Nvidia has announced (opens in new tab) that Portal RTX will be available for free on December 8 this year on Steam (opens in new tab). This is a free DLC for anyone with a compatible graphics card who owns the original physics puzzle game, released way back in 2007. Portal RTX makes use of ray-tracing and Nvidia DLSS 3 (opens in new tab) to bring the game’s visuals up to date.
Following in the big metal footsteps of Quake 2’s RTX update, which is also free on Steam, Portal RTX has been developed by Nvidia’s Lightspeed Studios as a ‘reimagining’ of the short puzzle game that originally shipped with Half-Life 2 as part of the Orange Box bundle. The new version uses ray-tracing for global illumination, volumetric scattering, and shadows, and the textures and models have been remade at higher resolutions than the original.
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In the game, you play as Chell, a test subject trapped in the Aperture Science Enrichment Center, issued with a portal gun that creates portals linked by a wormhole through which you, and other objects, can pass. It’s a spiritual successor to Narbacular Drop, a game created by a team of students who were hired by Valve Software, and Portal holds a nebulous place in the Half-Life universe thanks to its reuse of Half-Life 2 art assets to create its austere test chambers.
A computer AI, GlaDOS, guides the player through the maze of chambers, offering a cake as a reward, but it soon becomes clear that not everything is precisely as it seems. It’s a short but sweet game, which won Game of the Year and Best Game Design awards at the 2008 Game Developers Choice Awards, and the concept was fleshed out in 2011’s Portal 2, which also added co-op multiplayer. A film adaptation is said to have languished in development hell since 2013, with a script written but little other progress made.
“Updating much-loved games requires a balance of applying new, bleeding-edge techniques, while staying true to the original spirit of the game. The experience Nvidia’s Lightspeed Studios gained working on RTX versions of renowned games such as Minecraft and Quake II gave Valve the confidence to entrust us to bring modern graphics techniques to their legendary game, and Nvidia RTX Remix gave us the perfect tool to complete the task,” said John Spitzer, head of Lightspeed Studios.
The upgraded game is compatible with all ray-tracing graphics cards (opens in new tab). Nvidia recommends its own RTX 30-series for playable framerates using DLSS 2, while 40-series owners benefit from DLSS 3 (opens in new tab) and its Frame Generation technology. It’s not yet known how the game plays on AMD or Intel (opens in new tab) GPUs, but the fact that RTX 20-series GPUs aren’t mentioned suggests the processing cost will be rather high. The system requirements on the game’s Steam page only mention that your GPU needs to support Vulkan or DirectX 12, and ray-tracing under those APIs. Given the Windows 10/11 requirement, we suspect the game will not be Steam Deck compatible.
If you somehow missed the original, or if it’s simply been 15 years since you last played the game, this should be a perfect time to revisit the world of Aperture Science — cake memes and all.