The PC version of Death Stranding by Kojima Productions and 505 Games has recently been released. A fantastic story about a dying world, filled with double meaning and surrealism, has become the quintessence of Hideo Kojima’s work. This is the strangest and most unusual virtual story from a famous Japanese game designer. Now it is available to players in the best visual quality and high resolutions. And to make these high resolutions even more accessible to a wider audience, support for NVIDIA DLSS has been added to the game. We will talk about the features of this technology, its impact on graphics and performance in this review.
First, let’s deal with the terminology. NVIDIA DLSS is a special anti-aliasing method of Deep Learning Super Sampling. But this is not just smoothing the edges of polygons, but an intelligent method of scaling the frame. The pretrained neural network builds a high-resolution frame based on the input frame with fewer pixels. DLSS generates a picture close to native resolution and with smooth edges. Initially, this method was calculated for 4K resolution, where it showed high image quality and helped to significantly improve performance. But in a number of games, this mode is also available in lower resolutions, up to Full HD. The heavier the graphics mode and the lower the fps, the greater the final acceleration from activating DLSS. The technology works only on NVIDIA GeForce RTX graphics cards, which have special tensor units for hardware-accelerated deep learning operations.
Death Stranding supports the updated DLSS 2.0 technology, which uses improved algorithms and allows you to change the priority between high performance and image quality. We decided to test three video cards of the GeForce RTX family at maximum 4K resolution with different DLSS settings and compare them with the original resolution of 3840×2160.
Let’s start with a visual comparison. Based on the settings of the maximum graphics quality at a resolution of 3840×2160 with TAA anti-aliasing. Further, two available DLSS modes were gradually activated — “Quality” (Quality) and “Performance” (Performance). Below are three frames in original resolution.
We can state the absence of a clear difference in the quality of the picture. The shading and fog in the background changes slightly, but these are dynamic effects.
If we compare the same fragments of each frame, we will see sharper contours of the grass in the original 4K. But thin blades of grass break up into pixels, and with DLSS their outlines are smooth and natural.
Let’s compare another scene.
There are no obvious changes in the terrain, but with DLSS, wave detail is gradually reduced.
Let’s compare the same fragments of each screenshot with a double increase (click on the image for a full-size image).
Now it is clearly seen that with DLSS, not only are there fewer ripples on the water, but also easier reflections. And the blurred contours of the reflections form a comb around the stones. But with DLSS, shadows under small stones in the central part of the fragment are better visible.
A more visual comparison will be a video comparing different graphics modes.
The comparison is based on the GeForce RTX 2070 Super, but the performance of three RTX-series video cards is shown at the end.
Now let’s look at performance.
The test bench configuration is as follows:
- processor: Intel Core i7-6950X (firstname.lastname@example.org GHz);
- cooler: Noctua NH-D15 (two NF-A15 PWM fans, 140 mm, 1300 rpm);
- motherboard: MSI X99S MPower;
- memory: G.Skill F4-3200C14Q-32GTZ (4×8 GB, DDR4-3200, CL14-14-14-35);
- system disk: Kingston SSDNow KC400 (512 GB, SATA 6Gb/s);
- secondary drive: WD Red 3TB WD30EFRX (3 TB, SATA 6Gb/s, 5400 rpm);
- power supply: Raidmax Cobra RX-800AE;
- monitor: ASUS PB278Q (2560×1440, 27″);
- operating system: Windows 10 Pro x64;
- NVIDIA GeForce 451.67 driver.
The list of video cards is as follows:
- GeForce RTX 2080 Founders Edition;
- GeForce RTX 2070 Super;
- GeForce RTX 2060 Super.
For testing, the same run was repeated at the initial location in the drug delivery task. Due to weather effects, this scene creates a high load. Measurements were taken by MSI Afterburner. The graph shows the minimum and average fps.
In normal 4K, the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti easily delivers high frame rates. 30% lower than the GeForce RTX 2070 Super, but the average performance is above 50 fps, and in simpler scenes it will be closer to 60 fps. Enabling DLSS in Quality mode improves the performance of GeForce RTX 2080 Ti by 31%, GeForce RTX 2070 Super by 42-46%, and GeForce RTX 2060 Super by 43%. The DLSS performance mode provides an acceleration of the top-end video card by more than 60% relative to the initial values, the younger ones receive a boost of about 80%. At native 4K resolution, the game loads up to 6 GB of video memory, with DLSS the memory load is reduced by a gigabyte in performance mode.
As an additional demo, below is 4K gameplay footage with DLSS in Quality mode on a GeForce RTX 2070 Super.
Thanks to NVIDIA DLSS 2.0 technology, you can enjoy Death Stranding in 4K even on mid-range graphics cards, starting with the GeForce RTX 2060 Super. The picture with DLSS does not fundamentally differ from the original image in 4K with TAA anti-aliasing. There are slight differences in the display of water, shading and other small nuances. But the detailing of the environment and the quality of the elaboration of the landscape do not suffer, the decrease in image sharpness is almost not noticeable. In favor of such a high efficiency of DLSS is a certain uniformity of locations, which simplifies the task for the algorithms that form the final image. So feel free to enable DLSS for faster 4K gaming.
It is better to use the DLSS quality mode, which provides minimal changes in the picture relative to the original resolution. It’s also worth noting that staging scenes are limited to 60fps, and there’s no point in chasing 100fps or more, though that’s a matter of personal preference.