Call Of Duty Modern Warfare RT Shadows Performance Will Have You Keeping RTX ON


When Call of Duty Modern Warfare announced that it was going to be featuring RTX Ray Tracing through DXR Ray Traced Shadows I was a bit thrown off as I would have expected something more prominent like the use of Ray Traced Reflections like what Battlefield V pulled off. This isn't the first time we've seen a game use DXR based Ray Traced Shadows as it was introduced in Shadow of the Tomb Raider some time back. The problem was it was a really computationally expensive feature and that worried me a bit with Modern Warfare, but that concern was quickly laid to rest when I started playing on my personal system to get a feel for the game using the Ryzen 9 3900X and GeForce RTX 2080 at 1440p with maximum detail levels and never once saw a hitch.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare is featuring more than one source for shadows. They are using Point Light Shadows and Spot Light Shadows. Point Light Shadows typically come from light bulbs or flames and scatter shadows in all directions, when using traditional shadow maps these can seem really odd and harsh but the Point Light Shadows are able to be cast as objects move around them in a more natural way. Spot Light Shadows, by contrast, are emitted from a cone-shaped light source like a headlight or even a flashlight and this causes the distance of the shadow from the object creating the shadow to either be sharp and well defined at closer distances but softer and more obscure as the shadow falls further from the object.

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A good portion of Modern Warfare takes place in darker environments and the use of Ray Traced Shadows plays well into the overall immersion of the world. The impact of the Ray Traced Shadows is actually felt more when you play for some time with them on and then turn them off and go back to traditional shadow maps, you'll find the game world is more rigid and feels less organic as you move through areas of the campaign. Multiplayer is a bit of a different story as I'm sure you'll want for more performance and after all, frames win games.  Another note on the multiplayer portion of the game is that Ray Traced Shadows are disabled in the Ground War and Special Ops modes

In the outdoor scene below the Ray Traced Shadows along the fence line are very obvious when switching between the options. This impact is evident throughout the game when railings or banisters are near. The more subtle effect in this scene would be the grass shadows and those being cast by the branches on the ground, the shadow maps are harsh and all go in a single direction while the Ray Traced Shadows fall more softly and you can actually see better in the game.

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This indoor scene showcases how the shadows emitted from a Point Light can better represent shadows on the table from the lantern as well as the tapestry behind it. The real subtle note her is the debris on the ground and how they now have shadows where they didn't when Ray Traced Shadows are enabled.

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Another interesting look from indoor atmospheres is the use of a desk lamp to light a specific spot like in this scene. Notice the shadows being cast in real-time across the leading edge of the desk and how it creates a much more defined look of the area, but the real change that makes this scene more believable is the shadows along the floor under the desk and the chair. This gradient is what we're much more accustomed to seeing rather than harsh lines, this is a soft light after all and not a spotlight.

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Testing Methodology

I tested the graphics cards in the Fog of War mission just after blowing the first building up and reached the location of the blast. I ran from the breach point that my team gathered in back through the destroyed area into the forest, rounded the jeep, and returned. This route allowed for all types of shadows to be cast as well as smoke and lighting effects. We ran the game at maximum detail settings, there were no compromises made, no resolution modifies, nothing but 100% every slider to the right and rendering at 100% screen resolution.

Once we had the results from 3 runs, after discarding an initial burner run for loading purposes, we took the average of average frame rates as well as the 99th percentile results from the run. We report our performance metrics as average frames per second and have moved away from the 1% and .1% reporting and are now using the 99th percentile. For those uncertain of what the 99th percentile is, representing is easily explained as showing only 1 frame out of 100 is slower than this frame rate. Put another way, 99% of the frames will achieve at least this frame rate.

Test System

CPUIntel Core i9-9900k @ 5GHz
Memory 16GB G.Skill Trident Z DDR4 3200
MotherboardEVGA Z370 Classified K
StorageKingston KC2000 1TB NVMe SSD
PSUCooler Master V1200 Platinum
Windows Version1903 with latest security patches

GeForce RTX Graphics Cards Tested

GPUArchitectureCore Count
Clock SpeedMemory Capacity
Memory Speed
NVIDIA RTX 2080ti FETuring43521350/163511GB GDDR614Gbps
NVIDIA RTX 2080 SUPER FETuring30721650/18158GB GDDR615.5Gbps
NVIDIA RTX 2070 SUPER FETuring25601605/17708GB GDDR614Gbps
NVIDIA RTX 2060 SUPERTuring21761470/16508GB GDDR614Gbps
NVIDIA RTX 2060 FETuring19041365/1686GB GDDR614Gbps

Driver Used


Graphics Card Results





Is there a performance hit? Yes, absolutely. But, you're not going to be able to go from Medium to High and even to Ultra so what did you expect? I'm sure what most expected was a catastrophic hit to a game that relies on quick reflexes where you want all the frames you can gobble up. What was delivered, however, was a surprisingly low impact on performance but a transformative experience. Screenshots will not do it justice, videos on YouTube won't either. The ray-tracing features in Modern Warfare are much like those in Metro Exodus as they're not nearly as in your face as they were in Control in the sense that they change the atmosphere and feel of the game. As games come out to better utilize these technologies and features we are seeing performance and implementation improve each time, and Modern Warfare has to be one of the best in terms of performance.  I would recommend playing the entire single-player campaign with Ray Traced Shadows enabled as the performance across all RTX cards is solid but I would completely understand disabling it for the multiplayer matches where you'll want every single frame your monitor can deliver.