Nvidia’s been pulling some pretty weird moves this week when it comes to Red Dead Redemption 2 (one of the largest PC releases this year). First, it was the suspicious RTX branding on Nvidia’s own Red Dead Redemption 2 trailer. Despite being an Nvidia-sponsored title (and despite Rockstar and Nvidia’s long partnership), there are to be no RTX effects in the game. It seems that Nvidia wants to slaughter your performance for no real visual payoff anyways. According to their in-house settings suggestions, no GPU can run the game at 4K/60 with anything approaching max settings. As a matter of fact, they suggest the RTX 2070 SUPER as the recommended card for 1080p ultra. I repeat, a card that’s faster than the previous flagship, the GTX 1080 Ti, and that’s likely faster than 9th gen console GPUs is Nvidia’s suggestion for 1080p ultra. We’d almost have to ask why they even bothered releasing 1080p parts like the GTX 1660 SUPER if console ports truly require that kind of graphics grunt.
This puts us in a weird situation. For starters, the game only arrives on PC later today so there are no official benchmarks out: Nvidia’s recommendations are all anyone has to go on. But on the other hand, there’s nothing at all to indicate that Red Dead Redemption 2 is going to be your PC’s worst nightmare. It’s built on the tried-and-true RAGE engine. And while the art design and environments are spectacular, it isn’t a game that really pushes the technical boat forward: crowd densities are low, environments are sparse, and standard eighth-gen rendering techniques are in place. Console performance is a good proxy for what we should expect on PC. The Xbox One X (with a GPU that’s half as capable as the 2070 Super) runs the game at 4K/30 FPS with ease. Unless there’s some kind of terrible, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey-style CPU bottlenecking going on, it should almost be a sure thing that Red Dead Redemption 2 can deliver a great 4K experience on what is 4K-capable hardware.
We strongly believe that Nvidia’s recommendations might be factoring in over-the-top “luxury” settings on PC. One lazy way of “improving” the PC version of a console port is to simply push LODs way out. This hits the CPU hard since it has to handle more entities at a time and, of course, hammers the GPU. Rockstar already did this with GTA 5. With view distance set to 100 percent (which is still better than console), it happily ran on just about any system with discrete graphics. My old laptop with a GT 750M ran at a mix of high and very high at 1080p. Crank view distance up to 200 percent and, for a very small visual improvement you get what suddenly becomes an “intensive” PC game. If Rockstar’s pulling something along these lines with Red Dead Redemption 2, it’d explain Nvidia’s bizarre settings suggestions. Our take? Wait for benchmarks to roll in tomorrow, but don’t worry too much. If there’s even one game in 2019 we expect to run well, it’s this.