Our final round of games tests brings back an old favourite and introduces its successor, while also including one of the most taxing benchmarks we've ever used. And on top of that, we take a look at an absolutely phenomenal game using the Vulkan API. And can we deliver a GPU review without some Witcher 3 performance testing? I think not.
Let's kick off with Ghost Recon Wildlands from Ubisoft. Run this game on its default high setting and it's an eminently agreeable experience across a range of PC hardware. However, dip into the quality settings, move to the ultra preset and suddenly the game transforms into one of the most challenging graphics workouts we've ever seen and where even GTX 1080 Ti can only deliver an anaemic 37fps at 4K resolution.
The astonishingly low level of performance persists into the RTX era. Once again, RTX 2080 hands in just a small uptick in performance over GTX 1080 Ti, though there is a creditable 30 per cent jump over its predecessor, the GTX 1080. The RTX 2080 Ti remains the king of hill, but the crippling workout induced by this title on this extreme preset ensures that we get a sub-par boost of just 22 per cent. Consider this one an outlier.
Ghost Recon Wildlands: Ultra, TAA
A word of warning when looking at any Rise of the Tomb Raider benchmark - their results are always higher than performance you'll actually get in-game, a situation Alex highlighted a while back. The good news is that developer Nixxes has done an incredible job on the benchmark for its successor (as you'll see shortly) but in the here and now, the Rise of the Tomb Raider metric is still useful enough in judging relative performance between various pieces of graphics hardware.
It's also a title that once again shows that while RTX 2080 generally holds its own up against the GTX 1080 Ti, it can occasionally drop a couple of points - and remember that we are testing the Founder's Edition with a factory OC, compared to reference clocks on the GTX 1080 Ti. The performance increases expressed in percentage terms therefore take a small hit compared to some of the other results. RTX 2080 is 26 per cent faster than GTX 1080, while RTX 2080 Ti is 25 per cent faster than its Pascal Ti equivalent.
It's interesting to compare the results here with Nixxes' work on the sequel, the more modern Shadow of the Tomb Raider, where the Turing architecture seemingly gets a good chance to flex its muscles.
Rise of the Tomb Raider DX12: Very High, SMAA
First of all, the Digital Foundry team collectively really need to praise Nixxes for the PC port of Shadow of the Tomb Raider. The DX12 implementation is stunning, and CPU utilisation is phenomenal. This is one of the very few games where running at 1080p doesn't leave you struggling with CPU stutter - it's also highly friendly to Ryzen processors too. We tested this title with a Core i7 8700K and performance throughout was buttery-smooth, and that extends to the radically improved benchmark which very definitely is representative of in-game frame-rates.
At the lower end, GTX 1080 and Vega 64 offer essentially equivalent experiences, but similar to Battlefield 1, RTX 2080 is able to push ahead of the classic GTX 1080 Ti, delivering a nine per cent improvement to overall performance that's consistent from start to finish. Meanwhile, gen-on-gen, RTX 2080 offers up a 38 per cent uplift in frame-rates over the GTX 1080.
The increase in performance on RTX 2080 Ti similarly impressive, with a clear 39 per cent improvement in like-for-like testing up against GTX 1080 Ti, while the bump to frame-rates is at the 27 per cent mark compared to RTX 2080. Of course, Nixxes isn't finished with Shadow - not by a long shot. RTX ray traced shadow support is incoming, but perhaps more exciting is the arrival of DLSS. The benchmark suggests that RTX 2080 Ti is just a few settings tweaks away from a locked 4K60 here, but DLSS support would improve that massively. And based on our DLSS scores elsewhere, the evidence suggests that 4K60 could also be achievable on the non-Ti RTX 2080 too. Exciting times ahead.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider DX12: Highest, TAA
We love our Witcher 3 benchmark - a run through the grounds of Novigrad City on horseback. It stresses CPU, GPU, memory bandwidth and even storage if frame-rates go high enough. Everything is run at ultra settings, but we disable Nvidia Hairworks, which doesn't really provide enough of a visual upgrade to warrant its mammoth GPU cost - and cripples AMD hardware still further.
There are some good results here, with RTX 2080 delivering a solid five per cent increase in performance over the GTX 1080 Ti, which in turn means that the RTX 2080 Ti delivers a creditable 36.5 per cent of additional throughput. Interestingly though, the lower end cards (and to use that term for hardware this capable just goes to show how far we've come) actually hold up pretty well - the leap to 1080 Ti/2080 class is significantly lower than it is on other titles.
Running the Witcher 3 at 4K on GTX 1080 and GTX 1080 Ti has always required some level of settings tweakery. To be fair, the visual hit from the reductions is slight, but the fact is that RTX 2080 Ti hands in the horsepower that makes adjusting the presets unnecessary throughout most of the game.
The Witcher 3: Ultra, Post-AA, No HairWorks
Our final benchmark test game is Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus, running under idtech 6 on the Vulkan API. To say that this game is a performance monster is not an exaggeration - stretches of 4K gameplay at uber settings played out at over 150fps on the RTX 2080 Ti (!). There is no canned benchmark run for this one, so we chose a dash through the battle-torn streets of New Orleans to put this game through its paces. You may note that there is no Vega 64 entry here - curiously, the game corrupts the FCAT border we use for performance testing. What I can tell you is that the benchmark run here averaged at 57.4fps, a touch higher than GTX 1080.
RTX takes this to the next level, and highlights how more modern game engines sing on the Turing architecture. The RTX 2080 posts its biggest increase over the GTX 1080 Ti to date, delivering a 17 per cent uptick in performance. Compared to the GTX 1080 - its notional predecessor - that boost zips up to a remarkable 48 per cent. In the here and now, RTX 2080 is very much a similar product in standard 3D performance to GTX 1080 Ti, but maybe this highlights the state of performance improvements to come.
What's all the more remarkable here is that I'm told that this build of Wolfenstein 2 does not include the Turing-specific variable rate shading optimisations we saw during Nvidia's press day during Gamescom, so there may be further improvements to come. All of which bodes well for RTX 2080 Ti. It's already phenomenal here, posting a 50 per cent improvement in frame-rates over GTX 1080 Ti.
Wolfenstein 2 Vulkan: Uber, TSSAA 8x
GeForce RTX 2080/ RTX 2080 Ti Analysis
- Introduction, Hardware Breakdown, Turing Architecture features
- DLSS - Deep Learning Super-Sampling: Performance Analysis
- Assassin's Creed Unity, Battlefield 1, Crysis 3, Far Cry 5 - Rasterisation Analysis Part 1
- Ghost Recon Wildlands, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, The Witcher 3, Wolfenstein 2 - Rasterisation Analysis Part 2 [This Page]
- GeForce RTX 2080/ RTX 2080 Ti - the Digital Foundry verdict