Launched on PC a year after it debuted on consoles, Red Dead Redemption 2 is still a big release that deserves a detailed benchmark analysis, much like what we’ve done for other titles this year like Borderlands 3 where we compared over 60 GPUs, Metro Exodus, and most recently Fornite Chapter 2. Unfortunately those plans went out the window when we discovered how hard benchmarking this game was going to be.

RDR 2 has a number of quick presets, allowing you to easily configure your system using a slider. The quality presets offer a number of settings, with half a dozen ‘Performance’ modes, seven ‘Balanced’ profiles, and seven ‘Quality’ presets. That all sounds great, but problem is these settings don’t apply a static configuration. Rather each of the preset's 30+ options are dynamically configured depending on the graphics card used. For example, the mid balanced preset might use mostly ultra settings with an RTX 2080 Ti, but only medium with an RTX 2070 Super... it was all over the place.

For benchmarking accurately we had to manually configure every graphics setting, every single time we changed a graphics card or a display driver, otherwise the settings all reverted back to their default. In order to bring you a timely test we decided to limit the number of GPUs, though still we have over 20 of them for this feature.

Red Dead Redemption 2 comes with a good built-in benchmark, however we refrained from using it for two reasons: first, it runs for far longer than necessary, a 5+ minute test is overkill when you are doing it three times over per GPU, per resolution. We also found a bug that would see it fail every second or third run, particularly after a resolution change, forcing us to close the game and start over. As early reports indicate, Red Dead Redemption 2 on PC is not without bugs, and updating all your drivers to the latest versions is one of the first suggestions offered by Rockstar.

Therefore we're testing in-game performance using the settlement of Colter. Performance in this section appears to mimic that of the benchmark, so the numbers should be almost the same. As for quality settings, we’ve manually set every option to ‘High’ using the DX12 API as it runs considerably smoother than Vulkan on both Radeon and GeForce GPUs. If you’re experiencing frame drops and stuttering using Vulkan, we suggest using DX12 instead.

Our GPU test rig has been used as usual sporting a Core i9-9900K overclocked to 5 GHz and 16GB of DDR4-3400 memory. The latest AMD and Nvidia drivers have been used, testing at 1080p, 1440p and 4K.

Benchmarks

Starting at 1080p, we see the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti is good for over 100 fps at all times in our test, using the high quality settings. This is not amazing performance at 1080p considering how powerful the 2080 Ti is.

We get a real sense of just how demanding this game is when looking at the GTX 1080 and 1660 Ti, both struggling to push past 60 fps -- 60 fps at 1080p -- that’s crazy for GPUs of this caliber. Not only that but using these dialed down quality settings the GTX 1060 6GB was laggy and the RX 570 was borderline playable.

Ideally you’ll want an RTX 2060 or Vega 56, that’s a big ask for 1080p gaming. Something you might have noticed is how well the Radeon GPUs perform, the RX 580 destroyed the GTX 1060 and basically matched the 1070. Vega 56 easily beat the GTX 1080, while the RX 5700 matched the RTX 2070 Super. Then we have the 5700 XT on par with the RTX 2080, so a super result here for AMD.

Nvidia made it clear that Red Dead Redemption 2 doesn’t support ray tracing, after somewhat misleading people on Twitter. We bring that up because looking at the 1440p results, you’d be forgiven for thinking DXR was enabled.

For an average of just 60 fps you’ll require something like Vega 64, RTX 2060 Super or the RTX 2070. Those are brutal GPU requirements for 1440p gaming using dialed down quality settings.

Finally we have 4K results, and good luck playing this game at this resolution without a RTX 2080 Ti. Even then we couldn’t average 60 fps, but for this style of game it was still very playable and most will probably be happy with around 40 fps. On a more personal level, I'd personally prefer at least 60 fps to fully enjoy this one, so I’d drop down to 1440p with a high-end GPU.

Wrap Up

For now AMD seems to be doing very well relative to the Nvidia competition and it’s possible we'll see a performance uplift for the GeForce GPUs through a new driver revision, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Results might vary a bit depending on the quality settings and section of the game used for testing, but overall we found the margins to be fairly consistent in the first hour-plus of gameplay. There’s no doubt going to be a few settings that favor Radeon or GeForce GPUs, and we do suggest using DirectX 12 over Vulkan.

Also as noted earlier, you can’t use the preset slider to compare quality levels on your system with others as it’s possible default recommendations for different GPUs will kick in by using the slider, so you have to check on setting by setting.

As for how demanding Red Dead Redemption 2 is, and if those demands can be justified, that’s a hard one to gauge. We'd expect to see some performance improvements down the road though overall the game looks amazing and it’s extremely detailed. We don't welcome late PC launches but Rockstar has a good record supporting blockbuster releases, even years later GTA V on PC is as good as ever and has a loyal fanbase behind it. We'll see how RDR 2 turns out.

Shopping Shortcuts:
  • GeForce RTX 2080 Ti on Amazon
  • GeForce RTX 2080 Super on Amazon
  • GeForce RTX 2070 Super on Amazon
  • GeForce RTX 2060 Super on Amazon
  • AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT on Amazon
  • AMD Radeon RX 5700 on Amazon
  • GeForce GTX 1660 Super on Amazon
  • AMD Ryzen 9 3900X on Amazon
  • AMD Ryzen 5 3600 on Amazon