Forza Motorsport 4K / 60 FPS / Ray Tracing: The Compromises Digital Foundry

Forza Motorsport will be available in 4K and 60fps on Xbox Series X and 1080p and 60fps on Xbox Series S, all with active ray tracing while racing. But how could it be that getting to that level on PC would require war machines? Digital Foundry has looked into the matter and analyzed the trailers released by the developers, highlighting some interesting details.

Refinement is different from MSAA x4?

The first technical information regarding the introduction of Forza Motorsport is impressive given that very few games have managed to reach these levels. The developers have about a year left to make improvements, but the tech specialists at Digital Foundry have discovered the tricks that allow Turn10 to achieve the rendering they claim.

On Xbox Series X, the game will be available in 4K and 60fps with active ray tracing reflections during gameplay. The gameplay shown at the Xbox conference was working on PC, but Turn10 later clarified that the demo was also tested on Xbox Series X for a similar rendering. So we are waiting to see this version later, but you can watch the videos on your 4K TV while waiting for the preview of the show on PC.

Digital Foundry notes that even very high-end PCs have trouble dealing with reflections in Ray Tracing when the game is running at 60 frames per second in 4K. So how can Turn10 achieve this on Xbox Series X? The answer lies in the details.

In the past, Turn10 has always modeled itself to the console’s native resolution using MSAA 4x (Multi-Sample Anti-aliasing), an anti-aliasing technique that only applies sampling at the edges. But with this new Forza Motorsport game, the developers seem to have chosen a different strategy, if the videos shared by the developers are to be believed. By slowing down certain broadcast sequences, we realize that anti-aliasing is not applied to certain elements of the structure, for example, while MSAA 4x should erase the effect of aliasing. According to Digital Foundry, this time around, Turn10 will use another anti-aliasing technology that will be less resource intensive.

4K, yes, but not everywhere

Other details that analysts have been able to discover in Maple Valley’s gameplay is related to the accuracy of the game. Once again, Turn10 seems to have moved away from what we are used to so far, namely native 4K resolution across the entire scene.

In the intro scene of the gameplay, we can see the beautiful Maple Valley circuit with a river following the path. But when we zoom in a bit, we see that the rocks are not displayed in 4K, but rather at a resolution of about 1080p. It also appears that other objects outside the path are in the same state.

According to Digital Foundry, we could be in for an image reconstruction technique or a technique like variable rate shading. This is intended to manage the quality of shadows differently depending on the objects displayed in the scene, which makes it possible to optimize resources and reduce the demand on the device’s GPU (graphics processor).

Ray tracing lesson under the magnifying glass

Digital Foundry adds that even if Turn10 renders an image with objects that aren’t necessarily all at 4K, Ray Tracing remains resource-intensive. How does Turn10 provide reflections in Ray Tracing? Again, the answer lies in the details.

There are several ways to manage reflections in Ray Tracing in video games, and the least consuming is using near-mirror technology. It is the one that appears to have been used in Forza Motorsport, as shown in an excerpt from the trailer provided where part of the wheel appears to reflect the environment like a mirror, when in fact one would expect it to be much softer.

However, the other clips Turn10 provided, particularly in the game’s trailer (not the gameplay) offer the same surface with a softer reflection. This is also the case on the engine surfaces of one of the cars displayed in the pits, where the reflections are more realistic. By comparing similar scenes between the gameplay video and the trailer, we see that Ray Tracing does not appear to have been applied similarly to the same objects. Digital Foundry finally believes that the 1-minute trailer doesn’t offer the same Ray Tracing as the 5-Minute Show of Gameplay.

Gameplay on the left, replay of the trailer on the right

Will Forza Motorsport offer different levels of Ray Tracing in its PC settings? It’s hard to say now, but the immediate answer may lie in how the scenes are captured and presented to the audience.

On the other hand, we have a 5-minute video of the gameplay which features Ray Tracing. On the other hand, we have the about a minute long game trailer which is based on replay stages that take advantage of global lighting technology as well as ray tracing. Thus, the display of the game during replays is more realistic than when it is played, which is consistent with the comparison given here.

If the game’s trailer is not from gameplay, but rather from the replay stages, why does Turn10 show the tag “All 4K in-game footage” on the trailer video? The developer seems to have briefly judged here that the game’s replays were “in-game”, as the gameplay stages from the other video are already, which however include less advanced Ray Tracing and no global illumination.

At the moment, the new Forza Motorsport offering looks a lot better than the Forza Motorsport 7. But to offer Ray Tracing in 4K and 60fps on a console that sells for just €500, Turn10 obviously had to find tricks to lighten the device’s GPU. We will definitely have a chance to talk about it again before the game is released. Remember that the developers still have a short year to improve the game and that modifications will be made by then for sure.

Forza Motorsport is set to release in Spring 2023 on Xbox Series X | S and PC as well as Xbox Game Pass and PC Game Pass.

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