Grand Theft Auto V

Grand Theft Auto V Upgrades Ray-Tracing, But at a Cost


After long amounts of speculation, primarily right before the launch of GTA  V for the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S, we have finally received ray-tracing in Los Santos. Primarily the way reflections function has been improved dramatically, but it does extract a heavy toll for game performance.

In case you are not aware of what ray-traced reflections are ,It is a technique used in computer graphics to create more realistic-looking images by simulating the way light behaves in the real world. In a ray-traced reflection, an image is generated by tracing the path of light as it bounces off of objects in a scene. This allows for the creation of more accurate reflections and refractions of light, which can make a scene look more realistic. The technique can be computationally intensive, but it is becoming increasingly common in the console market space since the next generation of consoles launched 2 years ago.

Let’s get into how it looks in the sprawling city of Los Santos. The main area this graphical update affects are the body of cars. When you ride a fancy car through the roads of Vinewood boulevard at nighttime in the rain and see the neon signs and buildings reflect of the surface of the vehicle while looking at the reflective puddles looks truly amazing. The reflections are really sharp and accurate as opposed to the SSR (screen spaced reflections) solutions in previous versions of the game (which mind you, still date from technology used in 2014). Look at some examples below.



We have also compiled these comparisons into a video which you can check out below!

The main question is how does it affect the playing experience? And is it truly as transformative as people hoped it to be? While the game’s reflections look significantly better, they are only visible in certain areas and do not affect all surfaces in the game, so their impact is limited. A more transformative technique would have been ray-traced global illumination, which realistically bounces light of surfaces, changing the look of practically everything in the game world. The performance trade-off is quite massive as well, it runs at native 4K at 30fps, which in the days of the modern consoles just feels too slow and sluggish to play, especially when it comes to driving which is a major part of GTA, it is a period in gaming that seems to be well behind us (although there is always a possibility it returns later into the generation). 

The solution to this does not seem to be difficult though, the reflections with ray-tracing enabled seem to be really really sharp, I imagine that if they would cut the resolution of these reflections in half or more they could reach 60fps with RT reflections enabled so we can have the next gen experience while having buttery smooth gameplay.

In conclusion, the ray-traced reflections look absolutely gorgeous and are well implemented by Rockstar, they do however not transform the look of the game, and at the heavy cost of a slow 30fps I cannot see many people switching over from the performance mode. Hopefully Rockstar considers reducing the resolution of the ray-traced reflections in GTA V in the future as it could improve frame rate and provide a next-gen visual experience while maintaining smooth gameplay.

Hi, I'm Lewis! - I'm 25 years old and from the UK. I am the Owner of Rockstar Universe which was founded in 2014 just after the release of Grand Theft Auto V. I've been a fan of Rockstar Games for a long time with the first game I ever played being GTA: San Andreas! I have a huge passion for gaming and entertainment media and absolutely love the Grand Theft Auto series!