As a technology preview, Cyberpunk 2077’s Overdrive Mode, which uses full-blown path tracing instead of just a few ray-traced effects, came out this morning. As expected, it’s gorgeous, and if you don’t have a modern GeForce RTX 40-series GPU, it will completely melt your graphics card. Even then, as our benchmarks show, it can be hard to get around.
Together, Nvidia and CD Projekt Red made Overdrive Mode, which shows how amazing it can be to switch to fully path-traced graphics. Cyberpunk 2077 already looked stunning. With Overdrive Mode, it looks like a painting.
Full-fledged path tracing is a lot of work for graphics cards. There’s a reason why games like Minecraft, Quake II, and Portal 2 were the only ones that could use it until now.
But ray tracing and AI improvements that Nvidia built into the RTX 40-series, like Shader Execution Reordering and the AI-powered DLSS 3 Frame Generation, let GeForce’s latest and greatest cards run Cyberpunk 2077 in all its path-traced glory.
You also need that grunt from the 40-series. CD Projekt Red says in the release notes for the patch that added Overdrive Mode, Nvidia DLAA, Intel XeSS, and a new benchmark screen that “it requires the best hardware available to run it properly.
Cyberpunk 2077 with Overdrive patch running on RX 7900 XTX. 3840×1600, FSR2 Balanced. pic.twitter.com/bnZ8S3Tl6Z
— CapFrameX (@CapFrameX) April 11, 2023
” Technically, only the RTX 40-series lineup is supported, along with the RTX 3090, which was the top model of the last generation. However, CDPR says that the RTX 3090 can only hit 30 frames per second at 1080p resolution. Gross. What a great mess!
Other users have found that Overdrive Mode works on other graphics cards, including the Radeon graphics built into Ryzen chips. However, the new feature is so powerful that it even slows down AMD’s best graphics card, the Radeon RX 7900 XTX.
I spent the morning messing around with Cyberpunk 2077’s Overdrive mode on all of Nvidia’s current RTX 40-series cards to give you an idea of what to expect in terms of performance when you turn on path tracing. Here’s a video from an early Digital Foundry preview that shows how it looks:
Find out how well the $1,600 GeForce RTX 4090, the $1,200 RTX 4080, and the $900 RTX 4070 Ti do in Cyberpunk 2077’s Overdrive Mode below. All of them were tested on our usual GPU benchmarking system, which uses a Ryzen 9 5900X processor and 32GB of memory.
We only tested with Overdrive Mode turned on and the new Overdrive preset at both 1440p and 4K resolutions. Our previous GPU reviews show that the frame rates are much higher when path tracing is turned off.
Then, we tried the game with DLSS turned on and Performance mode set by hand. (If you use Ultra Performance mode, you can get slightly higher frame rates, but in our tests, it made the upscaled image look very jagged and glitchy. Performance is fine-looking). Last but not least, we turned on DLSS 3 Frame Generation to see how fast this puppy could go.
Nvidia and CDPR aren’t joking when they say that Overdrive Mode in Cyberpunk 2077 can bring down even these huge GPUs. Without DLSS, even the RTX 4090 has trouble putting out 20 frames per second at 4K, and the 4070 Ti can’t even reach 10 frames per second. Ouch.
Turning on DLSS Performance mode alone gets you to the 60fps gold standard at 1440p resolution, but these results show a harsh truth: you need DLSS Frame Gen to get smooth playable frame rates in Overdrive Mode, especially at 4K resolution.