With the launch of Red Dead Redemption 2 on the PC, players can experience the epic story of Arthur Morgan and the Van der Linde gang as the outlaw era comes to a close. In addition to extra content, the PC release includes extended draw distances, enhanced lighting and shadows, and updated textures, which bring new life to the game compared to last year’s console release. The game also uses tessellation to bring more lifelike vibrance to animals, plants, and environments to further drive immersion.
However, all those features need a relatively powerful gaming rig to drive them at high settings. So, we put the game to the test – maximizing the game’s performance while pushing its graphical fidelity as high as it can go.
First, let’s run down Red Dead Redemption 2‘s PC requirements.
- OS: Windows 7 – Service Pack 1 (6.1.7601)
- Processor: Intel Core i5-2500K / AMD FX-6300
- Memory: 8GB
- Graphics Card: Nvidia GeForce GTX 770 2GB / AMD Radeon R9 280 3GB
- HDD Space: 150GB
- OS: Windows 10 – April 2018 Update (v1803)
- Processor: Intel Core i7-4770K / AMD Ryzen 5 1500X
- Memory: 12GB
- Graphics Card: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 6GB / AMD Radeon RX 480 4GB
- HDD Space: 150GB
- OS: Windows 10, 64-bit
- Processor: Intel Core i7 980 @ 3.33 GHz
- Memory: 24 GB
- Graphics Card: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070, 8 GB
How fast is Red Dead Redemption 2 on the draw?
Players can adjust different graphical features individually or use a slider to balance between beauty and performance. Red Dead Redemption 2 is set to “Balanced” by default, which pretty much sets the graphical quality to medium. At 1080p resolution and textures set to either High or Ultra, the medium setting is about the same look as the console version. The graphics are decent, but the fog and lighting quality are generally unimpressive for a PC game.
Using an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 or equivalent should get you between 50-60 frames per second (fps) at this setting. Our benchmark using an RTX 2070 averaged 69 fps, which gave me plenty of room to tinker with the detail settings.
Unsurprisingly, frame rates took a steep nosedive once I set the resolution to 1440p, then maxed anti-aliasing, particle quality, and reflection quality. The game looked fantastic, but my average fell to a dreadful 21 fps, so some concessions clearly had to be made. Keeping the maxed-out settings while switching to 1080p resolution brought performance up to 30 fps. Better, but not great.
Optimizing Red Dead Redemption 2 for PC
At the time of this writing, Red Dead Redemption 2 for the PC doesn’t support raytracing, so all the lighting effects are handled entirely by the Vulkan API or DirectX 12, which users can switch between. I tested both but didn’t find a significant difference between them in looks or performance, so I decided to go with DX12.
The settings that did make a difference were resolution, anti-aliasing, and “Unlocked Volumetric Raymarch Resolution.” That last one adjusts how realistic the clouds look, and turning it on can cut performance by almost 10 frames per second. By dialing or turning off some of the advanced features, while keeping the general graphics quality at Ultra, I was able to get a modest 40 fps at 1440p resolution.
I also discovered that Red Dead Redemption 2 supports resolution scaling, which forces the game to render at a specific resolution, then scales it to match a different one. In practice, that means I can have the game render at 1080p, but show at 1440p. Or, I could go the other way by having the game render at 4K and beyond, making the game sharper at lower resolutions.
However, Rockstar doesn’t do the math for you. The setting gives you the multiplier number to work from, such as 0.5, but doesn’t provide you with the virtual resolution number. Scaling 1440p by 0.5 brought my render resolution down to 720p, which made the graphics blurry and lost a ton of details. But on the bright side, I got 50 fps with all the settings maxed out. Scaling it by 0.75 (1080p) averaged about 44 fps, which was the ideal way for me to play the game.
To be fair, there are probably a number of features I wouldn’t miss if I turned them off. Chief among them are grass shadows, particle quality (how many snowflakes or floating embers there are), and multisampled anti-aliasing for reflections. There are also options for dialing down the quality of trees and fur, but I figured with a game that’s largely about exploring the wilderness, you should have some fantastic looking wilderness and animals.
For me, the most important features are the high-resolution textures, along with the near and far volumetric resolutions, which control the quality of clouds and fog. Tessellation quality is also a key feature, since it impacts environmental details such as snow, mud, and water.
A few graphical quirks
Even though many users have reported problems launching Red Dead Redemption 2 on the PC, I am not one of them yet. But I did experience some other problems.
Although I managed to get a decent frame rate out of Red Dead Redemption 2 on my PC, I did experience some strange graphical issues. There were times when, while playing the game or running the benchmark, the game stuttered without actually dropping any frames. It was as though a part of the animation was skipped or erased somehow. Additionally, there were rare instances of still objects, like corpses, suddenly shifting like they were part of a crooked film that was righting itself.
These quirks didn’t impact the overall performance of the game, but they were jarring and annoying enough to pull me out of the experience. Hopefully, it’s a minor issue that Rockstar can quickly address. Otherwise, Red Dead Redemption 2 looks amazing, making it – at least graphically – a worthy port to the PC.