Red Dead Redemption 2 released just over a month ago on PC, and I’ve slowly made my way back through the tale of the death of the Old West. It’s the same great game we gave a perfect score when it released on consoles last year, and time has done nothing to sour the amazing journey Rockstar created. In fact, if you can throw the extra power at it, RDR2 looks and plays better than ever on PC.
Unfortunately for many fans, the RDR2 PC port had a rocky launch. Many players complained of issues with the Rockstar Games Launcher, while others had technical issues that prevented them from enjoying the game. A month later, updates to both the game and the launcher seem to have eliminated many of these problems. Oddly, I only had one minor issue during my entire time reviewing the game.
Since I already wrote an extensive review on Red Dead Redemption 2 when it launched last year, I will focus on the technical aspects of the PC port here. Besides the addition of a few new side missions and a couple of Red Dead Online weapons to single-player, this is the same game that released on Xbox One and PS4.
Review PC Specs
|CPU:||AMD Ryzen 7 3800X|
|Motherboard:||ASUS ROG Strix X570-E Gaming ATX Motherboard|
|RAM:||32GB G.Skill Trident Z Neo Series DDR4 3600MHz|
|GPU:||NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition|
|Install Drive:||Sabrent 1TB Rocket PCIe 4.0 M.2 SSD|
Red Dead Redemption 2 PC Review | Graphics and Framerate
The biggest addition that RDR2 on PC brings is a massive array of graphical options and improvements. Console versions of the game were capped at 30 FPS, and increased framerate is the most obvious advantage the PC version holds. While the game was beautiful on console, the higher framerate does a lot for playability.
On my review PC I held a relatively stable 4K 60 FPS on an LG B8 OLED TV with almost everything except the shadows and water reflections maxed out. I saw some dips in areas like the swamps of Lemoyne where there a ton of trees and water being rendered simultaneously and in Saint Denis where there’s a lot of NPCS on-screen simultaneously. However, I was impressed by how well the game performed given that even the RTX 2080 Ti has some issues pushing 4K/60 FPS consistently in many titles.
One of the biggest issues I believe people will have with RDR2 on PC, is that the settings harken back to the olden days of PC. Many ports give you a couple of handfuls of graphics options, most of which change little, and that’s it. RDR2 on the other hand, gives you around 50 different graphics settings you can tweak. This means if you want to get the best performance/quality ratio for your PC specs, you must spend the first hour after you’ve installed the game messing with the graphics options.
Unfortunately, besides a running total of how much VRAM the current settings use, there’s not a lot of info to help you tune the game. It would be nice to get some tool tips to help figure out which settings have the most impact on performance. This is especially confusing when it comes to the choice of graphics APIs. RDR2 can use either DirectX 12 or Vulkan, and neither is the obvious choice. Some users report Vulkan giving them higher framerates, while DirectX 12 was the API that worked best for me.
I feel like players who aren’t used to such fine tuning may discount RDR2 as being poorly optimized for PC. I don’t think that’s the case at all. Instead, the issue is there’s little direction on which settings are most intensive, so people are likely concentrating on VRAM or textures, when really the issue they’re probably having is shadow draw distance or water reflections.
Red Dead Redemption 2 PC Review | Controls
Once I took the time to tune RDR2 to my hardware, the game was wonderful. RDR2 pushed the Xbox One and PS4 to the limit, and it was great to play the game on a platform that has the power to drive it further. Everything in the game feels a little bit more responsive at 60 FPS, and the smoother motion makes gunfights and movement seem easier and more natural.
The mouse and keyboard controls are a bit of a mixed bag for me, but many people will love the expanded binding options. You can set many interactions to their own key, which lets you skip some of the more awkward shortcuts required on a controller. You can set a key just to pet your horse, for example, whereas on console you have to hold L2/LT and then tap a button.
The biggest advantage to mouse and keyboard is aiming. My Arthur on console was a pretty good shot, but he had his fair share of firing wild. On PC, though, Arthur is the best shot in the West, and possibly the rest of the world. With a mouse even the basic Cattleman Revolver becomes incredibly accurate, to the point where the game felt a little too easy at times. However, you still get enough enemies thrown at you to where taking cover is essential, and the more accurate controls don’t completely break the balance of the game.
Despite the advantages of mouse and keyboard, I still ended up playing through most of the game with a controller. Even though the PC version does a good job of hiding it, it’s obvious movement in the game was designed with analog controls in mind. Moving around indoors can be frustrating at times with keyboard in mouse. Plus, I’m a bit biased since I played through the game on console already. I’m used to playing the game with a controller, and that’s what I prefer. However, despite the non-analog movement when using a keyboard, it doesn’t cause any issues big enough to prevent you from enjoying the game.
Red Dead Redemption 2 PC Review | Is it Red Dead worth it?
Red Dead Redemption 2 on PC is an even better experience than it was on consoles. Now that Rockstar has ironed out the launch issues, PC is the premiere platform for the game. The framerate increase alone is an amazing improvement, and as long as you have the horsepower, the game is even more stunning than it was when it released a year ago on PS4 and Xbox One.
My biggest warning to anyone considering purchasing RDR2 on PC is that you need to have patience when you set it up. Take the time to go through each graphics option, compare your performance on Vulkan vs. DirectX 12, and tailor the game to your specs. Once you have the game tuned, there’s no better way to experience it than on PC.