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 GPUs or better 30 series cards can run these visuals, but what if I tell you that it is easily possible to get a 1080p, 30fps experience on an RTX 3050 – Nvidia graphics card For an entry-level RTX-capable desktop? It can be done—and that opens the door for all the 20 and 30 Series cards I’ve tested that delivered in a surprisingly good experience. Not only that, but high-end AMD RDNA 2 and RDNA 3 graphics hardware is also in the mix.
I got the idea to do some kind of performance on RT Overdrive when I added some benchmarks to my RTX 4070 review. The 4070 with frame generation is capable of running the game in excess of 60 FPS using a combination of DLSS 2 balanced mode and DLSS 3 frame generation – and it looks good. We’re already in playable frame rate territory for the RTX 3080, but the 3070 is struggling. We do have options though – lower the resolution, lower the DLSS quality level – but most interesting of all, a mod appeared recently that increased performance by anything from 20 to 35 percent in my testing. Right now, Intel is unfortunately off the table, likely due to driver issues, but Arc has great RT hardware and it’s certainly only a matter of time before these GPUs join the fray.
Mod is available here on Nexus Mods, created by Erok and Scorn, and I’ve found that the extra performance it delivers combined with reasonable quality settings for the GPU you own makes the difference between an experience that appears in the low 20fps territory, to one that has to constantly maintain you above 30fps. From there, either play unlocked or use the game’s built-in v-sync cap at 30fps. A consistent frame rate always looks good, but I have to warn you that the lag this causes in Cyberpunk 2077 is pretty awful. Either way, I was very surprised at how good the experience was. The mod mentions ‘almost a free FPS’, but there is no such thing as a free lunch when it comes to the offer, so what does it actually do?
Basically, ray tracing is about literally tracing the path of light and bouncing it against geometry. In the stock settings, the game simulates two bounces from indirect lighting and that is reduced to one bounce with the mod. The most obvious degradation of fidelity comes from reflections. The visible light on objects in reflection is completely missing backlight because the secondary bounce is no longer present. Objects in reflection can appear almost black – except in those areas that are directly illuminated by the sun or local lights. This is clearly a noticeable step back in terms of visual realism.
As for the diffuse lighting that can easily be seen everywhere in the game world, the effect here is that every area is now technically darker and indirectly lit areas are still darker, while the light reduction means that the post-processing changes to the game: Less light enters the VR camera, so eye adaptation becomes more extreme. It’s a downgrade then, but the lion’s share of the tracked presentation effect remains intact. There’s also precedent for this reduction in light bounce — Nvidia’s Portal RTX lets you configure the amount of bounce in order to open up the game to more GPUs. I imagine once RT Overdrive moves from a tech preview to a full product, we’ll see quality settings like this added to the game.
So, if you want to try RT Overdrive on an RTX 3050, the recommended settings are 1080p, DLSS performance mode. Switch that to DLSS quality on a 2070 Super, 2080, or RTX 3060. If you look at the benchmark table on this page, you can see a bunch of GPUs at the bottom, with the RTX 3050 sitting roughly at the foot, with the RX 6800 XT faring worse. I’d say every card below the RTX 3070 threshold should be able to produce a decent 1080p30 experience – the further you go, the better the refactoring technique you can use. However, with the RX 6800 XT I can still hit 30fps and use the FSR2 balanced mode. It’s not a completely consistent 30fps, but you can judge the results for yourself by checking out the footage in the video.
Cyberpunk 2077 RT Overdrive, 1440p, Balanced Upscaling
The RTX 3070’s threshold is interesting because, in theory, the RTX 2080 Ti should be powerful – but it’s not. All 20 Series cards perform poorly by current standards. The 3070 outperforms the 2080 Ti, while even the 3060 outperforms the 2080 by about 11 percent. Going back to the RTX 3070, 1440p seems workable, but the 24fps minimum is cumbersome. However, the Erok and Scorn mods jump worst-case to around 30fps, which means 1440p with DLSS Balanced Mode is viable. The increase in display resolution and reconstruction quality works wonders in improving image quality. The fuzz has been lifted and we’re back to a resolution that’s appropriate for hardware. This is the point where Cyberpunk 2077 RT Overdrive really delivers a great visual return and the news only gets better once you take the same balanced 1440p setup to the RTX 3080.
You’re not at 60fps locked in with the mod, but you’re usually inside the VRR window, so you get a much more perceptually smoother experience. The truth is, when you start to get down to 3080 hardware, the unmodified experience is pretty much playable at 1440p – modding simply re-RTs in the ways I described earlier and gives you a good chunk of performance back.
The RTX 3080 is a great card and it allows you to get some pretty impressive results from RT Overdrive without having to use modding and reduce the quality of track tracking. I’ve found that I can get some great results by using the Nvidia control panel to set up a custom resolution of 3200 x 1800. At this point I can run RT Overdrive on DLSS performance mode, aim for 30fps, and the vast majority of the playback hits the frame rate target. The only exception to the rule came with a run through the cherry blossom market near Tom’s Diner, where the frame rate dropped. Overall, this was a very interesting presentation – although 1440p with mode keeps you in the 40s beyond 60fps, so it’s well suited to G-Sync, FreeSync, or VRR monitors.
At this point, it would be an understatement not to point out that you don’t need a discrete GPU at all to get a 4K RT Overdrive experience — you can stream to the cloud via GeForce Now at its 4080 level. This is the best streaming experience I’ve ever had. The servers are primarily running a downsized silicon version of the RTX 4090 with 24G of VRAM, delivering 4080 football desktop performance powered by a 16-core Ryzen 5000 CPU. Normally I’d say you’re looking at 50-75fps frame rates, though there are occasional dips in the 40s – and that’s with frame generation activated. I was also affected by the input lag, even with a frame in the image. It’s not as accurate as local experience, but head injuries were a possibility.
In short, at launch CD Projekt RED suggested that RT Overdrive will only run on 40 series cards and best Ampere GPUs but the truth is that it will run on any DirectX12 Ultimate class graphics hardware and with strategic settings management and mod deployment it is possible to experience track tracing on Any RTX card and a good selection of AMD’s high-end offerings. It’s true that 40 Series performance with DLSS 3 frame generation combine to give vastly improved returns – 4K really is a thing on RTX 4080 and RTX 4090 class hardware – but the tools are there to make the game run better than expected on today’s GPUs.
What we’ve shown today may not be the greatest RT Overdrive experience you can get, or even the best way to play Cyberpunk 2077 on your PC, but a playable triple-A game that’s already traceable borders on implausible – and the idea that it could run on even the cheapest card RTX only adds to the general level of disbelief surrounding this release.
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