Red Dead Redemption 2 on PC is exactly what you think it is

Rockstar Games

Just over a year after its release on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, Red Dead Redemption 2 will arrive on Windows PC. The PC version, which Rockstar Games developed itself, debuts Nov. 5 on a variety of digital storefronts — including the new Rockstar Launcher — although it will not be available on Steam until December.

After spending an hour playing the PC port earlier this week at Rockstar’s headquarters in New York City, I can report that it’s exactly what you probably expect: a gussied-up version of a game that already wowed everyone last year with its gorgeous rendition of the Old West. In fairness, Rockstar isn’t pitching it as anything more than that. But there is one entirely new feature that doesn’t exist on consoles — a proper photo mode, one that’s not limited by the player character’s turn-of-the-century camera.

As Rockstar announced in October, the PC version does include some new playable content, although it all seems like minor additions rather than anything significant. For instance, three of the four new weapons, and two of the new horses, are already available in Red Dead Online. And the new quote-unquote mission, which comes from a stranger in the world, amounts to an herbal collect-a-thon. In other words, if you already own Red Dead Redemption 2 on PS4 or Xbox One, you won’t be missing much if you decide not to double-dip on PC. (Unfortunately, you will indeed be missing it: Asked if Rockstar is planning to bring the PC port’s bonus content to the console versions, a spokesperson said the company has nothing to announce at this time.)

Really, the point of the PC version is to deliver the highest-fidelity version of Red Dead Redemption 2. And Rockstar certainly appears to have succeeded there.

In case you’re wondering about the origins of Red Dead Redemption 2’s PC port, a Rockstar representative confirmed that it was part of the company’s plans from the start. It’s possible that the one-year lag time between the console and PC releases came down to a business decision — what better game to kick off the Rockstar Launcher than one that has already sold more than 25 million copies? But another reason is Rockstar’s general process, under which the team that develops the original game then helps to port it to PC.

As someone who hit the 100-photo capacity of the in-game camera (or rather, the Rockstar Games Social Club) fairly early in Red Dead Redemption 2 on PS4, I’m thrilled that there’s an actual photo mode in the PC version. It’s accessible from the pause menu by pressing F6, and just like the photo modes in games such as Marvel’s Spider-Man, it allows you to freeze the action and tweak photographic settings until you’ve created the perfect image.

Options include a camera angle that’s tied to the player character, as well as a free-floating camera; it’s limited to a decent radius away from the protagonist, so you can’t just fly anywhere in the world. You can set the depth of field (called “blur strength” here) and the focus distance, and adjust or lock the exposure. Special effects allow you to alter the image with 19th-century filters, such as daguerreotype and tintype, as well as more modern treatments. And once you’ve saved a photo to your Social Club gallery — whether you took it in the photo mode or with the in-game camera — you can slap stickers and custom text on it.

I wasn’t able to fully explore the photo mode during my limited demo, but I did take the time to try it out on a number of occasions, and I was able to capture some arresting images with ease. If I pick up the PC version, I could easily see myself whiling away the hours in the photo mode. Because I’m weird like that.

A scene from the PC version of Red Dead Redemption 2.Rockstar Games
A scene from the PC version of Red Dead Redemption 2.Rockstar Games
A scene from the PC version of Red Dead Redemption 2.Rockstar Games
A scene from the PC version of Red Dead Redemption 2.Rockstar Games
A scene from the PC version of Red Dead Redemption 2.Rockstar Games
A scene from the PC version of Red Dead Redemption 2.Rockstar Games
A scene from the PC version of Red Dead Redemption 2.Rockstar Games
A scene from the PC version of Red Dead Redemption 2.Rockstar Games
A scene from the PC version of Red Dead Redemption 2.Rockstar Games
A scene from the PC version of Red Dead Redemption 2.Rockstar Games
A scene from the PC version of Red Dead Redemption 2.Rockstar Games
A scene from the PC version of Red Dead Redemption 2.Rockstar Games
A scene from the PC version of Red Dead Redemption 2.Rockstar Games
A scene from the PC version of Red Dead Redemption 2.Rockstar Games
A scene from the PC version of Red Dead Redemption 2.Rockstar Games
A scene from the PC version of Red Dead Redemption 2.Rockstar Games
A scene from the PC version of Red Dead Redemption 2.Rockstar Games

Everything in the game, both in action and in static scenes within the photo mode, looked absolutely incredible during my session. I played an early mission in Valentine, the first proper town you come across after the snowy prologue. After engaging in some mud wrestling with a much bigger opponent, I watched a cutscene in which Dutch arrives with an old associate of the gang. Arthur looked so detailed that I felt as if I could reach out and wipe away the mud caked on his face. Later, when I rode north of town, I saw clouds of powder floating around trees, blown off the branches by a breeze. And from high up in the mountains, I pulled out Arthur’s binoculars to gaze southward, where I could see a rail bridge many miles away — an indication of the PC port’s increased draw distance.

Rockstar’s demo rig was a beast, packing an Intel Core i9-9900K, 32 GB of RAM, and an Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti, with the game installed on a 1 TB SSD — enough to run it at a smooth 60 frames per second in 4K resolution. The port offers all kinds of graphics options for tinkerers, including separate level-of-detail settings for geometry and grass, but it also provides a top-level holistic slider between “quality” and “performance” if you don’t want to get into the weeds.

It’s worth noting that while Rockstar demoed the game on an RTX graphics card, the PC port does not include any real-time ray tracing effects — at least for now. Asked about the possibility of adding support in the future, a Rockstar representative sent over a statement indicating that it’s not out of the question.

“We chose to spend our time adapting, enhancing and optimizing existing solutions rather than implementing something new at this time,” said associate technical director Alex Hadjadj. “That said, it’s something we’re interested in and we’re continuing to explore all kinds of software and hardware graphical upgrade solutions.”

Rockstar Games

Of course, plenty of players will look to deliver those kinds of upgrades themselves through mods. Rockstar reaffirmed its stated policy on mods, which is that it has no problem with them as long as they’re non-commercial mods that are for single-player story modes and they don’t infringe on anyone else’s intellectual property.

As for Red Dead Redemption 2’s online component, Red Dead Online, it will go live on PC at launch. It won’t offer any cross-platform play, and everyone will have to start fresh — unlike with Grand Theft Auto 5’s Grand Theft Auto Online, there won’t be an option to transfer existing characters from the PS4 or Xbox One versions. On the plus side, the PC version of Red Dead Online will launch with everything that’s currently available on console, including the Frontier Pursuits, or roles, that debuted in September. And after the PC port is released, Red Dead Online will get the same updates across all three platforms simultaneously.

To Rockstar’s credit, the company says it worked to ensure that the PC version is playable on a wide range of hardware configurations. But for the people who already own Red Dead Redemption 2 on PS4 or Xbox One, the main draws for the PC port are likely mod support and the ability to run the game at 60 fps (or higher) with all the settings turned up. You’ll have to decide for yourself whether that’s enough to justify rebuying the game.

Comments

I still feel bad about the lack of a photo mode on console. I play RDO a lot and a photomode is something I feel missing all the time. I very much hope the new photo mode is coming to console!!

Day one Stadia buy!

I hope someone makes a nice VR mod. Some of these landscapes seem like they’d be really nice to walk around in.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PyFLOmEc22M Well, it’s really good to hear their support for Single Player mods. Here’s hoping Helix Snake makes just as many hilarious mods for RDR2 and he did for GTAV. I just wish I could install the game sans multiplayer, save a few dozen gigabytes of space and have less frequent humongous updates to worry about.

I don’t know that not installing Red Dead Online would save you a ton of space. After all it takes place in the same game world.

Wasn’t there an article just the other day about new equipment and stuff (with new models/textures) being added to Online only?

The game was not designed for HDR. Their SDR tone mapping is so good that it really does not need the HDR to make it "Better". But they did enhance it over the original release on console, so it will likely have the same HDR presets: Cinematic and Game. Cinematic Mode appears to still be the original HDR mode, while Game Mode allows you to adjust the peek brightness, thereby allowing you to control the peek brightness.

So if you want to play the game with a greater "pop", then use Game Mode and adjust the Peek Brightness to the actual capability (not the manufacturer’s stated capabilities) of your display. I generally recommend 400 for LCD and 1000 for OLED.

…Game Mode allows you to adjust the peek brightness, thereby allowing you to control the peek brightness.

It should say "allowing you to control the overall luminosity". The higher the peak brightness, the brighter the image can be, and the more noticeable contrast highlights will be. This is really the factor that sells most people on HDR, which is why a lot of people with HDR monitors really don’t see much of a difference with HDR material. HDR monitors, at least ones that are not HDR1000 certified, just lack the peak brightness to make contrast details truly stand out.

How well does it handle HDR? With my GTX1080, the only game that’s used it when advertised was destiny 2, and I didn’t have to do anything. Other games either never output HDR, or become really dim like it’s an HDR signal but it didn’t let my screen know. HDR on windows has been difficult at best. Surprised there was no mention of HDR in this given Windows’ shaky support for it.

I’m surprised HDR isn’t mentioned simply for the fact that there was a whole controversy over the console version’s being so bad.

I asked about HDR, but unfortunately, didn’t get a chance to try it — the monitor that Rockstar had hooked up to the PC wasn’t HDR-capable. Jury’s still out on that!

I’ll be happy to buy it again when my PS5 arrives.

I didn’t want it to look like I was quoting from, like, a Rockstar Newswire post. Plus, it’s a fun flourish. Sue me!

Nofunallowed.jpeg

Pre-loaded on the Rockstar Game Launcher. Only got halfway through it on PS4 before some other games grabbed my attention. I’ll be glad to revisit it with a nice stable 60 fps, and I’m very interested to check out the free online mode.

In case you’re wondering about the origins of Red Dead Redemption 2’s PC port, a Rockstar representative confirmed that it was part of the company’s plans from the start.

So why not announce this when they announced the other platforms? They just want people to buy this twice? Real friendly, Rockstar.

I’ve been taking my sweet time on the console version (I’m near the end) because I’ve enjoyed it like a really good book. Taking my time and in no rush for it to be over.
I’ll probably end up getting the PC version too, because my favorite part of that game was just being in the world they created. Having it look even better suits me just fine.

Great, now PC gamers can experience crushing tedium with the best graphics possible..

Well, PC gamers probably have a higher tolerance for crushing tedium than most

What if I think it’s a Tetris clone with some RTS elements poured in? Is it exactly this?

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