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Red Dead Redemption 2 PC Review | RDR2 PC Is Mostly Good, Some Bad, Never Ugly

Hello and welcome to Rock Paper Shotgun for
another game with all three of those things. Yes, Red Dead Redemption 2 on PC has rocks
– loads of ‘em – paper – not very exciting – and shotguns. Boy does it have shotguns. Messy, limb-shredding shotguns. Shotguns that evaporate heads. Shotguns you can caress and clean. Anyway, enough of that. What Red Dead Redemption 2 also has on PC,
which it didn’t have before. Is horrible launcher problems. Here’s an artist’s interpretation of trying
to get the Rockstar Launcher to work… Thankfully we made it past that and can offer
some thoughts. It’s quite hard doing a Red Dead Redemption
2 PC review a year after the game is out – many people have played it and the internet has
scalped it of every secret. Still, this review is going to tackle it as
a wider game, but if you want to skip to PC improvements, I’ve added some times in the
description to jump to that chat. Though I’d love it if you watched the whole
thing. We’ve also partnered with Displate who make
fancy metal posters – there’s a link to our poster store in the description – everything
from Cyberpunk to Red Dead Redemption itself – and if you do buy anything, a bit of that
money comes back to the channel. I promise not to spend it all on these expensive
tinned peas. Mmmm. If you do enjoy this video, please give it
a like and subscribe to Rock Paper Shotgun, because it gives me a warm feeling inside. Not unlike Arthur Morgan here… okay, maybe
not that hot. Right, onwards. As I’ll go onto explain, I am pleasantly
surprised by how much a lick of PC paint can re-imbue the well trodden ground of Red Dead
Redemption 2 with a refreshed sense of wonder. Full disclosure, I arrived at the PC version
with 80 hours of Xbox One X grit in my boots – I’ve played every quest, executed a Planet
Zoo’s worth of legendary animals and eaten an ungodly amount of tinned peaches. The latter has no bearing on the completion
rate, but I love to remind myself that someone had to motion capture themselves gobbling
a can of Del Monte. I did draw the line at the needle-in-a-haystack
drudgery of hunting for Native American dreamcatchers in a virtual wilderness as big as any I’ve
explored. I hope you’ll forgive me that. The year is 1899. Which is 26 years after Rock Paper Shotgun
was first founded. Good times for us, less so for Arthur Morgan
and the fellow members of Dutch van der Linde’s gang. For them, things are less peachy. Well, technically, they’re quite peachy
– as mentioned already, tinned fruit is easy to pillage from the cupboards of turn of the
century America. Honestly, Red Dead’s obsession with interactive
furniture makes it feel like Shenmue in a Stetson. A job gone wrong has driven the group into
exile and they hungrily dream of the one big take that would put all these troubles behind
them. So begins a whole lot of riding to a dot on
the map and shooting everything there. But what rides! And what dots! And what shooting! I often feel like Rockstar’s designers use
mission travel to show off their favourite routes: paths that creep you down thin canyons
and slap you in the face with a vista at the end, or landscapes that look amazing with
a posse riding in formation. Start layering on weather and even simple
A-to-B chat becomes a technical showcase, with characters raising their voices as blizzards
separate them, or hushing banter as they make a stealthy approach. And for once, missions know when to shut up,
too, with longer rides across the map cut mercifully short with cinematic interludes. Missions themselves see Rockstar continue
their habit of building vast playgrounds and then temporarily penning you in with stern
objectives in the name of cinematic storytelling. There’s no room for improvisation in this
parade of bank robberies, assassinations, jailbreaks and double crosses. It’s not a criticism, as such; while the
shadowy hand of the director is always there guiding you, there’s at least a clarity
to objectives that you didn’t always get in their previous games. And the benefit of maintaining that directorial
grip is that they can orchestrate action of an intensity rarely seen in open worlds. The result is a lot more missions that match
the drama of GTAV’s amazing heists: beautifully paced setpieces that thrum with nervous energy
as you saunter past oblivious NPCs, and then explode with violence and chaotic getaways. There’s an especially good stint in Saint
Denis, which is New Orleans by another name, and the map’s most populated city. Here the tight streets and busy population
completely changes the energy of the tasks. Graduating from podunk towns and plantations
to a place with this many witnesses, and more limited avenues of escape, helps gives this
substantial act a distinct flavour, which is something Rockstar have struggled to conjure
in the past in their stories. And when it does all go wrong, out come those
marvelous weapons. I’m no gun nut, but I love the way Red Dead
Redemption 2’s arsenal balances the severe and the sluggish: hefty and powerful in the
way lead thumps enemies to the ground, but with slow mechanical parts that demand deliberation. They’re weapons that ask you to hold your
nerve as you line up a shot, and in doing so turn you into Lee Van Cleef in For A Few
Dollars More – methodically unbuckling his rifle from his horse as his doomed target
gallops off in the distance. Arthur also unpacks his on-foot loadout from
his horse, which, while cumbersome, shows off some near-pornographic holstering animations. Fundamentally it’s combat that makes a role-player
of me: the show-off who favours a revolver over something heavy duty, just because it’s
cooler. And as much as Red Dead’s story wrings its
hands about the toil violence takes on a person’s soul, it’s also a game that delights in
heads exploding like watermelons. I’m not going to lie: a lot of this still
speaks to my inner 13-year-old. There’s some staggering gore modelling. We’re talking bullet holes accurately mapped
to bodies, spurting red stuff like a squeezed ketchup bottle. It’s gnarly! But it also has the slapstick unpredictability
of the Euphoria engine, which powers uber-ragdolls that tumble down stairs, or get knocked from
the saddle and, foot hooked in the stirrup, are dragged off by their bolting steed. Red Dead Redemption 2 is never a hard game,
but even the times you do bite the bullet, the spontaneity of the gunfights makes them
easy to replay. As much as I love the cause-and-effect of
Red Dead Redemption 2’s combat, I fully acknowledge the limitations that turn others
off. There’s really no escalation to gunplay. From start to finish there’s one enemy type,
human (and the odd bear), and each is killed with a shot to the head. This in turn leads to a dependence on slow
motion ‘dead eye’; letting you drag combat to a crawl and calmly put six rounds in six
skulls. Factor in the generosity with which the game
hands over items that replenish dead eye, and there’s rarely a moment you don’t
have that crutch. As fights get bigger, it’s very easy to
fall into a cycle of slow-mo, shoot, chew tobacco, slow-mo, shoot, chew tobacco; and
yes, in this light, gunfights can bleed together. It’s definitely more evident if you mainline
the story, where the majority of the combat resides. It’s in combat that you feel one of the
clearer benefits of Red Dead 2’s trip to PC. Mouse aiming is an obvious boon to any sharpshooter
– aim assist does a lot of heavy lifting with default controller settings – and is especially
nice in dead eye, where you ‘paint’ targets onto slow-mo body parts before rattling out
shots in real-time. The flipside to this is that it takes longer
to learn the key bindings. Red Dead 2 is already a mess of context sensitive
actions on controller – putting ‘talk’ and ‘aim gun’ on the same trigger was
a… bold move – and the spread of keys takes even more getting used to. Oh, and definitely switch the horse camera
to ‘horse relative’, to free its directional steering from your mouse aim – a recipe for
a crumpled horseflesh disaster if ever there was one. The bigger PC revelation is the improvement
to first-person perspective, which, thanks to the mouse and a slicker frame rate, now
handles like a viable FPS. On console you almost had to drag your in-head
view around the screen, such was the sludginess of Arthur’s turning circle. It felt like playing through a GoPro attached
to a third-person avatar. Some of that disconnect between body and eyes
still exists – when climbing rocks or riding a horse I feel like a baby being heaved around
by a parent – but for on-foot exploration and gunfights it’s an amazing showcase for
PC’s improved textures and Rockstar’s ludicrous attention to detail. I still think the grandeur of the landscape
is better appreciated in third-person, but I’ve spent way more of my replay in first
person than I expected to. The individual strengths of first- and third-person
cameras speak to the specific magic of Red Dead Redemption 2’s visuals; few games impress
like this does on both a micro and macro level. In your immediate vicinity you have a world
teeming with life: the density and diversity of flora and fauna and the reactive surfaces
– shoot someone in mud and the way the body sinks into the goop is extraordinary. And that’s before you get to the minute
detail of period set dressing. Christ, that you can go into a shop and freely
manhandle individual items on the shelves makes it more interactive than some shops
I’ve been to in real life – and reinforces my ‘Shenmue in a Stetson’ take. But take a step back and you’re in the landscape,
that pristine, untouched wilderness, basking in sunlight, whipped by storms and vanishing
into the most realistic fog ever committed to pixels. Of course, this was true of the console version,
too. What PC brings to the mix is a sense of completeness,
filling in what few gaps did exist – or ones I didn’t realise existed until now. Much of it is draw distance: the sense that
the grass blankets the world, rather than being magicked under your feet, or the sight
of bushes and cacti dotting the horizon, giving clifftop vistas even more majesty. To be honest, no one visual setting jumps
out as game-changing effect, although I did have to dial down volumetric lighting and
MSAA to get the game to a stable 60 frames at 1440p on an RTX 2080. But even with those on, we’re talking granular
improvements over what was already a stunning showcase (at least on Xbox One X, where I
played it). Far more important is that jump in frame rate,
more than justifying what settings have to be sacrificed to reach it. I’ve linked to the site’s tech analysis
in the description, but to my eyes the game still dazzles at a mix of medium and high
settings, so don’t feel put out if ultra settings are beyond your card. At 60 frames, Red Dead Redemption 2 just feels
more alive, capturing the breezy sway of nature, or the play of the light as it cracks through
treetops. Does it reinvent the game for those who’ve
played it before? Probably not. But it lets you revel in the fidelity of the
world Rockstar built, from cutscenes where entire character histories are caught in a
facial expression, right down to the lowliest NPC farmer performing more bespoke animations
than you get in standalone farming games. I’m amazed at how taken I am with it second
time around. Also, a quick shout out for PC’s photo mode,
which is basically an invitation to freeze the game and gawp at the insane level of detail
in every shot – I particularly like the Matrix bullet time of stopping the rain, or using
the camera to spot things you’d never seen before – like the fact that every bullet is
accurately represented in the revolver’s chamber – the pictures people are sharing
with this in Reddit are simply unreal. And this kind of world-watching is important
as, for me, this is the more interesting part of the game. RDR2 is a game of two distinct halves: the
cinematic story you have little control over, and the sandbox where you rob trains and then
spend your haul on hot baths and nice hats, because you’re a gentleman thief, damn it. The two sides are constantly butting heads. You have a story of spiralling despair and
tension that works hard to sell you on your increasingly dire situation, but has to contend
with the fact that you can piss off and go herb collecting for five hours. This is more keenly felt in the final third,
where Arthur’s character arc takes an urgent new direction, but the game still has to accommodate
my desire to catch a legendary trout. None of this ruins it, but it’s definitely
a game at odds with itself. Saying that, for me it does hit a sweet spot,
just a few hours in where you’re learning the ropes and time spent away from camp feels
more natural. It’s here that the world opens up and its
activities make themselves known: recreations of hunting, fishing, gambling, robberies,
treasure hunting, horse wrangling; most given the depth of a standalone game, with the potential
to eat tens of hours. Some of these can be enjoyed with fellow gang
members as optional activities, filling out back stories for the cast and investing you
in lives that can be cut shockingly short. Race through the main campaign and you’ll
miss so much colour, and when the bodies start piling up – and they do – it’ll mean much
less. These early hours are also the only time in
the game the economy works. Stick with me on this. You’re suddenly faced with stores selling
fancy duds and shiny guns, but no money to buy them. It’s here that you feel the criminal impulses,
and have to balance your violence against growing bounties – and the bounty hunters
that come with them – which you’re too poor to pay off. Once you progress in the story you are earning
so much dosh as mission rewards that you can shrug off bounties, and the entire law and
order system of the game fizzles out. It’s a great shame as some of my favourite
RDR2 moments came from the desire to dress myself as a dapper Cy Tolliver-alike, and
the atrocious Cy Tolliver-esque things I did to get there. One of the pleasures of revisiting the game
on PC, then, is rediscovering that early game, reminding me of the more lighthearted 30 hours
before things got bleak for Dutch and co. It feels closer to a role-playing game than
previous Rockstar sandboxes, despite repeating many of the tricks they did. Stranger side missions or randomly spawned
events that pull you in short narratives feel more organic in the countryside than they
ever did in Los Santos. Weirdly, the more direct nods to RPGs – crafting,
or levelling up your ‘core’ stats – don’t really factor into my thinking; they’re
quite fussy attempts at adding depth, and can be easily ignored. This is role-playing in the sense of dress
up and make believe; a trip to Westworld, just without Ed Harris being an asshole and
spoiling your fun. And if you do want to play with the Ed Harrises
of the world, Red Dead Online beckons. This is a potential solution to that freedom/story
tension outlined above, as it repurposes Red Dead 2’s world for a far more freeform experience. Yes, it has the story framing seen in GTA
Online, and meatier co-op tasks that draw strangers into a mini posses, but it’s also
a much more fitting setting for bumping into strangers (up to 32 on one map) and making
your own fun. Or, based on my limited time with it, getting
lassoed, hogtied and shotgunned in the head. I particularly like the way it treats side
activities as asymmetric events, so the wagon you’re protecting from AI bandits also becomes
a target for other human players, or you discover bounties being protected by human bodyguards
– it’s a fun way of bringing surprises, and a bit of emergent storytelling, into freeform
activities. Of course, only time will tell if it grows
into the behemoth as GTA Online, although it stands the best chance of it happening
on PC, where GTA clearly flourished. I’d love to see the same role-playing servers
emerge here that emerged there; I’m just a lot more interested in stories to be told
in this world than grimy Los Santos. Expect much more multiplayer noodling on Rock
Paper Shotgun in the weeks to come. So, Red Dead Redemption 2, then. Mostly good, sometimes bad, never ugly. A prequel to a story that never made it to
PC and, honestly, I’m kind of jealous of people who get to enjoy it in this light. As cleverly as it fills in the gaps in the
later Red Dead Redemption, it does rob it of a few twists and turns, and seals the fate
of characters in that annoying way prequels do. But even as someone who has spent a huge amount
of time in this world, it’s a trip I’m more than happy to be taking again. A staggering technical achievement; a deliciously
gooey shooter; the most accurate mud simulator outside of actual mud; a great advert for
the healing power of peaches; however you approach Red Dead Redemption 2, there’s
something to impress here. And on PC, this is the most impressive version
yet. That was a bit of a long one – something it
has in common with this mammoth game. I hope you found this review useful and please
do ask any questions you have about the PC version in the comments – I’m happy to fill
in any blanks. And thanks again to Displate for sponsoring
the channel – and please do use the link in the description to check out our Displate
store. There’s over half a million designs and
Displate’s unique metal posters are built to last and use a magnet mounting system that
doesn’t involve drilling into your walls with power tools. Which is always good. And not only will you be supporting the channel
but you’ll be supporting the environment – for every Displate sold, ten trees are planted. Maybe one day the world will look like Red
Dead Redemption 2. That’d be nice. I hope this enjoyed this review – we’re
going to have a lot more Red Dead fun going forwards, so please do subscribe to the channel
for that – and hit the notification bell. That would be lovely. If you want to see more of Red Dead on PC
straight away we have a stream uploaded from earlier in the week, though it does rob it
of a lot of its beauty. Either way, thanks for watching and hopefully
see you again soon.

25 thoughts on “Red Dead Redemption 2 PC Review | RDR2 PC Is Mostly Good, Some Bad, Never Ugly

  1. Hello! If you are wondering what our specs and settings are, this was recorded at 1440p with an RTX 2080, an AMD Ryzen 7 1800X and 16GB RAM. Here’s a link to images of my exact settings: I mention the launcher problems in the video, as these were what we encountered, though appreciate people have suffered much worse – stuttering, freezes and crashes. I'm one of the lucky ones who didn't encounter this (I've had one Red Dead Online crash so far), but thought it worth flagging here as it isn't in the video (I've only been reading about this stuff while waiting for my video to export, and it sounds grim).

  2. Nice review! Unfortunately the issues on pc are a turn off for me so I'll probably pick it up next year when its on sale or until I upgrade my gpu.

  3. Definitely agree – great review, as always.
    I played it through on xbox and enjoyed it, but I think the main story is just too much. It would have been phenomenal at about half the length. The stranger missions were definitely my favourite parts of the game.

  4. Thanks for the horse relative steering tip. I'm still in the tutorial/snow area, but I already managed to kill a few horses thanks to weird steering.

  5. i'd hate to be controlled by matthew in a videogame. arthur's health core is always empty and he's always shooting ppl & horses 🙁

  6. I wish Rockstar moves to a less strict mission system. So much freedom outside of them but then (and I can understand this for the more cinematic missions) your hands are really tied when it comes to approaching any kind of action in them, to the point of "leave this thing in this EXACT place in the map" or you fail. It's sometimes exasperating the low degree of experimentation that is allowed.

  7. Boy do I wish you could use a story save from the PS4 version. I'm probably 1/2 to 3/4 through the game on the latter and would love to switch over to PC but I don't currently have the energy to trudge through the first 20-30 hours again. Perhaps when my backlog isn't looking quite so weighty i'll bite the bullet and double dip.

  8. Game is amazing visually. You really feel being in that world. But I lack some sort of fortifying your camp. And getting it properly raided by other players and raiding and looting other online players. We should have more consequences when dieing in online mode. Maybe lose all your ammo and backpack content. Oh yeah, and corpses should not disappear after 30 secs damn it. Wish they do some sort of basebuilding like in game Miscreated

  9. Many issue come from the Rockstar launcher. Downloading stops for no reason, downloaded portion is lost or set back by a few mb to a couple of gb. The file is corrupt or lost(somehow), etc….

  10. The Controls for this game is an absolute nightmare, i have lost count of how many times my horse has started to run in circles when i am trying to follow someone on horseback

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