Red Dead Redemption 2 Is A Worthy PC Port, For The Most Part

About a year after the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 launch of Red Dead Redemption 2, a proper port has landed on PC. Rockstar’s latest game was highly anticipated and subsequently critically acclaimed for its gripping story, expertly crafted open environments, and multitude of gameplay systems that connected you to the world itself. After much internal deliberation, we awarded it our 2018 Game of the Year. All that made Red Dead 2 a special experience remains intact, and after about 10 hours with it on PC, it’s apparent that the things unique to this version further support the notion of the game being one of the generation’s best.

Red Dead Redemption 2 As A Visual Experience

As with any PC port of a console hit, the potential for higher graphical fidelity is one of the biggest draws, given the appropriate PC hardware specs. You have a slew of options in the graphics settings, including resolution (native 4K and 1440p), ambient occlusion, three types of anti-aliasing, global illumination, and settings for the quality of textures, shadows, and lighting. You’re also allowed to tinker with the nitty gritty like grass shadows, tree quality, shadow distances, and much more. Although niche, Red Dead 2 has native ultrawide 21:9 support as well. However, cutscenes that use letterbox-style black bars still get cropped and don’t take advantage of the aspect ratio.

A significant part of the Red Dead 2 experience lies in it being a visual showcase; the scenic views and details found in the dense forestry, snow-covered mountains, open plains and sludgiest mud are all in service of drawing you into its vast world. Throughout the game, you build a relationship with the environment, especially when so much time is spent navigating it on horseback while taking in all the pretty vistas. Without a doubt, the game looks incredible with every option cranked up to its highest setting–even compromising to “High” or “Medium” as opposed to “Ultra” on a few settings still presents you with stunning sights. That said, visual prowess came through on Xbox One X and PS4 Pro consoles, which expertly conveyed the natural beauty of Red Dead 2’s world. There’s no doubt the game looks gorgeous on a powerful PC, but you shouldn’t expect it to be transformative compared to high-end consoles–in fact, the biggest difference comes with the unlocked framerate on PC.

Native ultrawide 21:9 support makes for some incredible screenshots.Native ultrawide 21:9 support makes for some incredible screenshots.Gallery image 1Gallery image 2Gallery image 3Gallery image 4Gallery image 5Gallery image 6Gallery image 7Gallery image 8Gallery image 9Gallery image 10

While console versions run around 30 fps, the PC version is only limited by the settings you use and your PC’s capability. My rig is equipped with an Intel Core i7-7700K CPU, Nvidia RTX 2080 video card, and 16GB of RAM, and with a mix of “Ultra” and “High” settings using 2560×1080 (21:9) and temporal anti-aliasing, I was usually able to maintain 60+ FPS. Occasionally it would dip below that golden number in chaotic firefights and more crowded areas, though not by much; Red Dead 2 is a demanding game. Of course, this isn’t a competitive shooter where high framerate is absolutely crucial to your success, but it certainly enhances the action. It naturally helps with manual aiming and keeping track of enemies in fights, and it’s easier on the eyes when everything happens in silky-smooth motion–having a high framerate makes for a much more pleasing experience overall. If you’re unsure of what settings to use, the game includes a benchmark tool that evaluates your machine’s performance to help ensure a steady framerate.

All these graphical options can also be put to use in the new Photo mode, which is not available on consoles. Here, time pauses to let you capture a moment from any angle possible. You can freely move the camera, change lens FOV, add filters, and change exposure and depth of field, and it’s a nice touch. For a game that places this much emphasis on graphical fidelity, it’s only natural to include this feature.

Controlling Arthur Morgan (And His Horses)

Red Dead 2 is one of those games that plays more sensibly on a gamepad than keyboard and mouse. And thankfully, the PC version has native controller support for both DualShock 4 and Xbox One controllers, with the same button mapping as their console counterparts at the ready. There’s a multitude of mechanics and contextual actions mapped to a controller, and it might take a few hours of fumbling around with the controls before it clicks.

Speaking of clicks, keyboard and mouse works well for the most part. Again, it’ll take time to get acquainted with how you interact with the world, but it’s nice to have customizable key mappings and a mouse cursor to navigate its systems. Granted, Red Dead 2 isn’t the type of game to tacitly require keyboard and mouse controls like a competitive FPS, though I find firefights a fair bit easier with the precision of mouse aiming.

There are specific instances where more needs to be done before fully embracing the PC control scheme, however. Shuffling through your inventory to highlight different items has to be done with the arrow keys; you can’t hover with the mouse to read details, and clicking initiates the act of using them. Movement can be clunky overall, but in the instance of dashing with your horse, pressing A (left) or D (right) causes your horse to slow down and turn 90 degrees rather than slightly adjust course. These are minor annoyances in the grand scheme of things.

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