I’ve reviewed, in detail
, and waxed lyrical
about Red Dead Redemption 2
. It’s a game that might go down as my favourite title in gaming history; this is among the likes of Super Mario 64
, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
and BioShock Infinite
. Beyond GTA V
and even the original Red Dead Redemption
-- which I also loved. Red Dead Redemption 2, its world, characters, setting, tone and ridiculous visual benchmark, all, will go down as arguably the best of this, and earlier, generations.
And now it’s coming to PC
Having been a very long servant of AusGamers
, whose active community is made up largely of PC gamers, I’ve had to get behind cover whenever you guys have Deadeyed the game’s lack of a home on a PC desktop in Quickstart Thumbnail
format. And rightly so. Red Dead Redemption was released on consoles in 2010 to raucous, critical acclaim. Back then, we gave it a solid 9.5/10. Last year, we gave Red Dead Redemption 2 a 10/10.
The actual hero of this piece, however, is the world itself. We applauded The Witcher 3, Horizon Zero Dawn, Assassin’s Creeds Origins and Odyssey, Marvel’s Spider-Man -- and many others -- for richly detailed spaces. And rightly so. But honestly, nothing comes close to what Rockstar has managed from a world-building perspective here.
I wrote in my review. Later, I would put together a thoughtful, self-indulgent word-spew saying things like:
America. Land of the free. Free to write, free to photograph, free to steal, free to farm, free to act, free to fish, free to hunt, free to hold up, free to loan, free to rustle, free to roam… free to murder. Rockstar has always pushed forward an agenda of social commentary. Oft on-the-nose where the GTA series is concerned, and with good comedic reason. But another line from my review swings back through my head at the connection I’ve found between Miller’s altruistic death and the Skinners’ murder spree: “romanticised proprietary”. Red Dead Redemption 2 still stands as the most mature delivery of media Rockstar has ever crafted, and in the context of its period setting; characters and longform narrative, what it has pulled off here is transcendent modernity, in an ageless past.
The truth is, all of the above stands and I might be a pretentious twat, but what I do
know is games. And in Red Dead Redemptions 1 and 2, Rockstar
has found its antithesis to its own successful other franchise -- Grand Theft Auto
I’m not going to wax lyrical this time about RDR2 though. There’s time enough for that down the horseshoe-beaten track. Rather, I’m going to tell you what roughly two hours with the game running on the [Redacted because modernly-inappropriate] desktop format presents:
"I realised coming around this bend, on this path at this elevation, and at some distance beyond me, I hadn’t ever seen this waterfall before. Of course I had, but I had to be closer to it in order to see it..."
There was a moment during my hands on where, while rounding an ascending path to the north-east side of the stupidly-large game-world map, I could see a waterfall off into the distance. Rockstar has been most vocal about draw distance improvements on PC (though I’ll argue shortly it’s in lighting and particles), and this was a living example of those claims. The waterfall at Brandywine Drop
doesn’t come into view on console until you get north of Martha’s Swain
. You can see the drop point; a sheer rockface, still detailed, south of Martha’s Swain, but no waterfall. And it’s not something that alarms you -- Red Dead Redemption 2 is riddled with trees and treelines; elevation and valleys. Shrubbery and animals that capture the eye. But on PC, oddly, I realised coming around this bend, on this path at this elevation, and at some distance beyond me, I hadn’t ever seen this waterfall before. Of course I had, but I had to be closer to
it in order to see it.
It might sound trivial, but when you jump into this game for the first time as
a PC player -- someone who has waited, and waited and waited for the Red Dead experience -- you’ll learn the lay of the land and it will
become familiar. How to ride HUDless
for the first time. The sheer distance between Emerald Ranch
and how the game’s biomes and POIs will change between the two, but then also, the uniqueness of everything seemingly innocuous filling out the visual scape as you ride, all of which could harbour deeper secrets or new narrative pathways -- campaign and side-quest alike; emergent and discoverable... unprompted -- Red Dead Redemption 2 invites
you to live
within its tall trees walls.
You’ll learn over the next little bit about things like “ambient occlusion”, “draw distance”, “particle effects”, “global illumination” and more -- par for the PC course when effort is applied, of course. But what is hard to share is how
these amped up parts of an already near-perfect game-engine amplify through a shared pathway. Red Dead Redemption 2 (and even the first game), is built of mood; ambiance. These larger outputs help in that amplification. If you’ve been reluctant to jump on the console wagon just to get a glimpse at what all the RDR talk has been about, you’ll now have your chance, and you’ll have it in the best available version of the game.
Be prepared for a lengthy slog -- this is not
your regular type of game. It’s slow, it’s heavy, it’s involved from a game-world perspective, but it is because that’s what builds
the world out. And at the best resolution available; with the best occlusion and world illumination available, tied to what, without those things is already a 10/10 game, well… you can’t really go wrong.