Red Dead Redemption 2 PC Review: How the West Was Truly Won
Red Dead Redemption 2 has finally made its way to PC, opening a new frontier to players that patiently awaited the better of two wagon trains.
In many ways, Red Dead Redemption 2 is an astounding technical achievement. The quality of the game's graphics and animation, as well as the high-level of voice acting displayed throughout, make RDR2 truly feel like a top-tier AAA title. Its story, writing, and design are all deliberate and nuanced. The whole game feels like an event and spectacle, but it never sacrifices gameplay or vision to achieve such lofty heights.
This review will look at what separates the PC version of RDR2 from its console brethren. If you would like a more traditional review of RDR2's story and gameplay, we covered those elements in our original review of the console version. And all of those sentiments still stand as true.
So, should you get back in the saddle for another go around — or saddle up for your first ride into the sunset? In a phrase: Ride on, cowboy. Let's head out and see why.
Red Dead Redemption 2 PC Review — Howdy, Partner
Before we jump into the meat of this Red Dead 2 review, we need to address the Clydesdale in the room: Red Dead Redemption 2's PC launch did not go as smoothly as Rockstar had hoped. It's a resource-heavy game, and the newness of Rockstar's game launcher may have contributed to some of the launch woes, but there were reports of crashes, freezing, and overall low performance from many different outlets.
Luckily, that seems to have all been smoothed out.
As of the latest patches, these reports have mostly been answered. My PC, a pretty solid gaming rig starting to see a bit of age, experienced some issues in the first few days after launch but has had no technical hiccups running RDR2 since the first major fixes came in.
Essentially, if you were hesitant to saddle up because of the technical side of things, it seems that Rockstar has pretty much patched those issues and gotten Red Dead Redemption 2 running as smooth as butter on PC.
A Majestic View
Red Dead Redemption 2 has always looked amazing, but this is a game built to maximize high-end gaming PCs. Though, that doesn't mean you need a high-end rig to make RDR 2 look good.
I have an Nvidia GTX 980 and an Intel i7-4790K, and RDR2 runs fairly consistently at 1080p, and 50 to 60fps. With my setup, the frames per second did occasionally dip to 30fps when action overtook the screen or when entering a town, for example, but I'm also not a pinky-out PC gamer, so I barely noticed these hitches in my time with it.
Everything about Red Dead Redemption 2 on PC looks beautiful, and the enhanced graphical adjustments available in the menus let you tinker with the game's granular settings until you've got something absolutely mesmerizing. It's tough to argue with a game that lets you max it out on high-end machines and still maintaining performance on older PCs.
Old Dog, New Tricks
Besides looking good, what else does Red Dead Redemption 2 on PC offer? In terms of content, not much. There is new content to be had, and Rockstar has said that the new content on the PC version content will stay exclusive to the PC. However, it's nothing to go crazy about.
There are a few bounty hunter missions, trinkets, horses, and weapons that aren't available on console. There are a couple of new gang hideouts and treasure maps, and one (incredibly disappointing) "go gather herbs!" mission. It's certainly nice that there's new content here, but you aren't missing anything special over the console version.
Otherwise, the PC version has the whole suite ready to roll, including Red Dead Online, which is a much better place to play than GTA Online. That's mainly because its more deliberate style allows for more realistic interaction. It feels similar to what Westworld purports to be: a "real world" cowboy theme park.
You can hop into Red Dead Online and just stroll about town. You can take part in debauchery around you — steal a horse, fire your pistol into the air, start a general ruckus — or you can just sip whiskey and play cards. It's like a little slice of wonderful western life, feature-built for the PC.
There are a few other bits that make the PC version of Red Dead Redemption 2 a winner, and they feed into one another directly.
Fight me if you must, but RDR2 is better with a mouse and keyboard. Looking with the mouse helps ease the sluggishness of the console version. This is a game that's designed with deliberate pacing, and that filters down to the character movement. A game this pretty should be make looking around as seamless as plucking a wild herb, and both the speed and ease of using a mouse to do so stands as a huge positive for the PC version.
The second big win for the game's PC version is a direct tie to this first one: first-person view. Because of that aforementioned sluggishness, first-person view was essentially unusable in the console version. With a keyboard and mouse, first-person view is a revelation of great magnitude. In no small way does it provide a whole new way to play Red Dead Redemption 2, and it helps to show off those upgraded visuals, too.
For someone who's already played Red Dead 2 and is on the fence about the PC version, this is the biggest selling point. There's very little out there that can compare to RDR2's first-person mode. It's an entirely new way to look at the world, and I found myself using first-person mode more often than not once I became used to the PC controls.
Lastly, the PC version of the game allows for modding. If it's your bag, there are already plenty of good mods out there for RDR2. If you love messing with your games, that's a strong sell for the PC version as well.
Red Dead Redemption 2 PC Review — The Bottom Line
- Amazing on a technical level
- Thoughtful and realistic writing
- PC exclusive content
- Mouse and keyboard open up the game
- Mods could extend the life of the game several times over
- Early technical issues (that seem to be resolved at this point)
- Not dramatically different than console counterpart
If you've never played Red Dead Redemption 2, the PC version is the way to go. The extra options and content are nice, but it's the graphical upgrades and the ability to swap in a mouse and keyboard that really put it over the top. RDR2 is one of the best open-world games ever made, and definitely a defining game of this decade.
Things get a bit trickier if you've already played through the game on Xbox One or PlayStation 4. You won't see anything completely new and mindblowing (at least until you start modding things). It's just different enough to recommend, but it certainly isn't something you're missing out on if you decide to stick with the console version.
[Note: A copy of Red Dead Redemption 2 was provided by Rockstar for the purposes of this review.]