What just happened? Nvidia in collaboration with Bethesda have released Quake II RTX as a free download. Quake II RTX uses path tracing, a ray-tracing technique that unifies all lighting effects such as shadows, reflections, refractions and more into a single ray-tracing algorithm. This will give a whole new look to id Software’s classic game that originally launched in 1997.

Nvidia and Bethesda unveiled the development of Quake II RTX at Computex 2019. The free download is now available on Steam and as a standalone download (Windows, Linux) from TechSpot's downloads section. It includes the first three single-player levels of the PC gaming classic. Owners of the original can patch their copy and enjoy the entire game, including multiplayer modes fully path traced. Considering Quake II is just $5 on Steam, the barrier of entry is not that high if you can't find your old CD-ROM and want to check out the game after all these years.

Quake II RTX includes real-time range time of day lighting, sun light and indirect illumination. Water and glass will refract light, surfaces will deliver more accurate reflections and light sources illuminate surrounding objects. These effects Nvidia says will require the RT cores found on RTX series GPUs, thus the minimum specification for running the game will be a GeForce RTX 2060 GPU.

"It’s rare that a PC game has the impact and longevity of Quake II, and seeing it reimagined with ray tracing 20 years later is something special for me," said Tim Willits, studio director of id Software and one of the creators of the original Quake franchise.

Quake II RTX uses Nvidia's VKRay, an extension that allows developers using the Vulkan API to add ray-traced effects to their games. "Building on Q2VKPT, a version of the game created by Christoph Schied using the open-sourced Quake II game engine, Quake II RTX is a pure ray-traced game that runs on a Vulkan renderer with support for Linux."

Wolfenstein: Youngblood, the next installment in the historied franchise will also include support for real-time ray-tracing effects and Nvidia's adaptive shading. The game is scheduled for release on July 26 and will become part of a limited time "Born to Hunt" bundle that includes the game with the purchase of an eligible GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, 2080, 2070 or 2060 GPU graphics card, desktop PC or laptop.

It'll be interesting to see how Quake II performs leveraging the RT cores as we've seen different mod implementations in relatively old or simple titles such as Crysis and Minecraft that really add to the experience though they come at a hefty cost in performance.