Red Dead Redemption 2 launches on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One this week, but players actually have four choices when it comes to playing the game. Red Dead Redemption 2 provides a very different visual experience, depending on whether you play on a PlayStation 4, PlayStation 4 Pro, Xbox One or Xbox One X.
You can watch the full visual breakdown of all of these options in the excellent Digital Foundry video at the top of this post, and we’ll detail some of those findings below. This is a game in which console selection matters, especially if you have a 4K display.
Resolution and performance
The base Xbox One renders the game at a 864p resolution, which is by far the lowest of all four options. The PlayStation 4 version runs at a native 1080p; the PlayStation 4 Pro renders the game at 1920x2160, and then upscales it to 4K via what is likely checkerboard rendering, leading to a “softer” image.
But the Xbox One X is able to run Red Dead Redemption 2 at native 4K resolution, leading to the sharpest, highest-quality visuals of all four versions.
That’s not surprising — the Xbox One X is the most powerful and most expensive console currently on the market — but the difference in clarity is striking, even when viewed on YouTube. You either get the lowest-resolution choice or the highest, depending on which Xbox One console you currently own.
“The resolution scaling between Xbox One and X is unprecedented,” Digital Foundry’s John Linneman wrote. “The enhanced console is designed to quadruple the base machine’s pixel-pushing output, but instead, Red Dead Redemption 2 is delivering a 6.2x boost to resolution, with further improvements on top of that.”
Playing the game on an Xbox One X connected to a high-quality 4K display is a stunning experience, and one that can’t really be replicated by any other game or console available right now. If you want a showpiece for your home theater, the Xbox One X is it. No wonder that GameStop and other retailers are offering $100 off the price of an Xbox One X if you buy Red Dead Redemption 2 through Nov. 3. This is a game that is likely to sell systems.
In terms of performance, all four options run the game well and stay at around 30 frames per second, but the Xbox One X is able to deliver the most stable frame rate while providing the sharpest image at the highest resolution. It’s a striking difference, and it makes the “winner” of this contest pretty easy to call.
It’s not all bad news if you don’t have an Xbox One X
Digital Foundry’s analysis of the game’s performance shows that resolution is the biggest difference between the options. Each console runs the game well enough to otherwise provide an enjoyable experience.
That being said, the standard Xbox One version should be the option of last resort, as it renders the game at the lowest resolution of all four systems. That doesn’t make it a bad choice, just the worst on this relative scale.
But if you can, play the game in 4K, with an Xbox One X. You’ll get the best-looking and -performing version of the game possible at launch.
Red Dead Redemption 2 benefits from having as much power as a console can throw at it, so I’d love to see what a wildly powerful gaming PC would be able to do with the game. Let’s hope that happens sooner than later — if at all.
For now, however, Xbox One X owners have reason to celebrate. They’re getting the best version of what is likely to be one of the biggest games of the year.