Jun 18, 2021 Written by:Eric Born

Metro Exodus PC Enhanced Edition showcases the next generation of lighting

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I leaned on the rail of a train car, watching the snow-blanketed landscape slip by under the rising sun's yellow glow. Along with a small group of survivors, I was traveling across war-torn Russia in a small train to reach a remnant of civilization in the Urals. Our scout shouted out a warning: a small blockade covered the tracks ahead. Shots rang out and damaged the train as we crashed through the debris. Along with Anna, my wife and a talented sharpshooter, I set off to find the attackers while others repaired the train.

The trek through the melting snow and ruined buildings put the next-gen graphics technologies in Metro Exodus PC Enhanced Edition on full display. The Metro series has always built immersive worlds using the latest technologies, and when Metro: Exodus launched in 2019, it was one of the first titles to incorporate new ray-traced effects. Its hybrid engine offered global illumination and ray-traced ambient occlusion as options to gamers with compatible hardware.

The PC Enhanced Edition, free to all owners of the base game, drops the mix of ray-traced and rasterized lighting effects in favor of a fully ray-traced illumination pipeline and new ray-traced reflections. The result can only be described as stunning. In fact, this next-generation upgrade is so advanced that it's one of the first games to require a GPU capable of accelerating ray-traced effects in real time, like NVIDIA's GeForce RTX 20-series and 30-series graphics cards.

metro-5Image source: Gamesplanet

Back in the game, the terrain around me was blanketed in snow. Some meltwater had spread across a ruined roadway. Reflections shimmered across the rippling surface of the water. I ducked inside the dim interior of a trailer to scavenge for precious supplies. In many games, there’s often a stark and unrealistic contrast between outdoor and indoor lighting, but in Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition, sunshine naturally bounced into the space before fading into shadow. As I rummaged through the trailer and moved deeper into its dark innards, I flicked on my flashlight. The light bounced realistically off of the metal surfaces, illuminating the space with an uncanny realism. I’ve learned to expect such CGI wizardry in pre-rendered cutscenes and Hollywood movies, but it’s flooring to see that level of photorealism rendered in real time at a frame rate that’s fast enough for a first-person shooter.

metro-1Image source: Gamesplanet

The ray-traced lighting is impressive outdoors, and it’s jaw-dropping in dark interiors. Like other games in the series, Metro Exodus frequently sends me into shadowy, claustrophobic spaces populated with grotesque mutants and monsters. When the game graciously provides a bright light source, like a campfire or an NPC holding a torch, the light actually bounces to fill the space as it should without bleeding over into spaces where it shouldn’t. I've played a few too many classic games that produce an awkward halo of visibility around my character with a light clipped to my character's chest, so I love the flashlight in Metro Exodus. It produces a direct beam that’s blocked, occluded, and reflected in real-time depending on the scene. As a result, the shadows lurk around me mysteriously, but I never feel like I’m running blind or artificially kept in darkness.

It’s impressive enough that such realistic lighting is now possible in games. What’s more astonishing is how smoothly Metro Exodus can run, even with all of the ray tracing options maxed out. I tested the game’s performance on the ROG Flow X13. This ultraportable laptop can draw on the rendering power of an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 when it’s connected to the ROG XG Mobile, a compact and lightweight eGPU and docking station.

metro-fps

The RTX 3080 in the XG Mobile delivered an 89.1 FPS average frame rate at 1920x1080. That fluid frame rate let me react quickly and fire accurately when enemies caught me sneaking through their territory. My smooth experience at this resolution suggests that I wouldn’t have to work too hard to find playable settings at WQHD or even 4K. 

That flexibility in performance tuning comes thanks to NVIDIA's DLSS 2.0 technology. It’s not often that I get to enjoy an increase in visual fidelity and an increase in FPS at the same time, yet that’s what I’ve seen from this game. With this AI-powered tech enabled, the game renders at a lower resolution, and then DLSS algorithmically fills in pixels as each frame is upscaled to my target resolution. This lets me enjoy the lavish new visual effects without sacrificing performance. In fact, many users report that Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition actually runs faster on their hardware than the original game did.

metro-4Image source: Gamesplanet

The visual fidelity provided by the updated lighting engine is a feast for the eyes, but that’s not the end of the story. Metro Exodus' gameplay is a natural fit for this tech because it so often requires me to be aware of the lighting around me. As I sneak my way past armed guards, I look for routes that keep me hidden in shadow and light sources that I can extinguish for additional cover. The lavish lighting effects aren’t just eye candy. They impact the way I play the game, and that makes all the difference.

metro-2Image source: Gamesplanet

The original Metro Exodus already looked great with its partially ray-traced lighting effects, but Metro Exodus PC Enhanced Edition ups the ante with gorgeous new refinements that you won't see anywhere else. And thanks to the wonders of NVIDIA DLSS 2.0, you may actually see improved performance and fidelity compared to the first-generation implementation of the tech. If you have a GeForce RTX GPU, there’s never been a better time to explore the latest chapter in this engrossing series. Grab a gas mask, scrounge up some ammunition, and get ready to save the remnant of humanity once again.

Articles: Gaming
Article Tags: Community
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