Quake 2 was released over two decades ago, but is now being given a modern makeover, courtesy of real-time ray tracing. A group of developers has released what they call QUAKE II PATHTRACED or Q2VKPT. It is being billed as a proof-of-concept exercise to show what can be accomplished in future games with fully-realized real-time ray tracing effects. And the good news is, you can play it right now on GeForce RTX cards.
As you can see in the YouTube embed above, the lighting effects look incredible, even for a game that was first released back in 1997. You can see light reflecting off the floor depending on your view point, along with explosions lighting up surrounding walls. Blaster fire lights up darkened corridors properly, and the light from each blaster round travels with it until reaching the intended target.
According to the team, current games like Battlefield V only scratch the surface as to what's possible with ray tracing and still rely on traditional rasterization-based graphics. Granted, those games are vastly more complex in terms of polygon counts and detail, so tradeoffs had to be made. By going with a "simpler" game like Quake 2, there's more than enough performance overhead to address additional ray tracing features.
"Q2VKPT is the first project with an efficient unified solution for all types of lighting: direct, scattered, reflected, and refracted light," writes Christoph Schied, who wrote Q2VKPT. "This unification has recently led to a revolution in the movie industry with dramatic increase in visual effects, flexibility and productivity. The same transition in games promises a similar increase in visual fidelity and realism for real-time graphics in the coming years."
The project is available currently via GitHub, and you will need a modern GPU like NVIDIA's GeForce RTX series that supports the Vulkan API. You can view a full set of instructions for getting started here.