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Crysis Remaster Graphics and Perf Review: A Look at Crytek’s Ray-Tracing Solution

Crytek has finally launched the remaster of its original Crysis more than a decade after the original release, with a special “Can it Run Crysis” graphics preset, much to the amusement of the PC Gaming community. Today we’ll be having a looking at the graphical enhancements that this remaster is taking advantage of, with a deeper look at the ray-tracing implementation.

We’ll be doing this test at 4K using an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti. We’ll explain some of the more important graphics options, check the VRAM usage, and compare the picture quality at various presets, along with the resulting performance.

Low vs Medium vs High vs Very High vs CiRC Graphics Presets

Low (60+FPS)
Medium (60+FPS)
High (54-58 FPS)
Very High (30 FPS)
Can it Run Crysis (22 FPS)

At the low preset at 4K, using a 2080 Ti, I was able to hit 80 FPS while the switch to high brought it down to the 50s. Finally, the very high and ultra (Can it run Crysis) presets which use the higher ray-tracing settings push the FPS down to 30 and 22, respectively.

Ray-Tracing Presets: Performance, High, Very High, Ultra (CiRC)

Before we begin, here are a few pointers. Crysis Remaster uses ray-tracing for reflections and ambient occlusion. While the reflection quality varies across the four presets, for AO, there’s just on and off. It’s turned off when the ray-tracing is at off and is turned on when you set it to performance. North of that, although the reflection quality increases, the AO quality mostly remains unchanged. Here’s a look at how ray-tracing is implemented in NVIDIA’s RTX partner titles:

From what we know, Crysis Remastered uses Crytek’s API-agnostic (independent of API, RTX uses DXR which is part of DX12) solution similar to the one used in the Noir demo. As you’ll soon see, there are many similarities between the two implementations. Furthermore, as of now, I’m not sure whether the game supports the use of RT cores (hardware accelerated ray-tracing) or is limited to a software-based solution, but I believe it’s the latter:

Off
Perf
High

As you can see, the difference between the various presets is not that big but the performance hit is quite lofty. Overall, the quality of the ray-traced reflections is also quite shabby. And yet, it halves the frame rate going from high to ultra (You can check the details on the top-left of the screen).

Interestingly, the VRAM usage decreases when you go from RT off to RT performance preset. After that, the consumption increases from 9GB at high to 10GB at ultra. This means that Crytek’s ray-tracing solution doesn’t take much video memory. Let’s have a look at the ray-traced ambient occlusion (global illumination):

RT Off
Performance
High
Ultra

Here it’s clearly visible that upon turning on RT, the ambient occlusion becomes much more accurate. On increasing the setting though, the quality remains unchanged and it’s only the reflection resolutions that vare bumped up (more rays per object/scene). Here’s another example:

Off
Performance

Surprisingly, the cost of going from RT off to performance mode is quite meager. You only lose 3-4 frames per sec on average. Let’s have another look at how the ray-tracing settings affect the quality of reflections:

Off
Perf
High
Ultra

Let’s have a closer look at how individual reflections are affected by the ray-tracing settings:

Off
Performance
High
Very High
Ultra

It’s pretty clear how the reflection quality scales as you increase the number of rays cast per object. Here, the rock’s reflection is much more detailed at high compared to performance mode and ultra takes it even a step further by not only improving the rock’s reflection but also that of the nearby trees (though they still looks crappy). On the downside, ultra is virtually unplayable on even the RTX 3080. You get around 30-40 FPS at 4K if you turn RT up to ultra.

Another thing to note here is that once again going from RT off to the performance preset, the VRAM consumption actually decreases by around 500MB. Further increasing the RT quality increases it by a GB.

Here are some daylight screenshot comparisons:

SSR+RT
RT

Once again, as evident in the above two images, the reflections use a mixed RT-Screen space solution, with a low resolution ray-traced technique (check the videos at the end).

The differences between the water reflections are very subtle at various ray-tracing resolutions. They’re so low-res, that I’d normally just say that they are cube-maps but they disappear when you turn off RT. Regardless, there’s a lot of noise due to the low amount of rays used per scene/object. The primary difference can be seen upon going from performance to high: The noise is significantly reduced and the edges of the reflections become more defined.

RT+SSR
RT
Perf
High
Very High

Here are a few more if those weren’t enough. As always, you can check the frame rate, VRAM consumption and CPU usage by opening the picture in another window and enlarging. These are all 1080p shots. For the original 4K copies, click here.

Once again, the differences are very subtle (if any) between the various ray-tracing presets. Interestingly, Crytek has paired the Screen Space Reflections along with the ray-traced reflections, meaning both are turned on/off by the same RT setting. I wouldn’t be surprised if these low-res water reflections are actually cubemaps (pre-baked reflections) that are tied to the RT setting. With that said, increasing the ray-tracing setting does increase the SSR quality:

Crytek could be using screen-space ray-tracing here which is what McFly’s ray-tracing shader is based on.

Here’s one scene where I was able to spot the cubemaps with RT turned off, so that scenario is unlikely. In the image below, with RT off, you can see that the cubemapped reflections are visible. They are low-res and faint but they’re there.

Off
Perf
High
Very Hi

In these images, the quality of the grass reflections does scale with the quality setting. The noise is reduced significantly at high and very high compared to performance which means more rays.

Here’s one example where the reflection is cast into a puddle. Here, we can confirm that it’s a ray-traced reflection, albeit a very low res one:

Off
Perf
High
Very High

If you look closely, the reflections become more clearly defined as you increase the quality (though it’s still a far cry from the DXR/RTX based reflections used in Control and BFV). Again, the differences are subtle and not easily noted, but the performance hit is tremendous. Here’s the same reflection object but from a different angle to make the differences more obvious:

Perf
High
Very High

I also noticed some ghosting in the above scene (thanks to Andreas Schilling for pointing it out). This indicates that Crytek may be using some form of temporal upscaling to reconstruct the ray-traced reflections using data samples across multiple frames. This is similar to how checkboard rendering works, except it’s limited to reflections.

Shader Quality Compared

The shader quality setting primarily affects the lighting and complex shaders such as AO. In CryEngine, shading a material’s reaction to incoming light. You can see its affect below

Low
Medium
High
Very High

The effect of shaders is quite subtle. It appears to add some form of bloom and vibrancy to the graphics and the performance impact is also just a couple of frames. That means you can go wild with this setting.

Low
Med
High
Very High
Ultra

Those above shots were taken with ray-tracing turned off. I found that when ray-tracing is on, the impact of shader quality is even subtler. You’ll mainly see a difference going from low to medium, but nothing north of that.

Shadow Quality Compared

Shadow quality is the most intensive setting after ray-tracing, especially the two highest presets. In the above images, you can see how the shadows are affected as you go from low to ultra. At low and medium, the game uses low-quality shadow maps with sharply defined edges, with limited LOD. At high, very high, and ultra, soft shadows are applied but they’re quite taxing. Going from high to very high reduced our FPS from around 60 to 50. That’s about 20%!

The high quality is the most balanced as it offers soft shadows without a significant drop in performance and nearly the same level of quality as very high and ultra. Once again, you can check the performance and other stats in the images. Interestingly, the VRAM consumption was barely affected by the shadow quality.

Medium
High
Very High
Ultra

You can find the 4K uncompressed versions of all the above shots here.

Not All Reflections are Ray-Traced

Yes, that’s right. Similar to the Noir tech demo, not all reflections are ray-traced. The ones that are too far away from the camera use screen space reflections. Furthermore, the vegetation seems to be using a hybrid model. There are both SSR as well as ray-traced reflections for trees but the latter are very-low res. The former are used in conjunction with the latter when the vegetation is visible on the screen (in the Z-buffer), but when they are aren’t, the low-res ray-traced versions are used. You can check that in the above and below videos.

Post Processing, Anti-Aliasing and the Rest

I’ll talk a bit about post-processing while leaving the rest of the settings such as texture quality, lighting, etc out as they’re well-explained in our in-depth post concerning graphics technologies in games.

In Cry Engine, post-processing is primarily used for techniques implemented by the ROPs (raster backend) most notably shader based AA techniques such as SMAA, FXAA, and TAA. However, this game seems to enable things like lens flare, DOF, water caustics, and color grading using this setting. Keep in mind that while these effects hardly affect the overall quality, they do eat up around 5-10% performance, so reduce it to low if your GPU is struggling.

PS: As you may have already concluded from the above shots, Crysis Remastered primarily uses just one to two CPU cores for the draw calls, AI, and other non-GPU workloads. As such, the scaling won’t be great across multi-core CPUs and it’ll primarily be processors with better single-threaded performance and higher clocks that’ll excel in this game. While overall up to six cores are used, they mostly stay under 50%.

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Areej

Computer Engineering dropout (3 years), writer, journalist, and amateur poet. I started Techquila while in college to address my hardware passion. Although largely successful, it suffered from many internal weaknesses. Left and now working on Hardware Times, a site purely dedicated to. Processor architectures and in-depth benchmarks. That's what we do here at Hardware Times!
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