How we ran Cyberpunk 2077 RT Overdrive on an entry-level RTX 3050

How we ran Cyberpunk 2077 RT Overdrive on an entry-level RTX 3050

The release of Cyberpunk 2077’s RT Overdrive upgrade sees a new level of visual fidelity brought to a modern triple-A game via path tracing – the purest form of ray tracing. However, the perception is that only RTX 40-series GPUs or the best 30-series cards can run these visuals, but if I told you that it’s easily possible to get a 1080p, 30fps experience on the RTX 3050 – Nvidia’s entry-level RT-capable desktop graphics card? It can be done – and it opens the door to all the 20 and 30 series cards I’ve tested, delivering a surprisingly good experience. Not only that, but high-end AMD RDNA 2 and RDNA 3 graphics hardware is also included.

I first got the idea to do some sort of performance on RT Overdrive when I added some benchmarks to the RTX 4070 review. The 4070 with frame generation is capable of running the game at over 60 frames per second using a combination of DLSS 2 balanced mode and DLSS 3 frame generation – and it looks pretty good. We’re already in playable frame rate territory for the RTX 3080, but the 3070 is in trouble. We do have options though – lower resolution, lower DLSS quality level – but most intriguing of all, a mod recently appeared that increased performance by 20-35% in my testing. Intel is unfortunately not on the table right now, probably due to driver issues, but Arc has some great RT hardware and it’s surely only a matter of time before those GPUs are on the way. join the fray.

The module is available here on Nexus Mods, made by Erok and Scorn, and I’ve found that the extra performance it offers combined with reasonable quality settings for the GPU you have makes the difference between an experience that hits the bottom in the low zone from 20fps, to one that should constantly keep you above 30fps. From there, run either unlocked or use the game’s built-in 30fps v-sync cap. A constant frame rate still looks good, but I have to warn you that the lag this introduces in Cyberpunk 2077 is pretty awful. Anyway, I was very surprised at the quality of the experience. The mod mentions “almost free FPS”, but there is no free lunch when it comes to rendering, so what does it actually do?

Join us for a video on how we got Cyberpunk 2077 RT Overdrive to upgrade to 20- and 30-series RTX cards, including the slowest RTX 3050.

Essentially, ray tracing is literally tracing the path of light and its bounces off geometry. At stock settings the game simulates two indirect lighting bounces and this is reduced to one bounce with the mod. The most obvious degradation in fidelity comes from reflections. The visible lighting on objects in the reflection completely lacks bounce lighting because the secondary bounce is no longer there. Objects in the reflection can appear almost black – excluding areas that are directly lit by the sun or local lights. Obviously, this is a notable step backwards in terms of visual realism.

For diffused lighting that is easily seen all over the game world, the impact here is that every area is now technically darker and indirectly lit areas are even darker, while reduced light means the post – game processing changes:, less light enters the virtual camera, so eye adaptation becomes more extreme. So it’s a degradation in quality, but the lion’s share of the impact of the plotted presentation remains intact. There is also precedent for this light bounce reduction – Nvidia’s RTX portal lets you configure the number of bounces to open up the game to more GPUs. I imagine that once RT Overdrive migrates from a technology preview to a full product, we’ll see quality settings like this added to the game.

So if you want to sample RT Overdrive on the RTX 3050, the recommended settings are 1080p, DLSS performance mode. Switch that to DLSS quality on 2070 Super, 2080, or RTX 3060. If you look at the benchmark chart on this page, you can see a group of GPUs at the bottom, where the RTX 3050 sits almost at the foot, with only the RX 6800 XT worse. I’d say every card below the RTX 3070 threshold should be able to produce a decent 1080p30 experience – the higher you go, the better reconstruction technique you can use. Even so, with the RX 6800 XT I could still hit 30 fps and use FSR2 balanced mode. It’s not a totally consistent 30fps, but you can judge the results for yourself by looking at the footage from the video.

Cyberpunk 2077 RT Overdrive, 1440p, balanced upscaling

The RTX 3070 Threshold is interesting though because in theory the RTX 2080 Ti should be as powerful – but it isn’t. All 20-series cards underperform by existing benchmarks. The 3070 outperforms the 2080 Ti, while even the 3060 beats the 2080 by around 11%. Going back to the RTX 3070, 1440p seems viable, but the 24fps minimum is pricey. However, Erok and Scorn’s mod bumps the worst case to around 30fps, which means 1440p with DLSS balanced mode is viable. Increasing the rendering resolution and reconstruction quality does wonders for improving image quality. The fuzz has been lifted and we’re back to a level of fidelity befitting the hardware. This is the point where Cyberpunk 2077 RT Overdrive really delivers fantastic visual feedback and the news only gets better when you transfer that same balanced 1440p setting to an RTX 3080.

You’re not at 60fps locked with the mod, but you’re generally within the VRR window, so you get a perceptually smoother experience. The truth is that when you start to hit hardware level 3080 the unmodified experience is perfectly playable at 1440p – the mod just reduces RT in the way I described before and gives you a good chunk of performance back .

The RTX 3080 is a great card and allows you to get very, very punchy RT Overdrive results without needing to use the mod and lower the quality level of the path tracing. I found I could get awesome results using the Nvidia control panel to set up a custom resolution of 3200×1800. At this point, I can run RT Overdrive in DLSS performance mode, target 30fps, and the vast majority of the game hits the framerate target. The only exception to the rule came from a run in the Cherry Blossom Market near Tom’s Diner, where the frame rate dropped. Overall though, it was a very pleasing presentation – although 1440p with the mod will keep you in the high 40s at beyond 60fps, so a good fit for G-Sync, FreeSync or VRR displays.

Our initial preview of RT Overdrive from last week – a deeper dive into how this is possible on current-gen hardware is in the works.

At this point, it would be remiss of me not to point out that you don’t need a discrete GPU at all to get a 4K RT Overdrive experience – you can stream via the cloud via GeForce Now on its 4080 level. It’s hands down the best streaming experience I’ve ever had. The servers essentially run a stripped-down version of the RTX 4090 silicon with 24GB of VRAM, delivering approximate desktop 4080 performance backed by a 16-core Ryzen 5000 processor. Typically I’d say you’re looking at frame rates of 50-75fps, although there are occasional dips into the 40s – and that’s with framerate active. I was also impressed with the input lag, even with frame-gen in the picture. It’s not as accurate as a local experience, but headshots were doable.

In summary, at launch CD Projekt RED suggested that RT Overdrive would only run on 40-series cards and the best Ampere GPUs, but the truth is that it will run on any DirectX12 Ultimate class graphics hardware and with the management of strategic settings and the deployment of a mod, it is possible to experience path-tracing on any RTX card and a good selection of high-end AMD offerings. It’s true that 40-series performance and DLSS 3 frame generation combine to yield vastly improved yields – 4K is really something on RTX 4080 and RTX 4090 class hardware – but the tools are there for the game runs better than expected on current-gen GPUs.

What we’ve shown today might not be the best RT Overdrive experience you can get, or even the best way to play Cyberpunk 2077 on your PC, but a playable triple-A plotted game already borders on the implausible – and the idea that it can run on even the cheapest RTX card only adds to the general level of disbelief surrounding this release.

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