Just over a year after its release on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, Red Dead Redemption 2 will arrive on Windows PC. The PC version, which Rockstar Games developed itself, debuts Nov. 5 on a variety of digital storefronts — including the new Rockstar Launcher — although it will not be available on Steam until December.
After spending an hour playing the PC port earlier this week at Rockstar’s headquarters in New York City, I can report that it’s exactly what you probably expect: a gussied-up version of a game that already wowed everyone last year with its gorgeous rendition of the Old West. In fairness, Rockstar isn’t pitching it as anything more than that. But there is one entirely new feature that doesn’t exist on consoles — a proper photo mode, one that’s not limited by the player character’s turn-of-the-century camera.
As Rockstar announced in October, the PC version does include some new playable content, although it all seems like minor additions rather than anything significant. For instance, three of the four new weapons, and two of the new horses, are already available in Red Dead Online. And the new quote-unquote mission, which comes from a stranger in the world, amounts to an herbal collect-a-thon. In other words, if you already own Red Dead Redemption 2 on PS4 or Xbox One, you won’t be missing much if you decide not to double-dip on PC. (Unfortunately, you will indeed be missing it: Asked if Rockstar is planning to bring the PC port’s bonus content to the console versions, a spokesperson said the company has nothing to announce at this time.)
Really, the point of the PC version is to deliver the highest-fidelity version of Red Dead Redemption 2. And Rockstar certainly appears to have succeeded there.
In case you’re wondering about the origins of Red Dead Redemption 2’s PC port, a Rockstar representative confirmed that it was part of the company’s plans from the start. It’s possible that the one-year lag time between the console and PC releases came down to a business decision — what better game to kick off the Rockstar Launcher than one that has already sold more than 25 million copies? But another reason is Rockstar’s general process, under which the team that develops the original game then helps to port it to PC.
As someone who hit the 100-photo capacity of the in-game camera (or rather, the Rockstar Games Social Club) fairly early in Red Dead Redemption 2 on PS4, I’m thrilled that there’s an actual photo mode in the PC version. It’s accessible from the pause menu by pressing F6, and just like the photo modes in games such as Marvel’s Spider-Man, it allows you to freeze the action and tweak photographic settings until you’ve created the perfect image.
Options include a camera angle that’s tied to the player character, as well as a free-floating camera; it’s limited to a decent radius away from the protagonist, so you can’t just fly anywhere in the world. You can set the depth of field (called “blur strength” here) and the focus distance, and adjust or lock the exposure. Special effects allow you to alter the image with 19th-century filters, such as daguerreotype and tintype, as well as more modern treatments. And once you’ve saved a photo to your Social Club gallery — whether you took it in the photo mode or with the in-game camera — you can slap stickers and custom text on it.
I wasn’t able to fully explore the photo mode during my limited demo, but I did take the time to try it out on a number of occasions, and I was able to capture some arresting images with ease. If I pick up the PC version, I could easily see myself whiling away the hours in the photo mode. Because I’m weird like that.
Of course, plenty of players will look to deliver those kinds of upgrades themselves through mods. Rockstar reaffirmed its stated policy on mods, which is that it has no problem with them as long as they’re non-commercial mods that are for single-player story modes and they don’t infringe on anyone else’s intellectual property.
As for Red Dead Redemption 2’s online component, Red Dead Online, it will go live on PC at launch. It won’t offer any cross-platform play, and everyone will have to start fresh — unlike with Grand Theft Auto 5’s Grand Theft Auto Online, there won’t be an option to transfer existing characters from the PS4 or Xbox One versions. On the plus side, the PC version of Red Dead Online will launch with everything that’s currently available on console, including the Frontier Pursuits, or roles, that debuted in September. And after the PC port is released, Red Dead Online will get the same updates across all three platforms simultaneously.
To Rockstar’s credit, the company says it worked to ensure that the PC version is playable on a wide range of hardware configurations. But for the people who already own Red Dead Redemption 2 on PS4 or Xbox One, the main draws for the PC port are likely mod support and the ability to run the game at 60 fps (or higher) with all the settings turned up. You’ll have to decide for yourself whether that’s enough to justify rebuying the game.
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