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Ray tracing performance will soon double in some Unreal Engine 5 games

Unreal Engine 5.4 has finally arrived and promises to seriously speed up ray tracing alongside improvements to TSR upscaling and more.

Captain America (left) and Black Panther (right), as seen in the Unreal Engine 5.4 game, Marvel 1943: Rise of Hydra

There’s no denying the visual splendor of ray traced effects, but performance has always been a major barrier to entry. That’s why a new Unreal Engine 5 update is cause for some serious excitement, as it brings improvements of up to 2x in certain aspects of its ray tracing features.

Unreal Engine 5.4, now the latest version of Epic Games’ engine, should make ray tracing more accessible to those without the best graphics cards in their system thanks to numerous under the hood changes. While performance improvements will naturally vary across GPUs, the benefits will be keenest felt among AMD and Intel cards while Nvidia pixel pushers will likely see their position as frontrunners strengthened.

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As described in the ‘Hardware Ray Tracing’ section in the massive release notes released by Epic Games, Unreal Engine 5.4 offers “speed gains of 2x” when it comes to hardware raytracing (HWRT). This makes it easier for developers to craft games with frame rate targets of 60fps on consoles, and naturally benefits performance on PC too.

Epic Games has accomplished this through the addition of new types of primitive, which basically refers to anything in the engine that contains geometry, as well as speeding up Unreal Engine’s path tracer by 15%. Better still, these advantages appear to be as simple as possible for developers to implement into new or existing games.

A screenshot from the Unreal Engine 5 developers' toolkit, in which ray tracing can be observed on a reflective sphere

Aside from boosting ray tracing performance, Unreal Engine 5.4 also has a few other improvements and features that will improve new games  made on the engine or ones updated to support the latest version of the engine.

Epic Games’ Temporal Super Resolution (TSR) upscaler, an alternative to the likes of Nvidia DLSS, has received an upgrade that should reduce ghosting and better maintain temporal stability to keep shimmering to a minimum.

Additionally, Epic Games has improved how Unreal Engine manages shader compilation (something Warzone players will be all too familiar with, albeit on a different engine). Theoretically, the changes it has made should lead to fewer shaders needing to be precompiled while also speeding up the process of precompilation.

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While plenty of Unreal Engine 5 games are available, with more in development, Marvel 1943: Rise of Hydra is the first known to be sporting all the latest features available in Unreal Engine 5.4 and it’s as stunning to look at as you might hope.

For a more immediate look at an upcoming Unreal Engine 5 game, give our Hellblade 2 preview a read. Or, if you’re after a new graphics card with plenty of potential for some ray traced gaming, our GeForce RTX 4070 review has you covered.