Control PC Performance Analysis: Making NVIDIA RTX Great Again

    Controldemo Screenshot 2019.08.20 -

    Remedy’s games have always been unique. First, there was Alan Wake a Twin Peaks-esque study on nightmares. Then Quantum Break, something of a video game/TV show hybrid. Now you’ve got Control. Developed in collaboration with Uncle Jensen’s boys, Control features the best implementation of ray-tracing (NVIDIA RTX) and DLSS we’ve seen till date. It’s also the first game to include ray-traced translucent reflections. Most titles that support RTX only leverage it for lighting and shadows, while relying on rasterized screen space techniques for reflections.

    Control makes use of ray-tracing for reflections instead of the older SSR, and they look absolutely gorgeous. Sure, the performance hit is tremendous and you need DLSS to get playable frames, but it’s totally worth it. Oh and speaking of DLSS, it actually looks pretty neat in Control. There’s very little blurring and in some scenarios, the differences are hard to spot. We’ll get to that in a bit.

    Control: Graphics Options Explained

    There are three quality presets: low, medium and high. These set various graphics options to their specified settings. Let’s go over each of these:

    Far Object Detail (LOD): Far object detail, or level of detail, controls the level of detail of distant objects. At standard settings, the fine-grained details of various characters and objects in the distance are gradually reduced by cutting down the polygon count. This setting affects CPU as well as GPU usage: the CPU for the draw-calls and the GPU for the actual rendering. In Control, the performance impact of LOD is minimal at best so I suggest keeping it at high.

    Texture Resolution: This one is pretty simple. It controls texture detail on various elements in the scene. This setting gobbles up your GPU’s dedicated VRAM. For Control, a 4GB card is sufficient for ultra at 1080p. For 1440p and 2160p, 6GB cards should do, although I suggest going with an 8GB one for the latter, especially if you are not using DLSS (which is highly recommended with ray-tracing).

    Shadow Resolution: This affects the level of detail of shadows in the scene. Like texture resolution, this affects the VRAM usage. I suggest sticking to ultra unless you have less than 4GB/6GB video memory are playing at 1080p/4K.

    Shadow Filtering: This basically makes the shadows smoother and reduces aliasing, making them look crisper though not necessarily realistic. I suggest keeping it at medium unless you have an old GPU, in which case you’ll want to drop it down a notch further.

    Volumetric Lighting: This affects godrays and essentially controls the resolution of these rays. At higher settings, you’ll be able to see the individual rays more clearly while at lower options, their boundaries will be blurred. In my personal opinion, medium is the ideal setting, offering a good balance of quality and performance. Note that volumetric lighting is quite performanceintensive. If you can’t hit playable frame rates, disable it.

    SSAO: Screen Space Ambient Occlusion or SSAO refers to the ambient shadows or shadows that exist between crevices, edges, holes, corners, etc where the casting object and the shadow produced overlap. Although SSAO has a notable impact on performance, I suggest keeping it enabled as it drastically improves the visual fidelity by adding indirectr shadows. Disable it only if you absolutely need the extra frames. With RTX High, if you are a few frames short of playable, you might want to disable it as the ray-traced shadows are pretty potent and make up for the lack of AO (for the most part).

    Screen Space Reflections Quality: Screen Space Reflections render the reflections of objects that are visible onscreen by re-rendering them on shiny surfaces. This option controls the level of detail (or resolution) of the SSR. This again is an intensive technology and should be reduced if you are facing performance issues. When ray-tracing is turned on, it is automatically disabled and replaced by high-quality ray-traced translucent reflections. Unlike SSR, this renders reflections of objects that aren’t visible in the scene as well.

    Global Reflections: This controls the quality of the global reflections that are pre-baked in the scene via cube-maps or some other similar reflection technique. It has a moderate impact on performance and I suggest keeping it at high.

    MSAA: Multi-sampling anti-aliasing or MSAA is the traditional anti-aliasing algorithm that works by rendering parts of the scenes at higher resolutions and then downscaling them to smoothen the edges. It should normally be kept off as it’s a performance hog and not as efficient as shader-based AA techniques.

    Ray-Tracing in Control: RTX ON!

    Control features a number of ray-tracing based effects such as translucent reflections, indirect diffuse lighting, contact shadows, and debris.

    Ray-traced Reflections: Keeping both the reflection options enabled renders detailed, ray-traced reflections on glossy surfaces. In case of translucent materials like glass, the objects in front, as well as those behind the camera are reflected. These are called ray-traced translucent reflections and Control is the first game to showcase this feature.

    Ray-traced translucent reflections

    Ray-Tracing Indirect Diffuse Lighting: This refers to the light bouncing between non-glossy surfaces. In Control, from what I’ve tested, the quality impact of diffuse lighting is very debatable while the performance hit is quite hefty, so unless you have some excess juice to spare, I suggest keeping it off.

    Ray-Traced Contact Shadows: Remember NVIDIA’s HFTS (Hybrid Frustum Traced Shadows) from The Division? Yes, the ones that used path-tracing to render insanely accurate soft shadows, but also cut your FPS in half. Well, this is basically the RTX version of it, and although it is much more efficient, it is quite taxing nonetheless. I’d suggest keeping it off and sticking to the medium ray-tracing preset as the extra gains in shadow quality aren’t worth it. Yes, they are way more accurate, but they set you back by a good 10-20 FPS and honestly, shadow quality isn’t that important to most people, definitely not as important as a smoother experience.

    DLSS Quality Comparisons

    Although there is some loss in detail when you enable DLSS, it’s hard to notice at first sight. You need to know what to look for to feel the deficit. Even then, it’s more than acceptable, considering that DLSS boosts performance by more than 50%. In Control, each area is broadly similar throughout when it comes to visual appearances. That’s probably why DLSS works really well here as there aren’t that many different textures NVIDIA’s supercomputers have to process.

    RTX On: High vs Medium vs Off

    PC System Requirements and Settings for 60 FPS

    Control is a very well-optimized title. Much better than Remedy’s last game. You don’t need a flagship GPU for silky smooth 60 FPS at the ultra graphics preset. For 1080p you need at least a GTX 1660 or a Radeon RX 580 for playable frame rates. (By playable I mean 30 FPS). For the ultra preset, you need a GTX 1660 Ti for consistent 60 FPS and an RTX 2060/2060 Super for ray-tracing medium/high.

    To play at 1440p, at least an RTX 2060 is recommended. You can also use a GTX 1660 Ti if you are willing to make some sacrifices in the visual department. An RTX 2060 Super is recommended for the vanilla ultra settings while an RTX 2070/2070 Super is ideal for ray-tracing medium/ultra.

    30+ FPS @ Ultra60 FPS @ UltraRTX MedRTX High
    FHDGTX 1650GTX 1660RTX 2060RTX 2060 Super
    QHDGTX 1660 TiRTX 2060 SuperRTX 2070 SuperRTX 2080 Super
    4KRTX 2060 SuperRTX 2070 SuperRTX 2080 TiJust NO!

    Finally moving on to pixel-rich 4K, here’s where even the most powerful graphics cards begin to give in. For 50+FPS at 4K with RTX, you need the mightly Turing flagship, the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti. I’d suggest going with the medium ray-tracing preset as ultra is too taxing for even the TU102 and honestly, the huge FPS drop isn’t worth it. When it comes to the visual fidelity, much of the wow factor in Control is due to the ray-traced reflections. Yes, the contact shadows and lighting do add to it but even together they’re nowhere as striking as the RTX based reflections. You can get away with an RTX 2070 Super or an RTX 2080 Super if you are okay with the frame rates averaging in the mid-late 40s. If the performance takes precedence, however, then simply disable raytracing and stick to traditional rasterized reflections for good old 60 FPS.

    Note: Control is unplayable without DLSS. All the recommended RTX settings are in parallel with the AI-based scaling technique enabled. To be fair, it looks surprisingly good and the minor trade-off in texture sharpness for those shiny, realistic reflections is well worth it.

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