Shadow of the Tomb Raider PC features explained

Great news! We finally have some details on the Shadow of the Tomb Raider PC features. Specifically, a tech breakdown from Nvidia GeForce – the GPU manufacturer that promises to deliver a stellar Lara Croft product when the title launches in September. In a beautiful trailer (that will only make sense to those of a computing sensibility) Nvidia reveals that the manufacturer’s top graphics card will deliver the following features in the next Tomb Raider outing…

  • Blood and gore, intense violence, strong language 😉
  • Real-time ray traced shadows
  • HBAO+ proven ambient occlusion
  • High quality anti-aliasing
  • Tessellation enhanced geometric detail
  • CHS realistic shadow fall-off
  • HDR higher contrast and more vivid colours
  • SSCS enhanced surface definition

Now, if like me you are primarily a console gamer and don’t understand what any of these terms mean – but are nonetheless curious – then look no further! With the support of Doctor Google, I have dived into the more scientific corners of the internet to bring you some WordPress-enhanced, vivid definitions, meaning that you can fully appreciate everything that Shadow of the Tomb Raider has to offer.

Let’s begin!

Real-time ray traced shadows

This is how elements such as reflections are created. The GPU traces individual light rays as they bounce off multiple surfaces, helping to add to the overall beauty of a scene. Of course, it’s more complicated than just having ‘light bounce off water a bit.’ Ray tracing affects things such as translucency, which is important for creating more human-looking skin.

HBAO+ proven ambient occlusion

Ambient occlusion is a method of determining how bright light should be depending on the surface on which it’s cast, and of course what kind of light is doing the shining (the sun, an electric torch, a campfire?) HBAO+ stands for Horizon Based Ambient Occlusion+ and this means that a higher level of SSAO (Screen Space Ambient Occlusion) is delivered, allowing for a better quality and visibility of shadows. Phew.

High quality anti-aliasing

This one’s quite simple! (Well, to explain anyway.) Anti-aliasing is about smoothing out the jagged edges on lower resolution displays.

That ambient occlusion tho.

Tessellation enhanced geometric detail

Tessellation means the division of polygons into smaller parts, meaning that in-game objects appear smoother. I’m not sure how something can be “tessellation enhanced” as opposed to being just “tessellated” but then I’m not a video game developer (trust me, the world isn’t ready.) I would have thought a more accurate way to describe the Shadow of the Tomb Raider PC features would be, “We used tessellation for our geometry,” but I don’t think it would have sounded as slick.

Mind you, I could be wrong about tessellation altogether. Can an expert help me out?

CHS realistic shadow fall-off

Okay, this one has been a bit harder for me to fathom, but I believe CHS stands for Contact Hardening Shadows, a technique which allows for softer shadows to fall on complex geometries. Without this, shadows can look like plonked shapes and undermine the in-game realism, which is no fun for anybody.

Those tessellations though. (They spelt tessellation wrong?)

HDR higher contrast and more vivid colours

I suppose this one’s self-explanatory. In summary: lots of bright colours, and everything looking pretty. More scientifically: a Dynamic Range is the ratio of the smallest possible values to the largest possible values, so a HDR (High Dynamic Range) represents a much broader spectrum in terms of light exposure, meaning that the resulting image is a composite of ‘the best of everything.’ If you have an iPhone camera you will probably have seen this process in action, as this is the method the device uses for capturing photos of an optimum quality.

SSCS enhanced surface definition

Wow, this one was hard to pin down. No Google, I’m not looking for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, or the Sutherland Shire Christian School. If I’m right, SSC stands for Super Super Clocked, meaning that the experience has been optimised for PCs that squeeze every last ounce of juice – and then some – from their graphics cards.

So there we are. I hope this information about the Shadow of the Tomb Raider PC features has been of some interest (and of some use) to you. Will you be playing Lara’s next adventure with the latest Nvidia graphics card, in all its tessellated, anti-aliased glory? Or will you be opting for a console experience? Let me know in the comments below.

Click here to pre-order Shadow of the Tomb Raider on Steam and help support this site.

Click here to pre-order on the PS4.

Click here to pre-order on the Xbox One.

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