Game developers now have direct access to Nvidia’s clever performance-boosting DLSS tech thanks to a new plug-in for Unreal Engine 4. Nvidia released the plug-in for Unreal Engine 4.26 at the end of last week, and golly, I’m really hoping this means we’ll get loads more DLSS games from now on, as it’s a feature that’s become pretty much mandatory in all of the big ray tracing games that have come out over the last few months.
DLSS (or Deep-Learning Super Sampling, to give it its full and proper name) has quietly become one of the best things about recent graphics card tech. Ray tracing may be the big shiny obvious one that gets all of the attention whenever a new graphics card comes out, but DLSS is what makes a lot of those ray tracing games actually playable on today’s RTX cards, as the performance cost of switching on ray tracing (particularly at higher resolutions) is still prohibitively large in a lot of cases. Indeed, Watch Dogs Legion is pretty much unplayable without it if you want to play in the ray traced streets of London, and The Medium’s ray tracing performance also proved a formidable foe even for Nvidia’s flagship RTX 3080 GPU.
This is where DLSS comes in, as it uses AI to help take some of the load off your GPU, allowing it to render fewer pixels while the AI fills in the gaps. It’s a bit like Sony’s checkerboarding techniques on the PlayStation 4 Pro, but much fancier – and in some cases constructs images that are sharper and higher resolution than they would be at native 4K. I think the most impressive use of it so far has been in Death Stranding, where I literally couldn’t tell the difference between its DLSS-ified landscapes and its natively rendered ones. Death Stranding isn’t a ray tracing game, but its DLSS support means that even people with an entry-level RTX 2060 card can play the game at 60fps speeds at 4K with maxed out settings.
It’s impressive stuff, and could open the doors to higher resolution gaming like never before if support for it takes off. Of course, you still need an Nvidia RTX card to take advantage of DLSS, as it’s all tied to Nvidia’s AI-infused Tensor Cores – which you don’t get with AMD’s Radeon RX 6800 and RX 6800 XT cards. AMD are currently working on their own rival DLSS technology for their RX 6000 GPUs – tentatively dubbed FidelityFX Super Resolution – but we still don’t know when this is going to arrive, or how its upscaling will compare to Nvidia’s DLSS tech.
Of course, DLSS coming to Unreal Engine is also kind of inevitable. After all, once AMD’s FidelityFX Suepr Resolution eventually launches, that, too, will be open source much like the rest of AMD’s FidelityFX suite, making it even easier for developers to incorporate it into future games. If Nvidia want their DLSS tech to compete / gain equal amounts of support as AMD’s version of it, then they’ve got to open the floodgates and make it available rather than keeping it under lock and key. Either way, it’s a big win for us, and that’s really all that matters in the end. Now if only we could actually buy some of those next-gen graphics cards that actually support DLSS, that would be swell…