Anyone who played Red Dead Redemption 2 will tell you it's an incredible looking game, somewhere between an artistic masterpiece and an out of body experience. After a few hours with Red Dead Redemption 2 on PC, however, I'm ready to start the game over just to experience the ridiculous level of detail the PC version delivers. Either Rockstar knocked me out as I walked in the door and performed laser eye surgery on me without my knowledge, or the PC technicians at the studio have sacrificed a goat to the dark ones.
OS: Windows 7 ‐ Service Pack 1 (6.1.7601)
Processor: Intel® Core™ i5‐2500K / AMD FX‐6300
Graphics Card: Nvidia GeForce GTX 770 2GB / AMD Radeon R9 280 3GB
HDD Space: 150GB
Sound Card: DirectX compatible
OS: Windows 10 ‐ April 2018 Update (v1803)
Processor: Intel® Core™ i7‐4770K / AMD Ryzen 5 1500X
Graphics Card: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 6GB / AMD Radeon RX 480 4GB
HDD Space: 150GB
Sound Card: DirectX compatible
To be fair, there is no mention of dead goats in the official nuts and bolts behind better-looking skunks and mountains. It's down to bigger draw distances, better lighting, upgrades to ambient occlusion and shadows. Tessellation (the way games use repeating patterns on surfaces) and updated textures have been applied to the world and its furry inhabitants. The example I was given was that the cacti in the world have individual spines, complete with variations. Sure, you might never stop to admire the plant life when you're on the run from the law or chasing down a train, but this attention to the tiny details makes the world feel more real, stops your brain snagging on messy details, and lets you just live your best outlaw life. Remember when games were all just the same flat trees and a few red barrels over and over again?
The new photo mode is a good place to test out the visual fidelity of the PC version, thanks to its ability to detach the camera and zoom in – drone-like – to anything in the radius of Arthur. It's why, instead of dealing with a camp of outlaws, I was chasing turkeys and bison. Zooming in on the bison's face, its eye and its fur was like an art class. I could see the individual blades of grass kicked up by its hooves for christ's sake. Do not even get me started on the fluffiness of the sheep.
The photo mode can be accessed at any point in the story and has more features than most real-world photography apps. There are nice nods to the period with charcoal, daguerreotype and tintype filters, and you can fiddle with contrast, exposure, blur strength and focus distance. You can have the character orbit your Arthur, perfect for moody portraits against the sunset, or go into free cam and explore the area around Arthur. Cue me catching a beauty shot of a skunk that belongs in the Louvre. People are going to do amazing things with the photo mode, not least because the world of Red Dead Redemption 2 is packed with absurd characters and details that are easy to miss when the adrenaline is pumping and rifles are drawn.
Red Dead Redemption 2 PC also comes with some additions that will add a little spice to my PC playthrough. Three new bounty hunting missions, two new gang hideouts to assault, two new treasure maps, and a new Stranger with a herb collecting mission for you. There are also new trinkets to up your stats, new horses for story mode, like the warped brindle Arabian, or the Perlino Andalusia, and new weapons including a semi-automatic M1899 pistol and a Le Mat revolver that can shoot shotgun shells. PC players also get the option to switch seamlessly between controller and keyboard and mouse, and tweak set-ups for both for maximum finger comfort. Will it stop me accidentally shooting people when I forget to holster my pistol? Probably not.
Of course, Red Dead Redemption 2 on PC comes with the chance to jump straight into Red Dead Online too, with none of the wait that console players had. All the updates and content and Frontier Pursuits and specialist Roles will be ready and waiting, although if you don't play the story mode first you're an absolute philistine.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is shaping up to be an essential purchase for anyone whose gaming machine of choice is a PC, but even as a girl who bleeds PlayStation blue I'm already planning to pick up a new PC in the Black Friday game deals to play it through all over again. Partly it's to have another chance to hang out with my imaginary husband, Arthur, and partly because it's one of the best looking games I've ever seen on a monitor.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is already out on PS4 and Xbox One, and the PC version will be released on November 5. You can preload Red Dead Redemption 2 PC right now on the Rockstar Games Launcher.