Red Dead Redemption 2 is a triumph for video games as an entertainment medium. I simply have no other words to describe Rockstar’s magnum opus and perhaps the greatest open world game ever made for consoles, and possibly for the PC in the future. Under development for 8 years, Rockstar have made some significant improvements in its RAGE engine’s framework. Being the first game built from the ground up for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, Red Dead Redemption 2 is able to take on the very best open world games of this generation with extremely sharp visual quality and intricate details.
As soon as you boot up the game, the very first thing you will notice is how beautiful the snow looks. Very few games in the last decade or so have achieved the desired snow effects but that came up with severe inconsistences. However, Red Dead Redemption 2 might vey well be the first game that renders snow in a believable manner with very few errors. Parameters such as permanent deformation, snow density and weight all play a role in making this effect as believable as possible, the latter is especially relevant because the deformation is dependent on what is traversing on the snow. So, a horse trudging through dense snow will cause larger displacement compared to NPCs and Arthur. Add to this the fact that regions densely populated with snow or face heavy blizzards have an impact on how characters move or how you take shots, makes the snow physics one of the intriguing technical aspects of Red Dead Redemption 2.
Red Dead Redemption 2 also shines in its lighting methodologies, thanks to a complete adherence to physical based rendering pipeline. But what makes this physical lighting such a delightful treat is the inordinate use soft shadows and ambient occlusion. Red Dead Redemption 2 has one of the most varied weather systems in a video game and the way the entire lighting engine handles the different weather conditions is simply a sight to behold. Whether it be your character trudging through an insane blizzard or traversing in cart through a green hilly area, or whether it be an intricately detailed small outpost or whether it be the lush jungles, Red Dead Redemption 2 uses its lighting tech in so many different and elegant ways that describing it is simply beyond the boundaries of this feature.
One another small detail, we wanted to enlighten you with is the how different light sources react to the surrounding environment. The opening scene is of the finest examples of this as Arthur and his posse are traversing through a heavy storm carrying a lantern. One can clearly see how the shadow on the snow bounces and adjusts its angles and trajectory as per the horse’s movement. Or how the lantern renders reflections and shadows on the characters themselves. This is all thanks to some smart use of material-based shaders who each have their own physical properties and lighting parameters. This is further helped by the fact that each outfit in the game have their own individual shaders.
Red Dead Redemption 2, just likes its predecessor is heavy on narrative and real time cutscenes. Rockstar have always been the masters of directing excellent scenes within the boundaries of technical limitations imposed by the hardware. This remains true in the case of Red Dead Redemption 2 as well with exceptional use animations and voice acting. All major characters use complex skin shaders along with intricate details in their outfits, their dialogues and their actions to make each encounter with them a different experience. However, not all NPCs don’t feature such obsession to detail with many having awkward animations and low polygon hair and details. It’s perhaps the only shortcoming that we witnessed in a game that is packed with state of the art tech.
Special mention must also be made for the game’s fantastic but hilarious use of physics. In true Rockstar fashion, these could result into rather amusing scenarios, some examples which we have linked in the description of this video. Despite the amusements, Red Dead Redemption 2 uses Euphoria engine in varied ways to get its physics going. Each weapon, other than how they look and feel, have different physical properties. So, when Arthur takes a shot, each gun will have different shock impact on him. Furthermore, your guns have to be cleaned regularly and if you are not maintaining them periodically they will start to degrade. Such systems of physics are rarely used in video games and this is just one example in a game which is absolutely packed with such intricate physics systems.
We also got the chance to test out the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X versions of Red Dead Redemption 2. As expected, most of the core assets are one to one across both versions. However, the biggest difference comes in the form of pixel count with the Xbox One X achieving a full native 4K presentation. This factor alone gives immediate advantage to Microsoft’s console as it’s the only console you can play Red Dead Redemption 2 in its full glory. Performance wise, the game targets 30 frames per second on both systems and we witnessed slight slowdowns on both but generally speaking both seem to be running fine. In short, both versions have parity in most cases, but as far as image quality is concerned, Microsoft’s Xbox One X is the clear winner here.
In conclusion, Red Dead Redemption 2 is genre defining moment for video games, not only in terms of graphics technology but also with respect to several gameplay mechanics it employs. This generation has seen its fair share of great open world games but they were always marked with one or two major shortcomings, but with Red Dead Redemption 2, Rockstar wanted to achieve perfection. I won’t claim they have achieved it but it comes really, really close. Regardless of whether you want to play it on the PS4 Pro or Xbox One X, you will likely experience your best gaming moments this generation. But for the tech savvy out there, Xbox One X is the by far the best version until the PC version arrives in the future. One can always hope, right?