Digital Foundry Believes Today's Cyberpunk 2077 Footage "Is Not the Best it Can Actually Look"

Digital Foundry Believes Today's Cyberpunk 2077 Footage "Is Not the Best it Can Actually Look"

DF has some key insights into what CD Projekt Red released today.

When Cyberpunk 2077 comes out later this year, we're assuredly going to see dozens of videos comparing how it runs across different PC builds and consoles. Today, though, we got a look at new 4K, 30 FPS footage of gameplay captured by CD Projekt Red—while it's all a work in progress, this is our best chance yet at seeing how the game could look on high-end systems. The experts at Digital Foundry have analyzed the footage and have picked up on some takeaways about its level of detail settings, lighting, and more.

Digital Foundry's Alexander Battaglia and John Linneman teamed up to analyze the footage in a new video. First and foremost, they point out that the 4K footage makes it easier to appreciate finer details in 2077's world. Last year, they noted that the 1080p gameplay breakdown CD Projekt Red released didn't "really do it justice" compared to a full 4K demo seen at Gamescom. For those planning to play Cyberpunk on a cutting edge PC, this footage gives a clearer idea of what to expect.

The big insights from today's analysis, though, are appreciable even if you knock the YouTube quality down. In looking at the driving footage captured in the wide-open Badlands area, Battaglia and Linneman zero in on the level of detail settings leading to pop-in. Issues like these are common across all open-world games, they note, differing mainly in terms of how well they're hidden. "The issue in this case," Linneman says, "is that [things] just sort of pop into existence, in a way that's a little distracting to the eye I'd say."

Examining a scene set in a parking garage, Battaglia says he's "very convinced" that the gameplay footage released today is also not using the Nvidia RTX ray tracing features set to ship with the game on PC. Cyberpunk 2077 will support ray traced emissive lighting, which promises more realistic shading based on ambient light. In the footage released today, Battaglia and Linneman spot a telltale sign that it may be using cheaper, less realistic screen space ambient occlusion: a shadow in the environment appears to blink out of existence as the player character's hand passes over it. Meanwhile, Nvidia notes the new story trailer released today does feature 2077's ray tracing effects, including ray traced reflections.

The upshot is that, for as nice as today's footage looks, there's reason to think Cyberpunk 2077 may look even better at launch with all the settings maxed out. "We're technically, I think, looking at a version of the game that is not the best it can actually look," says Battaglia, "which is also impressive because it means we have a lot to expect for release, even above this already pretty-looking footage."

Seeing as current-gen consoles won't benefit from ray tracing features at all, hopefully that means today's impressive footage isn't too far off from what players on those systems will see. Until we see actual footage, though, we can only speculate on how Cyberpunk 2077 will fare on current and next-gen consoles (both before and after their promised upgrades).

Again, today's footage is still a work-in-progress, so finer-grain features could change plenty between now and November 19. Still, if the prospect of seeing Cyberpunk 2077 look better than it does in this showcase is up your alley, then you know it's time to think about either buying a high-end ray tracing card now or waiting for a new line of them to come out.

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Mathew Olson

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Mathew Olson is a writer formerly of Digg, where he blogged and reported about all things under the umbrella of internet culture (including games, of course). He lives in New York, grew up under rain clouds and the influence of numerous games studios in the Pacific Northwest, and will talk your ear off about Half-Life mods, Talking Heads or Twin Peaks if you let him.

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