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Portal With RTX Review

Portal With RTX

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Release: 08/12/2022
Publisher: Nvidia
Developer: Lightspeed Studios
Genre: Reviews
PEGI: 10+
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It’s funny that 2007 classic Portal is now one of the hardest games to get running at max settings on PC. But by adding raytracing, that’s exactly what it has become. Does it make the immortal GOAT a better game? No. But it sure as hell proves a concept that feels a long, long way away.

As a visual overhaul Portal with RTX is impressive. It takes a still decent-looking 15-year-old game and it makes it modern – and that’s before you add a single bit of raytracing. Or RTX as the kids at Nvidia call it.

The RTX undoubtedly adds another level, and usually so subtly that many people won’t notice it most of the time. But then you play a game without it and silly things – like shadows not changing shape or density as you move around a light source – start to bother you.

What has actually changed? In Portal with RTX, every light source is treated like it would be in real life. It bounces off walls, round corners and, yes, through portals.

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Every reflection, every shadow, every illumination is simulated. It is the ultimate test of things we’ve been seeing snippets of in the last couple of years.

And if that sounds expensive computationally – well, yes. It’s a concept – and man, oh man, what a concept it is.

Thinking With Portals

Before we get to the new visuals, Portal itself remains a classic. Take a simple puzzle game, add in heaps of personality, and you have a title that has never overstayed its welcome. It’s the perfect size, the perfect shape.

The concept is simple. You can create a portal between two places. There are some simple physics rules: momentum is maintained, for instance. Now get from A to B.

But best frenemy GLaDOS will be watching every step of the way to knock your confidence and offer suitable reward should you succeed in your testing. Cake for everybody.

Portal is funny, clever and never feels like it’s holding you back. It’s a game in its purest form – just fun.

Nothing has really been added to this release. Some cheeky Nvidia advertising has been placed here, there and everywhere. It’ll bug some more than others.

Thinking with RTX

Unsurprisingly, Portal can run on a potato. It’s been around for 15 years. If you have a computer capable of playing any games, it can run Portal.

Until now.

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Because raytracing takes a game that can run at hundreds of frames a second and it turns it into something that chugs along by default. My 3070  averaged at 40-50fps when I played with all raytracing effects to max, with performance DLSS and resolution set to a low-feeling 1440p. None of this hurt the experience, especially to someone like me that jumps into console games as frequently as PC.

But for a PC vet who expects everything at 140FPS+ this is going to be a culture shock, and it’s obvious from the reviews on Steam that it’s been just that. If you hate DLSS, love 4K and have the cash to buy a brand new RTX 4090 (£2,000+), you’ll still only get less than 30fps.

That leads to the biggest questions Portal with RTX poses: when will this become the norm and is it worth it?

It shows that we’re a long way off this being normal. A percentage of a percentage can play Portal with RTX, and few of them can play it well. That’s with everything pumped up to max and if there’s one thing PC gamers are good at, it’s compromise. But for all the bells and whistles? Without assistance? In something brand new? Yeah, it’s not going to happen for a long time.

But does it matter? Does raytracing finally prove itself with this release? It’s an emphatic yes. There are things in this game that look extraordinary. It was a visual experience I haven’t had for a long, long time. It’s not just a jump forward, but a leap forward, albeit subtle.

Portal With RTX Review – Conclusion

Subtle is the important word there. I was looking for it, I was interested in it, and RTX blew me away. Somehow manage to get it on Xbox Series X or PS5, and I doubt the effect would stand out to most people. And certainly not if it meant having a lower resolution or dreadful framerate. Many effects have been replicated in one way or another using less on-the-fly techniques. And while this has those beat on quality by quite a bit, it’ll take nothing less than a 1:1 conversion to have people truly appreciate what is happening here.

It is unbeaten as a proof of concept. I’m excited to see more classics restored this way. But like concept art for flying cars or the idea of going to space on holiday, most of what’s here just highlights the ‘what if?’.

Portal with RTX makes the lighting in other games look primitive. It showed just how poor many lighting solutions are. We are trained, through decades of playing video games, to accept some things just are what they are. Our digital worlds will never be lifelike. It used to be invisible walls and ridiculous animation would have us open-mouthed. It was only when those problems were fixed through progression of technology that we realise they were issues.

This game is another one of those moments. And it’s just a shame we’ll have to wait a while for everything else to catch up.

 

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blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

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