Ray tracing invades the hellish arenas of Doom Eternal

Articles: Gaming
Jul 09, 2021 Written by:Eric Born

Of all my favorite gaming moments from 2020, blasting a hole into the surface of Mars and launching myself into its core definitely makes the top ten list. This scenario in Doom Eternal had everything I hoped for: unrelenting swarms of demons, an unabashedly outrageous story, and the latest incarnation of the BFG. It’s hard to improve on something so close to perfection, but in a recent free update, Doom Eternal did just that. Gamers with compatible hardware can now enjoy ray tracing and NVIDIA DLSS as they battle the minions of hell, and the visual spectacle is so impressive that it pulled me back into this fast-paced shooter all over again.

Right from the beginning of the Mars Core level, ray tracing adds a layer of realism that makes the whole experience even more immersive. In the brief cinematic that opens the mission, the Doom Slayer crosses a room of cowering UAC employees in a space station orbiting Mars. The planet looms over the scene through a giant curved glass window. Its menacing red surface reflects across the metal floor, communicating more than ever the pull of its massive presence.


Image source: Gamesplanet

Moments like this fill the game. Even in the opening cinematic, ray tracing brings new life to a familiar sequence. As the Doom Slayer pulls on his iconic helmet in the bridge of his spaceship, the lights from the readouts and controls around him reflect realistically across the glass of his helmet. Those reflections give new depth to the scene. Even with the camera close to his face, I have a visual reference for the room around him.

The realistic lighting is fun to watch in the game’s brief cinematics, but it’s even more fun in action. In one memorable sequence, I was fighting my way through a ruined subway when I ran past a glass wall that separated me from an abandoned convenience store. I could see enemy soldiers through the translucent material as they rushed around to ambush me, but I could also see my own reflection. Without ray tracing enabled, I could only see my character in cutscenes, but now I catch glimpses of him throughout the game. There’s something about seeing the Slayer reflected in the world around me that gives me chills, especially when I’m walking away victorious from a tough encounter.


Image source: Gamesplanet

The game didn’t give me time to stand and admire myself in the mirror, but the updated lighting still enhanced the experience. An Arachnotron charged around the corner, artillery blazing from its top turret. The glow from his weaponry sizzled across the reflective surfaces in the periphery of my vision, and I reacted quickly with sticky bombs from my shotgun. Explosions echoed down the hallway as I weaved back and forth across the tight space, wearing down the spider-like creature’s defenses until I could finish it with a glory kill.

Different materials reflect light differently, so the ray traced lighting effects are less noticeable on rocky terrain. Other times, the updated lighting will turn a hallway of reflective materials into a dazzling kaleidoscope. Energy weapons and flaming projectiles look particularly amazing as their reflections flash across glass and metal, and the monstrous green blasts from the BFG are more fun than ever as they wreak deadly havoc across a crowded battlefield.

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Doom Eternal was already a great-looking game that ran fast as hell. Playing on the ROG Flow X13, a lightweight ultraportable that can draw on the top-of-the-line GeForce RTX 3080 when it’s connected to the ROG XG Mobile, I enjoyed a 229.1 FPS average at the game’s Ultra Nightmare preset.

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After I turned on ray tracing and DLSS Performance, the graphics were undeniably improved, but the game still churned out frames at a dizzying pace. Here, I blazed through the mysterious Urdak region at a 218.2 FPS average. Realistic reflections kept catching my eye as I blazed through the level. Those visual cues reinforced my sense of depth in the scene, making me feel the size of the massive towers and the staggering depths which separated them.

Enjoying improved graphics at such high FPS feels a bit like having my cake and eating it, too. Ray tracing is more demanding on the GPU than traditional lighting, but since I’m playing with an RTX graphics card I can make up much of the difference with NVIDIA DLSS. This AI-powered tech greatly increases my frame rate without noticeably affecting image quality.


Image source: Gamesplanet

The graphical improvements by themselves made me excited to play Doom Eternal all over again, but there’s even more reason to suit back up and grab my super shotgun. Since I last checked in on the game, it’s received not one but two DLCs that take the game’s story to a climactic finish. Well over a year after its launch, this game continues to get compelling updates, and there’s more on the horizon. If you haven’t yet experienced the latest incarnation of Doom, grab your own copy and get ready for a fast-paced thrill ride.