PC Review: Red Dead Redemption 2’s PC release is more than a subtle upgrade, but it’s marred by bugs

Red Dead Redemption 2’s developers surprised fans in October with the announcement that the game was coming to PC in one short month, Nov. 5. That was after almost an entire year of keeping them in the dark on the subject, so it was about as unexpected as it could get. 

Immediately after the news, Rockstar dropped info on the PC release, including screenshots, new content, and claims that the new PC-level graphics would be a massive upgrade on the console release. With only a month from that point to the drop, I didn’t have to wait very long to jump in, and fortunately for anyone chomping at the bit to pick it up on their high-end gaming PCs, it lives up to the hype—mostly.

Before I tell you about my experience in the game, I want to lead off with a note that this won’t be a scored review of Red Dead Redemption 2, because we’ve already done that. I played the console version on a PS4 Pro for over 70 hours, so instead of rehashing what’s been said about it a million times already (it’s good), I’m going to focus on the improvements that were made to the PC release. Were the graphical capabilities amped up that much? Were enough lessons learned from the abysmal launch of the online mode on console? 

If you’ve been trying to find answers to those questions, you’ll be happy to know that: Yes, and… sort of. 

Revolutionary graphics without ray tracing

Red Dead 2 on PC looks absolutely stunning. It is, perhaps, the best-looking, most realistic game I’ve ever played on PC. Every tree, every leaf, and every strand of animal fur is textured and moves as the environment interacts with it. The way Rockstar nailed load distances is nothing short of impressive, too. Standing on a mountain, you can see the stretched out landscapes of New Austin or the Heartlands for virtual miles without sacrificing quality or slowing down your computer.

Just on that basis alone, it’s worth at least experiencing. After playing it on PS4 for so long, seeing it this beautiful, and in 60fps, stuck out immediately. It was like night and day. The keyboard/mouse port doesn’t seem too shabby, but it doesn’t come without issue. We’ll get into that later, though. For now, let’s focus on the good, and the good is that it looks and runs as smooth as butter. 

It might bum some people out to learn that Red Dead 2 doesn’t include any ray tracing features, as that feature has been a buzzword all year long as more and more games have been supporting it. Control, which is RDR2’s biggest competition for “best graphics of all time on PC” in my opinion, includes almost the entire RTX suite from Nvidia. So naturally, you might assume that RDR2 might be a little lackluster when comparing it to such a game. Fortunately, you’d be wrong in that assumption.

Ray tracing, while incredibly cool, is far from perfected, and even games like Control that make it look so good struggle to maintain even smaller features without the best of the best hardware. That being said, Rockstar played it safe, which is smart, at least to me. When the tech is ironed out a bit, a few years down the road most likely, we might see some texture pack add-on for RDR2, but for now, you’re not missing anything by playing a non-ray traced game. With how fantastic the game looks, that shouldn’t be near enough to stop you from playing it.

Online was fixed, but more bugs replaced the old

If anyone remembers the launch of Red Dead Online‘s console version, you might remember how much of a trainwreck it was. Bugs kept people from accepting missions, carrying out missions, fighting other players, loading the game, setting up camps, and the list went impossibly on. There were also some incredibly annoying features that needed changed just to bring some semblance of joy to the game, such more forms of viable income, less expensive… everything, more to do than just random odd jobs, a longer story, and again, the list goes on.

You’ll be happy to know that most of that has been fixed. Most of it. A lot of it, well, it’s still quite present, and some new bugs seem to have replaced the old ones. Luckily, though, the issues with online don’t prevent me from enjoying it this time. There’s more to do, which is most important to me, and it’s mostly stable, at the very least. Prices are lower, the new “roles” system is a lot of fun, and hey, there’s Poker. I can’t complain about Poker.

The biggest problem with the new issues, however, is that they’re consistent and easily replicated, which makes me wonder how well they were tested before the release was pushed. After the game launched, the most common bug was that camps simply wouldn’t spawn, and you need your camp to do quite a lot. You didn’t have to do anything special to replicate the problem—camps just didn’t spawn, and it was a widespread and very common problem. After the latest patch arrived (Nov. 14), that bug seems to have been replaced with another, in that it’s not impossible to set a marker on your map, which is also very common and widespread.

There are other, smaller bugs, too, like how hard it is to navigate in-game menus with your mouse, or how your horse will sprint off a nearby cliff if you have the “follow” command set, even if you yourself didn’t jump off said cliff. With how many issues there are, it’s hard to justify buying the game right now if your main goal is to play online. If that’s you, I’d say wait a while for some of this to get smoothed out. It’s only a matter of time (hopefully). If you’re happy to just experience the single player story, though, there’s nothing stopping you. I, personally, had enough fun in the online mode to enjoy it, despite the bugs, but they are certainly frustrating.