Red Dead 2 on PC Looks Better Than Ever
When Rockstar revealed that Red Dead Redemption 2see dealRed Dead Redemption 2 (PS4)$59.99on Walmart would be launching on PC this November, a year after its initial launch on consoles, we all wondered if the update between versions would be as massive an overhaul as it was when GTA 5 made the platform leap in 2015. The answer is, perhaps unsurprisingly, no – but that doesn’t mean that this is the exact same version that we experienced on PS4 and Xbox One last year.
I recently got a chance to spend an hour or so with Arthur and Dutch and the rest of the Van der Linde gang’s first PC outing. While I may not have been as flabbergasted as I was when we originally saw Red Dead 2 for the very first time, it was nonetheless impressive to see how the PC update has made some subtle – but very important – tweaks to the already-gorgeous world of New Hanover, Lemoyne and the rest of the West.
The biggest technical upgrades are its uncapped framerates (the 60+ FPS was butter smooth in my hands-on time) and support for up to 8K resolution (along with HDR and multi-monitor setups), but there are visual improvements that will benefit the rest of us 1080-1440p shlubs, as well. Draw distances have been extended considerably, to the point where from a ridge overlooking Emerald Ranch, you can look south and see well into the Scarlett Meadows. Weather permitting, that is – though, even if it’s not, that’ll likely still be damn gorgeous to look at given the updates the development team has made to the world’s lighting systems.
“Upgrading Red Dead Redemption 2 for PC is much more than just a port,” says Alex Hadjadj, Technical Director at Rockstar North. “In much the same way as with Grand Theft Auto V PC, the team that built the original experience helped upgrade it for the PC at every level.”
I’m not going to pretend to be able to break down how the electronic sorcery Rockstar has used to update the already stunning lighting effects from the console version works. The end result, though, is that the world simply looks more natural. From the way fog causes an eerie glow to cover the sky when sun shines through it, or sweatier faces boast a more noticeable reflective sheen, leafy shadows flutter about the woods, or they way lamp and torchlight flickers in someone’s eyes, the already-vibrant world manages to pull you into it just that much further.
It’s not just the lighting that helps breathe more life into the world. Reflections on water, from puddles to lakes, has been enhanced, and object tessellation has been improved to make fur on animals, even individual spines on cacti out in the desert. “From a visual point of view,” Hadjadj says, “while Red Dead Redemption 2 is absolutely stunning, it’s great to be able to push some of those effects as far as we could – provided the hardware can accommodate – and see the game’s many effects truly shine on a high-end machine.”
And that’s my only real remaining question: how well will these features translate onto a PC like, say… mine? I don’t have a rig like the 9900K/2080Ti beast that I demoed it on – I’m still rocking a GTX 970 at home. That said, aside from the 150GB of hard drive space it claims to need, the recommended PC specifications are nowhere near that beefy, either – an i7 4770-K and a GTX 1060 are hardly the brawniest rig on the market these days, and it seems that the team has designed the PC version of RDR2 with a variety of systems in mind.
“From the beginning, we knew we wanted to give as many users as possible access to the graphical and technical enhancements and the faster frame rates,” explains Hadjadj. “So we took a practical approach – we optimized the performance for a wide range of PC configurations and added the ability for users to tune the game experience to make the most of their setup according to their preferences.”
Even if an older machine such as my own can’t run the absolute best-looking version of the game — though it certainly offers enough customizable settings to let me tweak it to run just right, from being able to control both near and far volumetric lighting quality to the reflection and refraction effects on water — I’m likely still going to spend some time with it. I definitely don’t know if I have another 70+ hours to spend roaming the hills of Ambarino or combing the deserts of New Austin, but there's a lot of new content coming to the PC version that I'm keen to check out (no official word yet on whether we’ll see it on consoles or not), plus the newly-announced Photo Mode was a lot of fun to experiment with – and I can’t wait to see what more talented in-game photographers than me do with its suite of tools.
Will you be playing Red Dead 2 on PC when it launches next week? For the first time, or for another round? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to check out our RDR2 wiki for all the new secrets and tips when it comes out!
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