I rarely revisit games. There is simply too much entertainment and not enough time in my life. Even focusing on games alone, there's always something coming out. So it's interesting when I do get a chance to revisit a game, like I am with Red Dead Redemption 2. Despite some early issues, I've been replaying the game on PC and finding a new appreciation for a game I rated highly a year ago.
Right from the moment you load it up on PC, Red Dead Redemption 2 reminds you just how goddamn good the original game looked. The swaying far off trees, the tracks your horse leaves in the snow, or the soft glow the fire casts upon Arthur's crew as they seek shelter. This was a stunning game when I played it on PlayStation 4 Pro, and the PC version handily outdoes it.
It's in the subtleties that add up into a complete picture. Out in the snow storm of the opening section, you can see the light play off not only the metal rim and bottom of the lantern, but also Dutch's horse. Dutch's coat has a furry texture to it, with the snow piling up unevenly on its surface. Within the former home of Sadie Alder, there's an impressive reflection of the scene in a pool of water. Once you've reached the warmth post-prologue, the sun shines through the trees, casting such perfect shadows that you think you're looking at a picture. I'm running an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060, so it's easy to chalk some of this to hardware ray tracing, but Nvidia says that RDR 2 doesn't support the feature.
It also took me a moment to adjust to the improved frame rate. Red Dead Redemption 2 on PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X still targeted 30 fps. On PC (AMD Ryzen 5 3600X, GeForce RTX 2060, 16GB DDR4), I was seeing anywhere from 90-115 FPS in cutscenes, and 60-70 during normal play at 1080p without any graphics tweaks. Bumping that up to 1440p required some changes here and there, but 60 FPS on average was still doable. (Rockstar has offered an impressive amount of graphics options for the PC port.) The shift changes the feel of some of the scenes, and it took me a good 20 minutes to shake off the mental dust and become used to it.
Rockstar seems to know that they've done a great job on Red Dead Redemption 2 on PC, because there's a new Photo Mode available. At any time, you can press F6 to pause the action and switch to Photo Mode. You can access a number of features, including a free camera, exposure, blur, and focus. There are also a few filters to give your photos that old timey look. One big misstep is the way RDR 2 PC handles its photos: They're uploaded to the Rockstar Social Club, instead of being saved anywhere on your desktop. You have to upload them, and then download them to your PC, which feels tedious.
Where things become a little fuzzier on PC are the keyboard and mouse controls. Red Dead Redemption 2 always had a little bit of weight to its movement, something that put off some people. When you're controlling the game with the analog stick, this sense of weight tends to work, shifting the stick from one direction to the next. On PC, you're tapping digital keys, not moving an analog stick. You have to make tiny course-corrections, or Arthur will dead stop to move in another direction. Holding W moves you forward in the direction of where your mouse is pointing, so precise movement feels like steering a ship while tapping out morse code. Arthur was always a lumbering beast, but it doesn't feel as intuitive here. When Arthur's horse enters the action, movement becomes even more cumbersome on PC. (Gamepads are supported, though, if you go that route.)
You'll also need to rebind certain keys to peak performance. Tab is the key used to equip and unequip your weapons, while Caps Lock is your Dead Eye activation. (Middle mouse does Dead Eye as well, but it never feels great.) I frequently found that I'd try to use Dead Eye, only to stow my weapon, or vice versa. Unequipping your weapon in the middle of a pitched shootout isn't the best of ideas. I recommend spending some time really thinking about your keybindings. Luckily, Rockstar has a pretty extensive keymapping control panel for this purpose.
The flip side of movement is that mouse aim is vastly superior to analog stick camera controls. Arthur Morgan on PC is getting headshots all the time, even when enemies only briefly peek out of cover. I actually turned the aim assistance off and just went free hand. Not only does shooting become easier, but tasks like lassoing are as well. I lassoed poor Kieran in the prologue section far faster than I did on PS4. Some situations like the Legendary Gunslinger duels become entirely too easy on PC, because they were likely tuned for console controls. The combination of 60 FPS visuals and mouse aim mean shooting is wonderful now.
As I said before, I generally do not revisit games. Returning to the story of Arthur Morgan still feels meaningful a year later. Seeing Arthur, Hosea, Sadie, and Lenny again is a treat, even if in some cases the reunion is a bittersweet one. Yes, there's an Arthur that can be played who is more or less of a dick, but the story of a man trying his best to right his wrongs before death can catch up with him is a poignant tale. The early moments between Arthur and his mentor Dutch Van der Linde are especially heartbreaking now, since you know where it's all going.
I still love this slow, methodical look back at the beginning of the end for the Old West. Westerns have never really been my cup of tea, but Red Dead Redemption 2 hit me in my chest, and playing it again still leaves a smile on my face. And paired to that excellent tale—which is far better than Rockstar's output on Grand Theft Auto—is a visual splendor which has been improved in the move to PC. So while I quibble with the keyboard controls a bit, the mouse aim and higher frame rate makes Red Dead Redemption 2 a damned wonderful experience on PC.
If you're not still having trouble starting it up.