Portal with RTX review: Ray tracing makes Valve’s FPS puzzler creepy

Portal with RTX review: Ray tracing makes Valve's FPS puzzler creepy
Written by admin

Can a remastering change the genre of a video game? After a couple of hours with portalfree ray tracing upgrade, i’m tempted to say yes.

The original portal it is on the short list of the “Funniest Video Games Ever Made”. Released in 2007 as a spin-off of Half-Life, this bite-sized first-person puzzle game took the humor of its parent series and brought it from the fringes to the spotlight. You play as Chell, a human lab rat, who gradually outwits a malevolent artificial intelligence named GLaDOS who speaks like Siri through Mitch Hedberg. You use little more than your wits, Chell’s physical condition, and a non-lethal “weapon” that, instead of bullets, fires a pair of interconnected portals. It’s as exciting as it is cartoonish, best remembered for a cake meme and its end-credits pop song written by humorous musician Jonathan Coulton.

Gateway with RTX is, in everything but the images, the same game. Same puzzles, same script and voice acting, same reference to dessert, and same endgame ditty. Except it looks different. To get the most out of the latest high-end graphics cards, GPU maker Nvidia has partnered with portalValve’s editor, to create an updated variant transformed by the graphic magic of the moment: ray tracing.

A test camera in Portal with the RTX update enabled.  The glass that separates the chamber from its entrance is photorealistic, and the textures on the walls and floors look rough and dirty.

Image: Lightspeed Studios/Nvidia via Polygon

What is ray tracing? Well, how much time do you have? If you have 20 minutes, I strongly recommend that you check out this breakdown from the experts at Digital Foundry. If you only have a few seconds though, here’s the elevator pitch. Ray tracing is a considerably more realistic method of simulating light in video games. With ray tracing, you’ll see reflections and shadows, along with representations of the tiny ways light can bounce, bend, and absorb into materials.

Ray tracing is particularly noticeable in environments where light itself is most noticeable: wet surfaces, reflective metals, glass, and mirrors. portalThe maze of industrial test chambers is a natural fit.

In terms of making an exceptionally realistic lab, the creative team at Gateway with RTX has created a version of portal that prioritizes realism above all else. Assuming you can get it to work (it took an Nvidia RTX 3090 with Deep Learning Super Sampling enabled to get anything close to reliable performance on a 4K TV), you’ll see a scarily believable version of GLaDOS’ lab. And I mean scary.

The player looks at a portal on the Portal floor.  The portal shows a view of the player from above, indicating that the second portal is placed above them somewhere.

Image: Lightspeed Studios/Nvidia via Polygon

To emphasize dynamic lighting, portalThe RTX lab is darker and gloomier; Inky shadows fill every corner. Many surfaces now look wet and gross, like if you scratched your knee you’d get some weird bacterial infection. Balls of electricity bounce around, casting a soft, ghostly light. The walls don’t just look like metal panels; they look like heavy, immovable blocks of steel. The result is much more claustrophobic.

We’ve seen a similar effect in other classic games that have received ray tracing updates. With natural light instead of artificial light, things tend to get a little dark and creepy. But the addition of ray tracing has never leaned as much towards horror as it has in Gateway with RTX. In this case, it’s not just that the game is darker, there are still plenty of rooms with sick office fluorescent lighting. By emphasizing realism in images, portalThe whole vibe of has gone from being cartoonish to something much more sinister.

Valve’s video games from the 2000s have an iconic blocky, grimy, and dull aesthetic that ends up flattering the corpo-fascist art direction of their first-person shooters. While other AAA shooters of the time like Crysis and Call of Duty served as technical masterpieces that prioritized raw power, the Half-Life series emphasized art direction. Valve’s worlds weren’t as technically impressive, but they were more considered. The look had a function.

A room in Portal with its RTX update enabled.  Light reflects off an onyx-like surface to the right as the player looks at the test chamber puzzle from above.

Image: Lightspeed Studios/Nvidia via Polygon

In the case of portal, that function was fun and humor. Yes, you play as a human lab rat, but success never really feels out of the question. It was the closest Valve had come to making a family-friendly game, with no lethal weapons or human targets. And Valve’s blocky aesthetic establishes a clear divide between the real world and the video game. GLaDOS’ malevolent and escalating monologue was a perfect fit against the backdrop of nondescript, abandoned labs.

But in these creepy chambers of Gateway with RTX, GLaDOS immediately sounds more threatening. Big red glass buttons, add-on cubes, and looming view cameras used to look pretty silly, but not so much anymore. Now, they are pieces of a corporate haunted house. The result is a different experience than playing portal 15 years ago.

Gateway with RTX It is not portal, not really. It’s something else, an alternate vision that feels a little closer to half life 2It’s Ravenholm. You may find the visual update unsettling, especially if he’s more of an originalist who likes things the way they “should be.” EITHERyou might be excited to revisit portal through a more threatening lens.

A player walks up a set of stairs in Portal.  An orange glow comes out from under the stairs, reflecting off the industrial walls that line the stairwell.

Image: Lightspeed Studios/Nvidia via Polygon

Or, if you’re the type of person obsessed with the future of video game visuals, you’ll appreciate portalRTX update for what it does best: proving that ray tracing matters. Ray tracing’s ability to significantly alter the mood of the game captures something powerful about the technology that you can’t see in screenshots or a tech demo video on YouTube.

If ray tracing can have this kind of impact on a game that was never intended to have it, imagine what artists will do by incorporating the feature from the ground up.

Gateway with RTX releases on dec 8 on Windows PC and requires high-end System Specifications. The game was patched on PC using a pre-download code provided by Nvidia. Vox Media has affiliate associations. These do not influence editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links. You can find Additional information on Polygon’s ethics policy here.

About the author


Leave a Comment