Rockstar’s Old West open-world has some tweakable options. Hell, it has all the tweakable options. If you’re just firing up Red Dead Redemption 2 and feel a little lost at the number of customisable display, control, and camera settings it lays on your cowboy plate, we’re here to help. After finishing all 104 missions of the virtual Western’s incredible story, and spending upwards of 80 hours with the sandbox classic, here are the best Red Dead Redemption 2 settings tweaks we’d make upon firing up RDR2 for the first time.
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1. Turn on ‘toggle to run’
Just like every GTA, Red Dead doesn’t adopt a proper analogue movement system. It means – at least with the default on-foot controls – you have to hold down X/A to make Arthur run, rather than push the stick to set his walking/jogging speed. Having to hold a button to run can feel a little clumsy, especially during a chaotic shootout, so take our advice and change the ‘running mode’ option in the controls menu to ‘toggle to run’.
With this setting, you only have to press the run button once, and Morgan will continue at the same brisk pace until you ease off the left stick. It’s a small yet impactful tweak, which not only makes movement feel more natural, but also ensures navigating Rockstar’s murderous Wild West is that little bit easier.
2. Enable HDR… provided you have a suitable TV
Sometimes, it can feel like High Dynamic Range is the Emperor’s New Clothes of complicated television features. Unless a developer really pours time and care into making its game sing in HDR, the results can look washed out. Thankfully, that’s not the case with RDR2. Rockstar has done a phenomenal job with their Western’s HDR implementation; alongside the likes of Horizon Zero Dawn and the Shadow of the Colossus remake, it’s a fantastic example of the signal running at its most eye-arousing.
If you have a 4K, HDR-compatible TV, you should definitely enable HDR in the display menu. Provided your PS4 or Xbox One is already set to accept an HDR signal, RDR2 will actually automatically output in HDR, though there are some additional tweaks you can make to get the most out of your picture.
Rockstar helpfully provides an in-game image that displays both light and shadow, letting you customise HDR brightness to your liking. The studio recommends you set the associated slider to 300 if using an OLED TV, and 150 for an LCD/LED. We reviewed the game on a Sony AF8 OLED, and found 300 brightness to be bang on the money. With your TV properly calibrated, HDR’s warm, natural mid-tones instantly add to Red Dead’s already fab filmic look.
3. Use free-aim for on-foot action
Arthur’s shootouts are deliberately weighty, but sometimes it can feel extra difficult to line up a headshot… probably because your Morgan’s stamina meter is in the toilet. Remember, keep him plied with gin and rum to keep his energy up, just like real life. Even if you are finding shootouts a tad tricky, we’d still advise switching away from the default normal lock-on mode at the earliest opportunity.
All three of the game’s lock-on options feel overly sticky, and they all remove much of the fun and skill of lining up shots. By contrast, switching to ‘free-aim’ makes RDR2 feel much looser in an instantly enjoyable way. Not only do you have more control and finesse over Arthur’s pistol and rifle shots with this setting change, but you’ll also avoid those moments when the game decides you definitely want to be aiming at that outlaw 40ft away, rather than the one in spitting distance who’s about to fill your outlaw’s gut full of buckshot. Take back control and turn on free-aim for more rewarding, deliberate shootouts.
4. But use lock-on mode for horse shootouts
Here is a brief list of things that are easier to achieve than manually aiming while on horseback in RDR2… Performing keyhole surgery with a machete. Scaling Everest using toothpicks. Staying awake for The Walking Dead season 8. Do yourself a colossal favour and keep the lock-on mode for mounts/vehicles to ‘normal’.
Switch to free-aim, and the only chance in hell you have of hitting those outlaws who are firing at you and your steed is with a full Dead Eye meter. Without the game’s magic slow-mo sauce, you’re just going to keep missing those shots. Turns out, manually aiming while moving at 30mph is kinda tough. Who knew? With lock-on for horseback fights enabled, and the corresponding the aim assist set to 50% strength, you’ll pick off those chasing cowboys for ease, meaning you can save your Dead Eye for later on-foot shootouts.
5. Enable first-person auto-centre
While we’re on the subject of horridly hard horse controls, if you’re planning to play the game in first-person, there’s another option you should tweak relating to Morgan’s pony pals. Go to camera settings, and under the first-person tab, switch the ‘first-person aim auto-centre [mount/vehicle]’ to on.
This is really just a lock-on mode for when you’re shooting on your horse in first-person, but it’s extremely useful for targeting enemies, especially in later missions when you’ve got large outlaw posses trying to put Arthur and his equestrian chum in the dirt.
6. Turn on tap assist
Here’s a line nobody ever said in the history of human existence: “Golly gee, I sure do love mashing buttons to open video games chests.” Button bashing sucks, so give your fingers a break and enable RDR2’s ‘tap assist’ in the controls menu. Switching this handy feature on means those mini games that ask you to smash Circle/B now require only half the button presses. Trust us, your index finger will thank you in your twilight years.
We found the ‘x2’ setting to be best here. If you switch to ‘hold’ it gives fights a strangely passive quality. When many of the game’s fisticuffs brawls involve Arthur being grappled by an opponent, the only way to break free of your foe’s grip means swiftly bashing buttons. By switching tap assist to hold, these moments during fights feel flat, and disrupt the rhythm of skirmishes. With the gentlest tap assist setting enabled, you stay engaged, but the workload is lightened considering. The best of both Western worlds.
7. Juggle your HUD options
Rockstar has wisely created a HUD that’s flexible to your changing whims. RDR2 gives you a variety of onscreen radar options; each of which can be cycled through by pressing down on the D-pad at any moment during the game. If you want the safety of the mini map guiding you at all times, you can choose between either ‘normal’ or ‘expanded’. The latter is especially useful during shootouts, as its extended viewpoint highlights every enemy in the nearby area.
If you’re against devs holding your hand every step of your journey, you can simply disable the radar entirely for the most immersive experience possible. Handily, you can also quickly bring the onscreen map back up temporarily with a quick press of down on the D-pad. Hey, everyone needs to ask for directions at some point.
The halfway house option between the above options is to enable the compass. The stripped down version of the in-game radar simply gives you a little arrow, that – if you set a custom waypoint on the main map menu – guides you with a vague arrow, not the glorified GPS system the normal radar provides. The compass strikes a great balance between freedom and guidance, though each HUD/radar option has their advantages at times.
8. Give Standard FPS controls a shot
This is absolutely the most subjective advice we’re going to give regarding the best settings for RDR2, but we urge you to switch from ‘standard’ controls to ‘standard FPS’... at least briefly. While both schemes are broadly identical, the key change comes from holding X/A to run, to clicking the left stick.
In our opinion, and provided you select the ‘toggle to run’ option we mentioned earlier, clicking the stick to run and tapping X/A to crouch with the standard FPS system feels that little more intuitive and natural than the default control scheme. Again, this is highly subjective, but we advise you to play around with standard FPS controls to see which you prefer.