Alan Wake 2 PC Performance Impressions: NVIDIA DLSS 3.5 With Path Tracing Delivers Photorealistic Graphics

The sequel to Alan Wake, Alan Wake 2, has finally landed, and with it comes some of the most impressive visual technologies and graphics that we have seen to date thanks to Path Tracing which is complemented through the use of NVIDIA’s DLSS 3.5 Ray Reconstruction technology.

Witness Alan’s Nightmare In All Its Path Traced Glory In Alan Wake 2! Insane Visual Fidelity But Also Super Taxing To Run On High-End GPUs

Alan Wake 2 is the second title to feature support for NVIDIA’s DLSS 3.5 Ray Reconstruction tech which further pushes the image quality by delivering enhanced ray tracing quality. Alan Wake 2 also is the first fully blown-out AAA experience to leverage Path Tracing tech which offers photo-realistic environments. Cyberpunk 2077 was the first game to do it all and Remedy is following CDProjektRed’s footsteps to take PC gaming the superior platform in terms of graphics fidelity.

The Visual Options For PC

Alan Wake 2 comes with a host of settings to tune from including some PC-exclusive options such as the different Ray Tracing / Path Tracing presets to select from and multiple upscaling modes to use.

The game offers the standard display settings which let you adjust:

  • Display Mode (Windows, Borderless, Fullscreen)
  • Display Resolution
  • Render Resolution
  • Resolution Upscaling
  • DLSS Frame Generation
  • Vsync
  • Brightness Calibration

It should be mentioned that the game includes both NVIDIA DLSS 3 and AMD FSR 2 technologies. Frame Generation is only supported with NVIDIA’s DLSS and so is Ray Reconstruction. AMD FSR 2 users don’t get Frame-Gen support. One interesting thing is that there’s no true native mode with DLSS upscaling as the native mode sets the game to use DLAA which is DLSS at native resolution & which can become a bit more taxing on your PC. Meanwhile, AMD’s FSR does offer a native mode.


Then there are the two visual effects that we had disabled for our tests but include Motion Blur and Film Grain. The game comes with four quality presets which include Low, Medium, High & Custom. The custom settings can be adjusted up to Ultra and include adjustments for the following:

  • Post-Processing Quality
  • Texture Resolution
  • Texture Filtering
  • Volumetric Filtering
  • Volumetric Spotlight Quality
  • Global Illumination Quality
  • Shadow Resolution
  • Shadow Filtering
  • Shadow Detail
  • Screen Space Ambient Occlusion (SSAO)
  • Global Reflections
  • Screen Space Reflections (SSR)
  • Fog Quality
  • Terrain Quality
  • Far Object Detail (LOD)
  • Scattered Object Density

Lastly, we have the Ray Tracing options which also has five presets that let you select from Off, Low, Medium, High, & Custom mode. The Ray Tracing settings include:

  • DLSS Ray Reconstruction
  • Direct Lighting
  • Direct Lighting Denoising Quality
  • Path-Traced Indirect Lighting
  • Path Traced Indirect Lighting Denoising Quality
  • Transparency

The NVIDIA RTX & DLSS 3.5 Ray Reconstruction Feature Set

Just like Cyberpunk 2077, enabling DLSS 3.5 Ray Reconstruction within Alan Wake 2 will replace two denoisers with an AI-infused algorithm that accurately calculates ray tracing, delivering better visual fidelity and even better performance. If DLSS Ray Reconstruction is disabled or not available, the following fallbacks will apply (two denoisers will instead be enabled, with the quality and the performance cost scaling across the three presets): 

NRD Direct Lighting Denoising Quality LOW HIGH HIGH
NRD Indirect Lighting Denoising Quality N/A MEDIUM HIGH

When RT is set to low, there will be no Path Tracing used since a minimum “Medium” setting is required to enable partial Path Tracing which includes 1 ray bounce with RT AO on the last hit. The “High” setting enables full Path Tracing with 3 bounces and will be the most taxing.

Similarly, Path Tracing indirect lighting quality will be set to “off” on the low settings, “Medium” on medium settings, and “High” on high settings. The ray tracing direct lightning will be enabled by default for all three settings while the transparency will be set to “Low” on low settings and “High” on both Medium and High settings.

Alan Wake 2 Path Tracing Modes:

Ray Tracing Presets Low Medium High
Path Tracing In Use None Partial (1 bounce, RT AO on last hit) Full (3 bounces, RT AO on last hit)
Path Traced Indirect Lighting Quality OFF MEDIUM HIGH
Ray Traced Direct Lighting ON ON ON
Ray Traced Transparency LOW HIGH HIGH

Following is the in-game application of each preset:

NVIDIA DLSS 3.5 Ray Reconstruction In Alan Wake 2: The Comparisons

For the comparisons, we first want to showcase the differences in image quality impacted by the upscaling modes. DLAA Native is the best mode if you are looking for visual fidelity as it expands over the native resolution by applying DLSS at native resolution. The other two modes, Quality & Performance upsample from 1440P and 1080P resolutions, respectively.

DLAA Native 4K Image Quality

DLSS Quality 4K Image Quality

DLSS Performance 4K Image Quality

In the following images, the puddle of sand and mud can be seen reflected accurately from the orange light emitted by the sun in the distance. With Ray Reconstruction disabled, you will see a large amount of shimmering over the surface and blurry details near the character and in the distance. Turing off RT entirely leads to a complete removal of this reflective surface with the other parts that are clearly being blocked by the log in the distance being reflected.

Path Tracing With Ray Reconstruction:

Path Tracing Without Ray Reconstruction:

Ray Tracing Disabled (Native Render Image):

In the diner early on in the game, you will find some of the most photorealistic visuals which are made more lifelike with DLSS 3.5 Ray Reconstruction through extracting more details. The table surface is more detailed with finer textures and even the silverware looks higher quality as light bounces are retained in a more realistic manner. Having RT disabled leads to a radical difference since the bottom of the table is now illuminated whereas there’s no actual light reaching this area while the table where the light should be impacting is now all fuzzy and riddled with a brownish tint which reduces its reflective properties that were previously present.

Path Tracing With Ray Reconstruction:

Path Tracing Without Ray Reconstruction:

Ray Tracing Disabled (Native Render Image):

Water bodies are a common sight early on with large parts of the Cauldron Lake being flooded. As such, there are lots of opportunities to see RT reflections in action. With RR disabled, you will notice that the streetlight reflection is very disoriented and shimmered in the pool of water. This is totally smoothened out when DLSS 3.5 Ray Reconstruction is enabled. When disabled entirely, the game makes use of SSR (Screen Space Reflections) which look inferior compared to the advanced RT and Path Tracing modes.

Path Tracing With Ray Reconstruction:

Path Tracing Without Ray Reconstruction:

Ray Tracing Disabled (Native Render Image):

These reflective surfaces can also be seen in the Bright Falls area of the game. Just like Cyberpunk 2077, Path Tracing, and DLSS 3.5 Ray Reconstruction feature also retains the full details of the text and body that is being reflected.

Path Tracing With Ray Reconstruction:

Path Tracing Without Ray Reconstruction:

Ray Tracing Disabled (Native Render Image):

In the subway section, we can once again see Ray Reconstruction helping diffuse the path traced lighting better than the rest of the modes.

Path Tracing With Ray Reconstruction:

Path Tracing Without Ray Reconstruction:

Ray Tracing Disabled (Native Render Image):

The Neon-lit symbols and logos look great with Ray Reconstruction using NVIDIA DLSS 3.5. With RTX Off, these reflective surfaces are barely visible.

Path Tracing With Ray Reconstruction:

Path Tracing Without Ray Reconstruction:

Ray Tracing Disabled (Native Render Image):

Following are screenshots from different modes which you can use for image quality comparisons:

Ray Tracing High Preset With Ray Reconstruction:

Ray Tracing Medium Preset With Ray Reconstruction:

Ray Tracing Low Preset With Ray Reconstruction:

Ray Tracing High Preset Without Ray Reconstruction:

Ray Tracing Disabled (Native Render Image):

PC Performance Impressions: Ray Reconstruction & Frame Gen Are A Necessity

For testing, we used a range of modern-day graphics cards to evaluate how the game runs with the different Ray Tracing modes and upscaling technologies.

Our test setup features an Intel Core i9-13900K CPU running at stock speeds, 32 GB (16 GB x 2) DDR5-7200 CL34 memory, an MSI MEG Z790 ACE motherboard, and MSI MEG S360 AIO cooling. Alan Wake 2 was run off a high-end PCIe Gen 4 SSD from T-Force (A440 Pro). The driver used for testing was the 545.92 release which is now available at the GeForce drivers webpage.

At 2160p, the baseline of running Alan Wake 2 at its highest fidelity would be the GeForce RTX 4070 Ti. The other cards do run fine but in specific sections, the performance can drop tremendously below the sub-60 FPS mark even on the RTX 4090 GPU.

At 1440p, the majority of NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX 40 series can handle the game quite well with Frame Generation. The higher-end RTX 30 series cards can manage but anything below the RTX 3090/3080 12 GB will not be enough in the more intensive sections so going with a lower Ray-tracing preset is recommended.

We also have the performance comparison of the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090 running various RT modes. Going from No RT to RT Low leads to a -25% to -30% drop in FPS. Going from Low to RT Medium is another -30% hit in FPS while going from Low to RT High is a 36% FPS loss. Also, the difference in performance between the RT High and RT Medium modes is very close so you just rather have RT High enabled with DLSS 3.5 Ray Reconstruction.

You might have noticed that Ray Reconstruction doesn’t provide a benefit when enabled in RT Low mode. The most rational explanation here is that the in-game denoisers don’t seem to be as intensive compared to the RR implementation. Hence, enabling RR becomes more taxing but at RT Medium and RT High modes, the denoisers are more taxing on the game which leads to RR being the most efficient approach. You will get higher visual fidelity with RR enabled at RT Low mode but you will also see a loss in FPS.

I know I have said it before but Path Tracing in games is the future and NVIDIA working with game devs to make it a reality is an absolutely fantastic thing for PC gaming. But we also have to address that Path Tracing can be a GPU-killer. Even a 4090 needs Frame-Gen & Ray Reconstruction to get a smooth framerate at 4K with everything maxed out. Despite that, Alan Wake 2 is a visual delight & still looks great without Ray Tracing or running on the lower RT presets but Path Tracing really is that extra touch of sweetness that every gamer is eying for.

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