upgrades over standard rasterisation to much more nuanced, more subtle enhancements - features you may not notice in the heat of gameplay, but speak to the scale of the developer's ambitions. While many titles are using ray tracing technology for global illumination, reflections or shadows, Remedy throws RT at practically everything - and Control itself is the perfect canvas for showcasing these effects, thanks to its brutalist-inspired architecture and heavy reliance on reflection.
Five key features define the RT experience in Control. To begin with, there's the introduction of ray traced diffuse global illumination, used to embellish Remedy's already stellar voxel-based solution. Ray tracing reduces errors and adheres better to world geometry, while also replacing standard ambient occlusion with a far more realistic alternative. On top of this, local coloured lighting is bounced around still further, giving dynamic and static objects another contribution to the game's overall indirect lighting. This step is crucial in going beyond the game's standard lighting - starkly coloured dynamic objects that are brightly lit cast light onto their neighbours, giving a more realistic look.