When Valve released Portal in 2007, it was a revelation. Critics and gamers alike praised the first-person shooter/puzzler for its inventive gameplay, the deadpan wit of GLaDOS (the artificial intelligence that antagonizes you throughout your mission), and its unique approach to storytelling. But 2007 was a long time ago, and while the gameplay certainly holds up after 15 years, the visuals…not so much. That’s why it’s such good news that the game is getting a graphical overhaul — and if you bought Portal in the past, you can update the game for free.
Portal with RTX is a 2022 reimagining of Portal’s original graphics. It uses the NVIDIA RTX Remix tool, building upon similar upgrades to Quake II and Minecraft. NVIDIA RTX Remix revamps Portal with ray tracing, a computationally-intensive graphics technique in which the game sends light rays out into the 3D environment, and measures how those rays bounce off of objects towards light sources. Ray tracing produces detailed, dynamically-lit environments and performs excellently, at least on modern hardware.
Unlike the original graphics, light will bounce off of and interact with every surface in the game in the RTX version. All of the original flat surfaces have been replaced by more floors, walls, and ceilings with more realistic textures, including grooves and bumps, which help direct the light to give the graphics added depth and realism. You’ll even see light naturally travel through the titular portals, and bouncing back into your environment. Thanks to volumetric ray tracing, light interacts with fog more naturally as well.
But it’s not just ray tracing that makes Portal with RTX such an upgrade. NVIDIA also rebuilt textures and models from scratch. Everything from the portals, to the companion cube, to your portal gun look completely modern. You can see how stark the difference is by perusing the diagrams on the official announcement page. The difference is truly night and day, making the 15-year-old game feel like it could’ve dropped this year alongside titles like God of War Ragnarök and Elden Ring.
One of the modern appeals of classic Portal is that it will run on just about anything. You don’t need an expensive gaming PC to try out this inventive, game-changing puzzle-platformer. However, Portal with RTX isn’t nearly so forgiving. In fact, it’s quite demanding: To play the game at 1080p 30 FPS, NVIAIA’s minimum recommendations, the company suggests your system have an RTX 3060 with DLSS 2. To bump up to 60 FPS, NVIDIA recommends an RTX 3080 with DLSS 2. To play at 4K 60 FPS, NVIDIA lists an RTX 4080 with DLSS 3, plus 16GB of VRAM and 32GB of RAM. Oof.
Still, these are their recommendations. The update is still free to anyone who has purchased Portal on PC, so you might as well try it out on your particular setup. NVIDIA is officially launching the update via Steam on Thursday, Dec. 8, so you don’t need to wait long.All these years later, Portal is very much Still Alive.