Red Dead Redemption 2 best PC graphics settings for optimised performance

Written by Jon Sutton on Tue, Nov 12, 2019 2:26 PM
System Requirements Optimum 1080p PC Build Low vs Ultra Screenshots GPU Performance Chart CPU List That Meet System Requirements GPU List That Meet System Requirements

Red Dead Redemption 2 offers an undeniably stunning open-world. Probably one of the finest we've laid eyes on, in fact. But all it takes is one frame rate dip, or one judder, to rip us out of this immersive landscape, and this isn't a game which runs particularly well out of the box. Performance is key for RDR2, and it's what helps elevates the PC version about the 30FPS locked console edition.

Thankfully, Rockstar has given PC players a ton of graphics settings to mess around with. You can tweak just about every aspect of Red Dead Redemption 2's visuals in order to find just the right settings for your rig. Tweaking takes time though, so we're going to take the thinking out of it for you with what we believe is the best balance between performance and visuals in Red Dead Redemption 2.

Red Dead Redemption 2 Most Important Graphics Options - Every Setting Benchmarked

As usual for this regular feature, we start with Ultra visuals and then drop the graphics settings down, notch by notch, until we discern a notable drop in quality. Then we shift it back up to the previous graphics setting and voila, we've discovered that crucial balance between graphical excellence and playable frame rates. This is designed to find the reasonable upper limit to the visuals. The purpose of this is to identify which graphics presets are superfluous, or at least far more demanding than they're worth. Put your settings to anything higher than they need to be and you’re arguably sacrificing your frame rate for very little improvement to RDR2's graphical fidelity.

Red Dead Redemption 2 Optimised Graphics Settings

  Optimised Settings Ultra
Texture Quality Ultra Ultra
Anisotropic Filtering 8x 16x
Lighting Quality High Ultra
Global Illumination Quality Low Ultra
Shadow Quality Medium Ultra
Far Shadow Quality Medium Ultra
Screen Space Ambient Occlusion Medium Ultra
Reflection Quality Medium Ultra
Mirror Quality High Ultra
Water Quality Custom Ultra
Volumetrics Quality Custom Ultra
Particle Quality (restart) Medium Ultra
Tessellation Quality High Ultra
TAA Medium High
FXAA On On
MSAA Off 8x
Graphics API Vulkan Vulkan
Near Volumetric Resolution Medium Ultra
Far Volumetric Resolution Medium Ultra
Volumetric Lighting Quality Medium Ultra
Unlock Volumetric Raymarch Resolution On On
Particle Lighting Quality Medium Ultra
Soft Shadows High Ultra
Grass Shadows Medium High
Long Shadows Off On
Full Resolution Screen Space Ambient Occlusion Off On
Water Refraction Quality Medium High
Water Reflection Quality Low High
Water Physics Quality High/3 pips Max/4 pips
Resolution Scale N/A N/A
TAA Sharpening 10 pips 20 pips
Motion Blur Off On
Reflection MSAA Off 8x
Geometry Level of Detail Ultra/5 pips Ultra/5 pips
Grass Level of Detail 4 pips 10 pips
Tree Quality Medium Ultra
Parallax Occlusion Mapping Quality High Ultra
Decal Quality Medium Ultra
Fur Quality Medium High

Red Dead Redemption 2 Optimised PC Performance

Our particular hardware setup in this instance was an MSI GeForce GTX 1070, Intel Core i7-5820K @ 3.3 GHz, 16GB DDR4, 1080p resolution. Suffice to say, Nvidia's older Pascal GPU architecture can really begin to struggle with Red Dead Redemption 2, particularly compared to the Turing GPUs which appear to be more turned to Vulkan. It means the GeForce GTX 1070 dips well below the level it should when compared to some of the lower-end Turing graphics cards, and of course AMD's hardware, which has been exceptional at Vulkan for some time now.

What it does mean is that GeForce GTX 1070 owners, and folks who have other older graphics cards, will have to get stuck in and mess around with plenty of settings in order to achieve stable performance. With out optimised settings we think we've found exactly that though. Performance has quadrupled with our optimised settings when compared to Ultra, while you can see in the comparison screenshots below that it's really not a very big dip in terms of graphical and image quality.

On Optimised, Red Dead Redemption 2 scores a 321% higher FPS than on Ultra, while the 1% lows don't dip below 60 frames per second. On Ultra, the game is unplayable. The FPS may be steady but it's averaging just 17.5 frames per second with 1% lows of 16.9%. It's a night and day difference. On Ultra, you're paying a humongous frame rate cost with very little in return.

As such, we'd highly recommend you trying playing RDR2 with our optimum graphics settings and then slide them up or down from their depending on whether you're still struggling or you've got excess performance for your target frame rate. 

  Optimised Ultra
Average FPS 73.7 17.5
Minimum FPS 69.3 17.2
Maximum FPS 75.4 18.1
1% Low frame rate 61.5 16.9
0.1% Low frame rate 59.4 16.8

Red Dead Redemption 2 Optimised vs Ultra Graphics Comparison

Slide your cursor over to compare

Here we have some slider comparisons showing our choice of Optimised graphics settings versus Red Dead Redemption 2 with its visual sliders turned up to the max. Unlike Low v Ultra, the aim here is for Optimised to look as similar to Ultra as possible. This means we're getting comparable visuals despite faster performance. Win/win. 

Get a magnifying glass out and go to town on these images and you'll be able to notice a few differences. However, we're just trying to get them to look approximately the same as one another during actual gameplay. That is to say, you won't feel like you're missing out on RDR2 looking its absolute best while using the Optimised graphics settings.

You'll notice in the first comparison slider that the biggest difference is probably shadows. On Ultra they're higher resolution, while there are also plenty of grass shadows as well. Aside from this though, the two look very comparable. When you consider it's 67 fps vs 17 fps, well, you do the maths.

Here's the exact same scene but at night. The FPS in RDR2 tends to drop lower at night time due to the lighting effects from lamps, camp fires, and other light sources. Enhanced global illumination leads to a brighter scene overall on Ultra but we have to say Optimised arguably looks a little better and more atmospheric. Again, they're quite similar but Ultra does benefit from some enhanced Ambient Occlusion on the drawers at the back of camp. It's little things like this which cost a lot in terms of frames but you won't really miss during gameplay.

Next up we have a comparison out on the lake. You can't see it here but we opted to tweak Water Refraction from Low up to Medium as there's a flickering, aliased effect on Low. We're certainly a few notches down from Ultra across the board here but again, the two look very similar indeed. A  decreased LOD and lower shadows means less detailed trees in the background but, overall, you'll be please playing at either of these settings.

This final comparison is designed to showcase the impact of lowering reflections and grass level of detail. Water Reflections in particular is a hugely demanding graphics setting in Red Dead 2. It affects the render resolution of the objects reflected on water surfaces and yes, turning this down to Medium from High can lose a fair bit of clarity. Overall, in motion, though, we think Medium looks good enough. You're looking at double digit percentage FPS drops for shifting to Ultra which we really don't believe is worth it.

As for LOD, you'll see the density of the grass peter out slightly as you near the water's edge, while more trees are rendered on the far coast while running Red Dead Redemption 2 PC on Ultra.

Actually getting RDR2 up and running can be a bit of a nightmare; even getting to the menu is difficult for a lot of folks right now. Once you're in and you find the right graphics settings, however, it is certainly possible to tune an experience which is far superior to the console version.

For those of you who have been playing it though, how are you finding your first steps in Arthur Morgan's world? Have you found the right balance between visuals and performance, what settings are you using?

Red Dead 2 benchmark performance round-up - Expected FPS from every major graphics card

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22:54 Jan-14-2020

I would have never guessed that this specific TAA + FXAA combo delivers such great anti-aliasing results without chocking my 1060. Now i can finally turn MSAA off. This optimised settings list is pure gold to me. Thanks : )

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05:45 Nov-15-2019

This test rig is so perfect for me! I just hope my DDR3 doesn't make too much difference.

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11:07 Nov-14-2019

Medium TAA + FXAA On causes UI flickering for some people (myself included), so if you have that, just turn FXAA off, the game doesn't look worse actually.

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06:43 Nov-13-2019

Alright lads lets gather around and accept the fact that we are all in denial here. its not bad optimization its a taste of the future as said by DIGITAL FOUNDRY we finally have a TRUE Successor to CRYSIS so lets round up the wanna be's a

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06:48 Nov-13-2019

and put em out of their misery. that being said yes more optimization is obviously required but dont expect performance increase more than 10%-20%

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17:57 Nov-12-2019

no way the 1070 gets 17 fps on 1080p ultra, you are doing something wrong
https://tpucdn.com/review/red-dead-redemption-2-benchmark-test-performance-analysis/images/performance-vulkan-1920-1080.png
the 1070 gets around 40 fps on ultra
@Jon please revise the numbers

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18:10 Nov-12-2019

It might be because of Vulkan, idk why they used it, when it clearly performs worse than DX12 in all cases(all hardware and setting configurations).

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19:03 Nov-12-2019

The other review I linked is also vulkan. 17 FPS makes no sense if the 1060 gets around 30 on ultra.

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19:09 Nov-12-2019

It's funny you guys didn't even really read the article did you lol. I get 36fps maxed out on my v64 in utlrawide and thats with only 2x msaa, he's using 8x. Not sure why Nvidia fanboys think a 1070 is powerful enough to run this game fully maxed out. People really forget how demanding msaa is huh?


And for the one thinking Vulkan runs worse? It doesn't, i benchmarked both and vulkan is MUCH smoother especially with async computer turned on for AMD cards.

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19:20 Nov-12-2019

Does the Ultra preset set the MSAA to 8x? I know GTA V had some settings that you had to change to a higher one to actually get everything max.

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19:40 Nov-12-2019

These are the benchmarks I saw for Vulkan vs DX12.

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20:15 Nov-12-2019

techpowerup got 40 fps on a 1070 on ultra setting... using vulkan... now I pointed out that 17 fps must be an error
now amd fanboy attacks me brining the vega64 into the discussion which I said nothing about...

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22:13 Nov-12-2019

As Blue said, 8x MSAA will do that, it's not an error.

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02:29 Nov-13-2019

Tf, no fanboy, just hate people who don't read and understand how things work. There is no error about 17fps, i will write it again since you guys seem to have gone on the defensive. HE'S USING 8X MSAA.

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05:37 Nov-13-2019

Doesn't the ultra settings also include 8x msaa?

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09:23 Nov-13-2019

Probably not no, most reviewers don't even review with 2x MSAA, Jon just did it to see how demanding it would be.

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16:12 Nov-12-2019

Shadows, reflections and distant detail took a clear hit, from what I can see in those comparisons, but you can't argue with the resulting fps bump!

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15:36 Nov-12-2019

One thing I would change from your optimized settings is the 'Full Resolution Screen Space Ambient Occlusion' I would turn that on, because things like the bowl/pan on the ground should have a shadow or they just don't fit in and look awful

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16:14 Nov-12-2019

The point of this set up is to provide the best median between graphics and performance for the game. So adding in ambient occlusion is most likely not in the best interest.

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14:41 Nov-12-2019

optimised looks better to me for some reason on pic2 lighting from campfire is better

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15:04 Nov-12-2019

same

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14:32 Nov-12-2019

Will I get less performance? I have single channel RAM

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14:44 Nov-12-2019

I should imagine you'll get superior performance tbh. Single-channel may make a difference but not much, so I think you'll end up slightly faster than these results

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14:49 Nov-12-2019

Let's hope, anyway I plan to sell this RAM and buy a dual channel kit

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23:36 Nov-12-2019

I think you underestimate the value of dual channel ram. Especially on ryzen, this benchmark shows that in demanding areas the difference can be 10+% just because of single vs dual channel memory: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWRhzy3-8iY

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09:06 Nov-13-2019

Yeah, makes a difference but not a massive amount

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14:29 Nov-12-2019

This is awesome!


Because I see absolutely no difference between the two!

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16:14 Nov-12-2019

Errrm... the last screenshot comparison has very obvious differences - shadows, reflections, distant detail, etc. In most other shots it's just shadows, but that's because it's either night time and you can't see sh*t, or because the camera doesn't show much of what's in the distance. But for the fps bump - yeah, totally worth it.

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16:21 Nov-12-2019

They all look the same to me and I have above average vision.

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17:31 Nov-12-2019

There's differences, it just depends how much worth someone attaches to them (versus the massive FPS hit). If you're not really noticing them then that's even better for you

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13:55 Nov-13-2019

What kind of screen are you viewing the image on, and did you click on the image to load up the full version/resolution ?


There's a pretty big difference, almost as much as to make me want to increase some quality settings.

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Can They Run... |

| 60FPS, Ultra, 1080p
Core i7-6800K 6-Core 3.4GHz GeForce GTX 1080 Asus ROG Strix Gaming OC 8GB Edition 32GB
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Core i7-10700 8-Core 2.90GHz GeForce GTX 1050 Gigabyte D5 2GB 8GB
0% No [1 votes]
Ryzen 5 3600 6-Core 3.6GHz GeForce RTX 2070 Gigabyte Windforce 8GB 16GB
100% Yes [4 votes]
Ryzen 7 5800H 8-Core 3.2GHz GeForce RTX 3060 Mobile 16GB
100% Yes [2 votes]
| 60FPS, Ultra, 1440p
Ryzen 9 3900X 12-Core 3.8GHz GeForce RTX 3070 EVGA FTW3 Ultra Gaming 8GB 32GB
80% Yes [5 votes]
| 60FPS, Low, 720p
APU A8-7410 Quad-Core Radeon R5 7410 8GB
100% Yes [4 votes]
| 60FPS, Ultra, 1080p
Core i5-11400 6-Core 2.7GHz GeForce RTX 3050 Ti Mobile 8GB
0% No [1 votes]
| 60FPS, Ultra, 1080p
Ryzen 5 3600 6-Core 3.6GHz GeForce GTX 1080 MSI Gaming X 8GB Edition 16GB
100% Yes [3 votes]
| 30FPS, Low, 720p
Ryzen 5 3400G 4-Core 3.7GHz Radeon RX Vega 11 6GB
0% No [1 votes]
| 30FPS, High, 1080p
Core i5-11400 6-Core 2.7GHz GeForce RTX 3050 Ti Mobile 8GB
50% Yes [2 votes]