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Watch Dogs Legion in the technology test: Ray tracing sightseeing in London

Last updated on March 9, 2021

Watch Dogs Legion uses a great implementation of ray tracing reflections, from which virtual London benefits greatly.

by Marc Sauter October 30, 2020, 4:02 p.m.

Tower Bridge in virtual London (Image: Ubisoft, Screenshot:

With Watch Dogs Legion (test) , Ubisoft has published the third part about the hacker organization Dedsec. The PC version of the game and the next-gen console offshoots use ray tracing for reflections, which significantly enhances the graphics of the disrupt engine.

A Geforce RTX 2000/3000 is currently required for this, because AMD's Radeon RX 6000 will only appear a few weeks. For our measurements we used a Geforce RTX 3080 (test) , which achieves fluid frame rates with ray tracing at ultra-detail level in 1440p, even without the reconstruction filter DLSS 2.0 (Deep Learning Super Sampling), which also delivers good image quality in Watch Dogs Legion .

Watch Dogs Legion uses Raytracing under Direct3D purely for reflections, like Battlefield 5 or Wolfenstein Youngblood. The game therefore reflects, among other things, the puddles and the Thames, but also the countless windows on the house fronts, the display boards in the London Underground aka The Tube and the omnipresent vehicles such as the iconic red buses.

Without ray tracing, screen space reflections (SSR) or cubemaps are generally used, although with ray tracing, a transition to the traditional rendering methods is used from a certain distance. When strolling through the city, whether running or motorized, this change is hardly noticeable. Anyone who has seen London with ray tracing doesn't want to miss it anymore – at least that's how it was for us.

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In terms of performance, Ubisoft optimized it with a hotfix patch one day after the launch, which is why the frame rates are higher than our initial measurements, especially with ray tracing. Nvidia also released the Geforce driver 457.09 to match the release of Watch Dogs Legion, which is why we installed it.

Watch Dogs Legion with ray tracing (rights holder: Ubisoft / Screenshot:

Which ray tracing level we choose has relatively little influence on the frame rate in the integrated benchmark and in measurements in the actual game: Less than 20 percent between medium (there is no low) and ultra, and the optical quality does not deviate excessively, primarily the distance to the SSR change is influenced. In the London Underground, the frame rate is significantly higher than at night and rain in Piccadilly Circus, but in the worst case ray tracing halves the performance.

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On Geforce RTX graphics cards it is therefore advisable to switch on the reconstruction filter DLSS 2.0. As usual, there are four levels, whereby we recommend Quality or Balanced. Here the image quality is almost as good as with the game's own temporary anti-aliasing (TAA), fine structures and some textures even come into their own. The input resolution of DLSS is too low for performance and ultra performance, which provokes disruptive artifacts.

Geforce RTX 3080, Ryzen 9 3800XT (8C / 16T), 2x 16GB DDR4-3600-CL16, Win10 v2004, Geforce 457.09 (Image:

Interesting side note: With ray tracing, the processor load also increases slightly, which in combination with DLSS means that we are increasingly approaching a CPU limit in 1440p with Balanced or more aggressive despite the Ryzen 7 3800XT. So the performance gain through DLSS is limited by the speed of the processor, which in Watch Dogs Legion is pretty busy anyway due to the detailed city.

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