Red Dead Redemption 2 (RDR2) is one of the most graphically impressive titles on PS4 and Xbox One. It’s also one of this generation’s best action games. A year after its console debut, Rockstar Games finally brings the smash-hit to PC. After initially suffering from numerous technical issues at launch, RDR2 now (mostly) runs as intended. As with its console counterparts, RDR2 is a must-own title and arguably the finest, most authentic open-world epic released by Rockstar Games.
RDR2 is a prequel to Red Dead Redemption. Like that title, RDR2 is a story about the death of the Old West. You take control of Arthur Morgan, a man who belongs to an outlaw group called the Vanderlinde Gang. Having spent most of his life in the gang, Arthur has become disillusioned by the outlaw lifestyle. Still, Arthur can’t see himself doing anything other than stealing and killing.
While each member of the Vanderlinde Gang is fully realized, Morgan is easily the most human character to ever appear in a Rockstar title. You’ll become invested in this morally gray man, sharing in his triumphs and tragedies.
Once Upon a Time in the West
You undertake numerous main story missions that can collectively take upwards of 60 hours to complete. That’s before the epilogue, which can extend the narrative by another 10-15 hours. The missions involve robbing a moving train, soothing a runaway horse, engaging in intense firefights, or getting drunk with companions. Main missions are thoroughly entertaining and always unique.
The map teems with side quests that are every bit as engaging as the main missions. Some appear in fixed locations, while others happen randomly. Random side quests almost always occur along roads. These quests are as varied as main quests, and involve tasks like stopping kidnappers or helping a man suffering from a snakebite. The side quests are worth checking out, as they sometimes offer more thrills than the main missions.
Aside from the two aforementioned mission types, you can partake in many types of extracurricular activities. You can fish, hunt rare animals, play blackjack, drink, and more. These activities are a great way to obtain cash and augment Arthur’s natural traits, such as his endurance and stamina. Money is especially important for ensuring you always have a healthy stock of bullets, medicines, and other provisions on your person. All missions and activities, whether exciting or mundane, pull you deeper into Rockstar’s incredibly detailed take on the Old West mythos.
The Wild, Wild West
When you aren’t shooting foes or wrangling horses, RDR2 can be a serene, tranquil experience. Civilization is sparse, so you’ll spend long stretches of time alone in the wilderness. That said, gunfights can happen at any moment. RDR2’s shooting and cover mechanics function identically to Grand Theft Auto IV and Grand Theft Auto V. You take cover behind both natural and manmade objects and pop opponents from (relative) safety. Weapons automatically lock onto enemies, so it’s easy to get headshots by moving the aiming reticule slightly above a target’s chest. In addition to using .45 caliber pistols and rifles, you can dispatch foes by hurling dynamite and Molotov cocktails.
The lock-on mechanic works great most of the time, so it’s easy to blast entire waves of enemies with little effort. However, the same isn’t true when you’re on horseback. The moving, shifting terrain makes getting a clear shot tricky. While you can enter options and disable auto-lock, it’s clear the game was designed with lock-on in mind. Free-aiming feels too loose and imprecise.
Red Dead Redemption 2’s animations are smooth and realistic. Unfortunately, that realism can sometimes affect gameplay. Arthur feels “heavy” thanks to his slow, deliberate animations. It is next to impossible to cancel an action and jump to another. If Arthur is opening a drawer, you’ll have to wait for him to finish the animation cycle before being able to move him. As a result, you cannot kill enemies in quick succession unless you use the time-slowing Dead Eye ability that helps you line up shots. Dead Eye is fueled by a replenishing meter, so you can’t simply spam the bullet time-like move to victory.
The Big Country
Besides improved graphics, one of the biggest PC perks is that Red Dead Online (RDO) is available from the jump. RDO’s story involves a widow who breaks your player-created character out of jail so that s/he can kill her husband’s murderers. This story serves as an introduction to RDO, but if you’ve already gone through the single-player campaign you’ll be adequate prepared for RDO.
Red Dead Online uses the same open world of the single-player game. As such, you partake in many of the same activities. The big draw is that one can do so with others. There are many modes tailored for competitive players, such as RDO’s versions of free-for-all and team deathmatch. Cooperative missions are mini-stories tailored for a group of four. Free Roam lets you do whatever you want, whether that’s drinking in a bar, robbing banks, or picking rare herbs in the woods. Just be aware that other players can and will shoot you on sight. If you enjoyed the chaos of Grand Theft Auto Online, you’ll be at home in Red Dead Online.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Red Dead Redemption 2 is a graphically impressive game on consoles and the PC edition is similarly taxing. Make sure your system meets the recommended specs. The game’s rendition of the Old West looks spectacular thanks to impressive draw distances, higher-quality global illumination, ambient occlusion, and higher resolutions. The newly added photo mode lets you capture RDR2’s beauty.
To play RDR2, you need a gaming desktop or gaming laptop that has at least an AMD FX-6300 or Intel Core i5-2500K CPU, AMD Radeon R9 280 or Nvidia GeForce GTX 770 GPU, 8GB of RAM, 150GB of storage, and the Windows 7 operating system (with Service Pack 1).
When RDR2 first launched on PC, many people had problems running it at max settings. Even those who own the $1200 Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti graphics card couldn’t get the most out of the game. Rockstar Games has since alleviated some of these issues via software updates, but even my rig, which features an Intel i7 4790 CPU and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 GPU, cannot properly run RDR2 on the Ultra setting. On my PC, RDR2 runs at a frame rate that fluctuates between 45-55 frames per second when in the open world and 50-60 frame per second indoors (at 1080p resolution). I’m not sure if this is an optimization issue or if RDR2 is the new Crysis. This is the only PC game I own that I cannot fully max out without the graphics negatively affecting gameplay.
RDR2 has a slew of settings. You can set the resolution for different monitor types (widescreen, ultrawide, and doublewide), customize keymapping, and disable the HUD. There are more than 40 individual graphics quality settings, including texture quality, anisotropic filtering, global illumination quality, shadow quality, and reflection quality. Considering the amount of different graphics options, you have room to experiment and figure out the settings that work best for your particular rig.
Though not without some performance issues, Red Dead Redemption 2 amazes on PC. Its incredible story, beautiful graphics, multitude of optional quests, and ever-updated online mode may keep you hooked for years. RDR2 wonderfully simulates the Old West’s mythology, making it one of the best action games you’ll find on PC. That said, few gamers will be able to appreciate it on max settings, and its lovingly animated characters can sometimes weigh down gameplay.
Bottom Line: Red Dead Redemption 2 impresses on PC with exciting action and stunning, photo-realistic graphics. As with its console counterparts, this is one of the must-own games of the generation.