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Is DLSS finally delivering? We tested Nvidia RTX technology in 5 games



When Nvidia introduced its Turing architecture to the world at Gamescom 2018, there were two key technologies that had promised to make the best Nvidia graphics cards stand out: Raytracing and Deep Learning Super-Sampling or DLSS. [19659002] When the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti hit the market, none of these technologies were immediately available, so we had to wait until Battlefield V was released to see ray tracing in an actual game – and even that was a little overwhelming. When we finally saw the feature in titles like Metro Exodus and Control, we could see why ray tracing is really the future of games.

But in practice, DLSS was never as exciting as we had imagined, at least at the first launch. The first titles with this feature made the game visualization somewhat blurry with a series of aliasing and cloudy textures. DLSS has definitely come a long way since then, and Nvidia told us that the latest AI network has vastly improved the latest DLSS titles.

So we decided to test it ourselves.

  Nvidia's Turing GPUs are just cool

Nvidia's Turing GPUs are just cool (image credits: future)

What is DLSS?

In Nvidia Turing graphics cards like ] GeForce RTX 2080 and RTX 2060 there are of course the Turing GPU cores, but there are two other types of cores added with this generation: RT and Tensor cores. RT cores are only intended for ray tracing processes. This means that the computing-intensive technology can also be carried out outside the grid – the method with which the lighting has traditionally been rendered in recent decades.

DLSS is all about these tensor cores. These cores first appeared in Nvidia Volta GPUs, which were aimed at creatives and data centers and focused exclusively on AI workloads. The tensor cores in Nvidia Turing cards for end users are not nearly as powerful as a Tesla V100, but they are powerful enough to make a difference for average consumers.

A developer of a game that supports DLSS uploads thousands of images to a neural learning supercomputer at the end of Nvidia. Then when you play one of these games with a supported graphics card, the GPU renders the games in a lower resolution. The tensor cores then refer to data compiled by the supercomputer in order to intelligently scale the images and thus get as close as possible to the native resolution.

The end result is an upscaling that looks much better than the checkerboard upscaling of the PS4 Pro or Xbox One. Finally, the idea is to improve both visual fidelity and performance without damaging your hardware. Many people, including us, have traditionally set a game to 1800p when 4K is not going well, and DLSS may be the end of those days.

As a bonus, Nvidia informed us that this is not the full extent of what DLSS could offer in the future. When we spoke to them, we came up with the idea that it would be nice to see a game that really leans into super-sampling and uses AI to render at a higher rather than the image from a lower resolution scaling a higher resolution resolution and scaling down, similar to Ubersampling in The Witcher 2.

Nvidia would not confirm that a game would be released that did, but they did not deny that it was possible. We hope DLSS will be used in the future to create some really stunning graphics.

  Metro Exodus supports DLSS and has been supporting DLSS for more than a year

Metro Exodus has been supporting DLSS and more than a year (Photo credit: Deep Silver)

Which games do DLSS support? [19659009] Granted, the number of games that actually support this technology is fairly small at the moment – although it has grown significantly since its introduction. While it is by no means a complete list of all AAA and indie games that have used this technology, we have listed the largest DLSS games below.

  • Anthem
  • Battlefield V
  • Control
  • Deliver Us the Moon
  • Final Fantasy XV
  • Metro Exodus
  • Monster Hunter World
  • Wolfenstein Youngblood

Over the next few months and For years we should see that many other important PC games use the technology. We already know that emerging heavy hitters like Cyberpunk 2077 and Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines 2 will use Nvidia's RTX technology to some extent – we just don't know exactly what these games will do.

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(Photo credit: Infogramm; Zukunft)
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(Photo credit: Infogramm; Zukunft)
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(Photo credit: Infogramm; Zukunft )
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(Photo credit: infogram; future)
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(photo credit: infogram; future)

Life in the real world [19659040] Test system specifications

This is the desktop system we used to test the DLSS CPU.
CPU:
AMD Ryzen 9 3900X (12-core, up to 4.6 GHz)
CPU cooler: NZXT Kraken M22
RAM: 32 GB Corsair Vengeance at 3,200 MHz
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti
Motherboard: ASRock X570 Phantom Gaming X
SSD: Samsung 860 Evo 1 TB x 2, ADATA XPG SX8200 480 GB x 1
Power supply: EVGA SuperNOVA 1000 G +
Housing: CoolerMaster H500P Mesh

So, DLSS sounds pretty damn great, doesn't it? Well, that's total – but the effectiveness of the technology varies by title. We could just leave it that way, but we have access to a lot of sick computer hardware and a number of games with DLSS compatibility. That's why we tested five of the best DLSS games ourselves to see how well the technology worked and how far it has come since it first hit the streets.

We tested DLSS in Control, Monster Hunter World, Metro Exodus, Wolfenstein Youngblood and Deliver us the Moon. This selection of titles allowed us to see early implementations of the technology by Monster Hunter World as well as the latest versions in Deliver us the Moon and Wolfenstein.

We tested all of this on our home PC with the The specifications are listed on the right with a resolution of 3,440 x 1,440. We took a series of screenshots (here is an Imgur link so you can see the differences more clearly) and recorded the average frame rates.

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  Monster Hutner World: DLSS Off

Monster Hutner World: DLSS Off (Image credit: Capcom)
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  Monster Hutner World: DLSS On [19659056] Monster Hutner World: DLSS On </span><span class= (Image credit: Capcom)

Monster Hunter World was not the first game with DLSS compatibility, but it is still the roughest iteration from the bunch we tested. The performance is increased massively when it is activated. However, you will find that the image in the DLSS version is far less clear and less detailed.

On PC, however, this game doesn't have the best reputation when it comes to optimization, and if you're struggling to hit those golden 60 fps, this option may be worth it for you. The game feels so much better at this frame rate and that's why Monster Hunter: World is so great on PC.

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  Control No. DLSS

Control No. DLSS (Image credit: remedy)
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  Control DLSS with a rendering resolution of 1,720 x 720

Control DLSS with a rendering resolution of 1,720 x 720 (Image credit: remedy)
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  Control DLSS with a rendering resolution of 2,293 x 960

Control DLSS with a rendering resolution 2.293 x 960 (Image credit: Remedy)

When Control was first launched, it was essentially the figurehead for what Nvidia's RTX technology could do. And although it came out far after Metro Exodus, the DLSS implementation was unfortunately not quite as good.

When you enable DLSS in this game, you choose between two rendering resolutions, and the lower one makes the game extremely smooth, even if the performance is significantly increased. However, there is not much of a difference between the 2,293 x 960 game and the native resolution of 3,440 x 1,440, so we are approaching a point where it is not a problem to recommend it.

With Control, however, we recommend turning off DLSS if you have the hardware to achieve 60 fps at the desired resolution.

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  Metro Exodus No DLSS

Metro Exodus No DLSS (Image credit: 4A Games)
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  Metro Exodus DLSS

Metro Exodus DLSS [19659006] (Photo credit: 4A Games)

Metro Exodus is technically the oldest DLSS implementation we've tested for this piece, but it's also one of the best – it shows how talented the team at 4A Games really is , The performance increase is not as great as some other titles, but the quality is very similar.

Of course there are certainly some differences. Aliasing (jagged edges) in the curtains at the back of the scene is much worse when DLSS is activated, and there are fewer details, especially with smaller objects like the phone cord on the desk in front of us.

However, if you try to sneak around and not get killed by a mutant, these little details are unlikely to be noticed.

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  Deliver the moon to us without DLSS

Deliver the moon to us without DLSS (Image credit: Wired Productions)
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  Deliver us the Moon DLSS in performance mode

Deliver the moon DLSS in performance mode (Photo credit: Wired Productions)
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  Deliver the moon DLSS in balanced mode

Deliver us us the moon DLSS in balanced mode (Photo credit: Wired Productions)
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  Deliver us the moon DLSS in quality mode

Deliver us the moon DLSS in quality mode [19659006] (Photo credit: Wired Productions)

It is a bit strange that the best DLSS implementation can be found in an indie game that has been out for a year, but that's exactly what happened. Originally launched in October 2019, Deliver us the Moon got a massive DLSS and ray tracing patch at CES 2020 that really took the game to the next level.

It was also the first game to implement the technology in three stages: performance, balance and quality. And we can tell you firsthand that in quality mode you can't tell the difference between this and the native resolution game without DLSS – beyond the massive 38% increase to fps at least.

With such a great DLSS implementation, this game looks phenomenal, and absolutely everyone should activate it in this game if they have the option.

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  Wolfenstein Youngblood No DLSS

Wolfenstein Youngblood No DLSS (Photo credit: Bethesda Softworks)
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  Wolfenstein Youngblood DLSS in performance mode

Wolfenstein Youngblood DLSS in performance mode (Photo credit: Bethesda Softworks)
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  Wolfenstein Youngblood DLSS in balanced mode

Wolfenstein Youngblood DLSS in balanced mode (Photo credit: Bethesda Softworks) )
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  Wolfenstein Youngblood DLSS in quality mode

Wolfenstein Youngblood DLSS in quality mode (Photo credit: Bethesda Softworks)

Wolfenstein Youngblood received his DLSS update at about the same time as Deliver us the moon and is another great example of how far technology has come since its introduction.

Aliasing becomes bad in performance mode, but this is to be expected at this point. What is great, however, is that since this is such a fast-paced game where the frame rate really matters, with the ray tracing function enabled, you can achieve over 100 fps by using the Balanced DLSS – Set to 3.440 x choose 1.440 (of course with a 2080 Ti).

Where is all this to us?

It is clear that DLSS has come a long way in the past year or so, and it is certainly at a point where we here at TechRadar will make it possible if we play in our downtime. But is it enough to sell potential customers on an Nvidia GeForce RTX graphics card alone?

The answer is no, but that doesn't mean that the technology isn't great and can't be part of why you're buying a new RTX graphics card. The technology is still not included in enough games to say that it is essential for PC gamers to access it, but if you are interested in ray tracing and 4K games, things will really get better.

In conjunction with hardware accelerated ray tracing, DLSS offers something that AMD graphics cards currently do not offer . And considering that AMD has not yet released a graphics card that can really keep up with the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super or RTX 2080 Ti, Nvidia seems to be the easy choice if you're in the market for a high-end GPU are. [19659130]
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