Quake 2 RTX Is Out And What Kind Of Performance You Can Expect

Jun 7

Quake 2 may be a 22-year-old game and run on just about anything with an electrical current, but that’s not what Quake 2 RTX is about.  What started out as a mod to Quake 2, by Christoph Schied, known as Q2VKPT (Quake 2 Vulkan Path Tracing) is now a full standalone release thanks to the team at NVIDIA and Lightspeed Studios.  While on the surface many are going to instantly dismiss this as a simple marketing tool for NVIDIA to sell more RTX cards and while they’re using it for marketing, you simply cannot discount the reality of what is going on here.

In previous RTX titles, there has been been a pick of techniques from the RTX library used in Hybrid Ray Traced rendering; Battlefield V uses Ray Traced Reflections, Shadow of the Tomb Raider uses Ray Traced Shadows, and Metro Exodus uses Ray Traced Global Illumination.  But, Quake 2 RTX is entirely ray traced, or path traced rather, meaning there is no traditional rasterization going on here.  So essentially, there are zero traditional methods, outside of the geometry being built, here resulting in a pretty intense change of delivery.  Sure it’s a 22-year-old game but if you don’t think what is going on here is an insanely computationally intensive act then you have a bit more homework to do.  This is not a simple filter and Quake 2 RTX is not a 22-year-old game, it is all new and not an easy feat to pull off.

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Minimum Requirements

Requires a 64-bit processor and operating system
OS: Windows 7 64-bit
Processor: Intel i3-3220 or AMD Equivalent
Memory: 8 GB RAM
Graphics: NVIDIA RTX 2060 or higher
Storage: 2 GB available space
Additional Notes: Vulkan

Quake II RTX will include the first three stages of the main campaign only, but owners of the original release will be able to play the full game with ray tracing enabled. The improvements made on the game include:

  • Improved Global Illumination rendering, with three selectable quality presets, including two-bounce GI
  • Multiplayer support
  • Time of day options that radically change the appearance of some levels
  • New weapon models & textures
  • New dynamic environments (Stroggos surface, and space)
  • Better physically based atmospheric scattering, including settings for Stroggos sky
  • Real-time reflectivity of the player and weapon model on water and glass surfaces, and player model shadows, for owners of the complete game (the original Shareware release does not include player models)
  • Improved ray tracing denoising technology
  • All 3,000+ original game textures have been updated with a mix of Q2XP mod-pack textures and our own enhancements
  • Updated effects with new sprites and particle animations
  • Dynamic lighting for items such as blinking lights, signs, switches, elevators and moving objects
  • Caustics approximation to improve water lighting effects
  • High-quality screenshot mode that makes your screenshots look even better
  • Support for the old OpenGL renderer, enabling you to switch between RTX ON and RTX OFF
  • Cylindrical projection mode for wide-angle field of view on widescreen displays

Sky Type Changes

Quake 2 RTX does feature the ability to change time of day as well as which world the maps take place on, I’ve included a few screenshots below from the same time of day (dusk) just to show the difference the type of sky can make.  This is useful for those who felt the change in the juxtaposition above and the video below didn’t really reflect the original atmosphere of the game since you can run with the original skybox and bring back that sensation.

Testing Methodology

Since Quake 2 itself is a classic game and has always had its own way of benchmarking we wanted to take it back a bit in the testing methodology with Quake 2 RTX.  Rather than set up a repeatable course and go with the traditional AVG, .1%, and .01% lows we’re going with just averages as a result of the Time Demo test that you too can run following these steps

  1. From the launch screen hit the (~) key
  2. Type timedemo 1  hit ‘enter’
  3. Type demo demo1 hit ‘enter’ to run the benchmark
  4. After benchmark completes his (~) again to see the results

We tested with the game in the first launch configuration that only uses a single bounce of lighting, so global illumination was left at Medium and time of day was dusk. I wouldn’t recommend trying to run GI at High for the second bounce unless you are looking for a bad time or taking screenshots.  And for those who are wondering why Radeon cards aren’t present, I did attempt to get the Vega cards working, but with no luck, perhaps one day RTG will put out a DXR compliant driver.

Quake 2 RTX Settings Used

Option Setting
Renderer RTX
Vertical Sync No
Field of View 90
Resolution Scale 100
Exposure Brightness -1
Contrast .5
Multi-GPU Support When Available
Denoiser Yes
Textures Yes
Global Illumination Medium
God Rays Yes
Bloom Yes
Caustics Yes
Profiler No
High Quality Pause Mode Enabled
Projection Perspective

Test System

Components Z370
CPU Intel Core i9-9900k @ 5GHz
Memory 16GB G.Skill Trident Z DDR4 3200
Motherboard EVGA Z370 Classified K
Storage Crucial P1 1TB NVMe SSD
PSU Cooler Master V1200 Platinum

Graphics Cards Tested

GPU Architecture Core Count
Clock Speed Memory Capacity
Memory Speed
NVIDIA RTX 2080ti Turing 4352 1350/1635 11GB GDDR6 14Gbps
NVIDIA RTX 2080 FE Turing 2944 1515/1800 8GB GDDR6 14Gbps
NVIDIA RTX 2070 FE Turing 2304 1410/1710 8GB GDDR6 14Gbps
NVIDIA RTX 2060 FE Turing 1904 1365/168 6GB GDDR6 14Gbps
ZOTAC Gaming GTX 1660 Turing 1408 1530/1785 6GB GDDR5 8Gbps
NVIDIA GTX 1080 FE Pascal
2560 1607/1733 8GB GDDR5X 10Gbps
NVIDIA GTX 1070 FE Pascal
1920 1506/1683 8GB GDDR5 8Gbps
NVIDIA GTX 1060 FE 6GB Pascal
1506/1708 6GB GDDR5 8Gbps

Graphics Card Results


I can already see the groans about why even look at 720p, and honestly, it is because of the age of the game. Even prior to the RTX release of the game when I play classics like this I run them at lower resolutions so that they keep some of that grit that I remember and they were typically not designed with resolution scaling for the HUD resulting in unreadable dialogue and information markers.  But this shows that when fully path traced it really took going to the Turing architecture to get over a 30fps mark and basically the minimum requirement of an RTX 2060 is not just a suggested minimum, but an absolute minimum.

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Full HD starts to really put a crunch on performance as the pixels increase substantially and that increases the load and demand even more so when fully path traced than it does with traditional rasterization.  The RTX 2060 was able to hit a 60fps average here but showing the advantages of the higher end cards and the raw power they pack really benefit them.


Looking over these results anything under the RTX 2080Ti with its massive 4352 Turing cores and additional RT cores is simply going to deliver sub 60fps performance.  Even NVIDIA noted that this title would be optimally run at a 1080p resolution, and these results show why.


Okay, UHD is a two-fold monster here. First off, running it is nigh impossible at an acceptable frame rate with only the RTX 2080 Ti being able to crest 30fps which doesn’t result in a good experience for this game.  Secondly, there’s no real visual benefit outside of screenshots, I still am of the opinion that anything over 1080p in a game like this is just a net loss, performance tanks here and visuals just do not get any better.


If raw performance is what you’re most concerned about then you might be disappointed, but if the technological achievement that has been achieved is what you’re looking at you’re looking for you are going to find polarizing responses to Quake 2 RTX.  Performance numbers junkies will be left wondering why performance is so low and why can’t it run a 22-year-old game better, but a visual technology junkie will look at this and think it is simply spectacular that it is happening at all. Older cards like the Pascal and non-RTX Turing lineup simply don’t have the underlying specialized hardware to make this a remotely playable experience, but those with RTX Turing and tempered expectations can get a really cool glimpse at what the future may hold and a very interesting revisit to a great classic. And, no you don’t need a $1200 graphics card to experience as a game like Quake 2 doesn’t benefit much, if any, from going past 1080p and I actually prefer playing it at 720p regardless just to retain some of that grit from back in my youth.

Products mentioned in this post

RTX 2080
RTX 2080
USD 689
RTX 2080 Ti
RTX 2080 Ti
USD 1284

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