Rockstar don't do things by halves, and Red Dead Redemption 2's PC version certainly isn't lacking for graphics options. You'll need them as well, because RDR2 runs about as well as a hippo in high heels, but when you get the right performance to visuals balance RDR2 is a visual treat. And when a game like Red Dead 2 comes along you will want the immersion levels provided by its graphics cranked up to max to support the incredible story and gameplay.

Here we're going to have every advanced graphics setting found in Red Dead Redemption 2 on PC, benchmarked and tested for their Frames Per Second performance hit. I say 'going' because there are actually more than 40 different graphics settings so we will continue to update this as we continue to dig into the options and what impacts they have on your gaming PC. We will keep updating this article as we go.

Using the chart below you can find out just how demanding each setting is. Along with this, we've given priority scores based on how important we believe it is to enable these graphics options, or how important they are to keep an eye on.

Red Dead Redemption 2 System Requirements

For the benchmark results below we used an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 MSI Gaming X 8GB Edition, an Intel Core i7-5820K 6-Core 3.3GHz processor, and 16GB DDR4 memory.

Red Dead Redemption 2 Graphics Options Performance Breakdown Chart

The further right the bar goes, the more demanding the graphics setting is when switching from Low to Ultra, or whatever equivalent is used for that particular graphics setting in Red Dead Redemption 2.

Red Dead Redemption 2 Graphics Settings

Red Dead Redemption 2 comes with a very wide range of graphics settings to tweak to your heart's content. There's plenty to mess around with if you're trying to squeeze out a few extra frames and fine-tune RDR2's PC performance. We've provided both a score for the performance hit as well as a priority score designed to recommend which graphics settings you prioritise turning up (the higher the number, the better).

Triple Buffering

This can improve a bit of image stability, in some cases lowering image load times, at the cost of some VRAM, video card memory. So if you have some spare VRAM then this can certainly be turned on, as the performance impact is fairly minimal.

Performance Impact - 1/5

Priority - 4/5

Texture Quality

Adjusts the resolution of textures in RDR2. This graphics setting is heavily reliant on your available VRAM. If you have enough, there will be little to no impact on frame rates. If you don't, expect your performance to be crippled until you turn it down to the appropriate level. Its a good looking graphics setting and one we suggest you pay up for to help improve the Red Dead 2 visuals significantly. With this set to low the ground will look very poor.

Other graphics settings, like texture shadows will enhance this further, but without this setting turned on the game will look cheap.

Game Restart Required - If you change this option then the game will need to be restarted to take effect.

Check out our screenshot slider to see what happens between low vs ultra on Texture Quality graphics setting. Please note that every other option is set to Low or off to get the biggest contrast with Low Vs Ultra.

Performance Impact - 3/5

Priority - 5/5

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Anisotropic Filtering

Texture filtering, or anisotropic filtering, enhances the image quality of textures when viewed at oblique angles by reducing blur and preserving texture detail.

Performance Impact - 2/5

Priority - 3/5

 

Lighting Quality

The quality of lighting sources is visibly improved throughout the game when you turn this option up to Ultra. It effects how the light from the sun, moon and other more localised sources of light illuminate their surroundings.

We would recommend trying to turn this lighting setting up in Red Dead 2 but it is not a max priority graphics option.

Our chart above shows a performance impact for Lighting Quality based on day time open plane exploring. But the lighting quality FPS performance cost increases quite a lot in the nighttime. And you can see the benefits of turning up the lighting quality in Red Dead 2 at night time in the screenshot slider below. Remember that all other options in this screenshot are turned to low except when we turn up the Lighting Quality to Ultra.

Performance Impact - 3/5

Priority - 3/5

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Global Illumination Quality

In RDR2 the global illumination option improves the radiance of light from light sources. Its basically another layer of lighting tweaks over the above Lighting Quality. As a graphics setting it works well with Lighting Quality, but it is subtle. Fortunately it doesnt cost too much in the way of Frames per second to the game running.

The slider screenshots below are of Red Dead 2 with all options turned to low or off except 2. We left Lighting Quality set to Ultra and we switch Global Illumination Quality (GLQ) from Low to Ultra. We did this so you can see the enhancement that GLQ makes on the lighting source. Click on the images if you wish to see the screenshots in a larger format.

Performance Impact - 1/5

Priority - 1/5

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Shadow Quality

This graphics setting impacts Red Dead Redemption 2's render resolution on the shadows cast by objects. The higher the setting, the more detailed and higher resolution the shadows cast by objects. Keeping this setting up high will add a sense of depth to the visuals in RDR2. It is one of the key options to get running and improve the realism of the game, but it comes at a bit of a cost, but one we feel is worth it.

Performance Impact - 3/5

Priority - 4/5

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Far Shadow Quality

This is similar to the above option but is applied to distant objects. Not quite as important but still a good option to get turned on if you can.

Performance Impact - 2/5

Priority - 2/5

 

Screen Space Ambient Occlusion

Another lighting and shadow option, Screen Space Ambient Occlusion adds extra depth to objects by layering in shadows. 

SS Ambient Occlusion setting comes with some FPS performance hits though, and works best when you put up the Lighting Quality, especially if you can afford to get Global Illumination Quality up to Ultra as well. These lighting options are real mood enhancers. All nice to have but not completely essential if you need to find some FPS from somewhere.

Check out the slider below and remember you can click on it to see larger screenshots of the SS Ambient Occlusion. In the screenshot below look at the hay bales and sacks and you will see the Ambient Occlusion enhancing the shadows.

Performance Impact - 3/5

Priority - 2/5

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Reflection Quality

This is a real enigma to us. If you turn this graphics option up to Ultra setting then the frame rates in Red dead Redemption drop massively. And we cant see any obvious visual improvement for all these lost FPS.

We are going to explore this graphics option a lot more carefully and will put our findings into the article over the next day or so. For now, take a look at a slider screenshot we have put together that showcases the performance impact and the lack of visual improvement.

Performance Impact - 5/5

Priority - 0/5

 

Mirror Quality

If you like your own reflection and want it to be crisp in the game then turn this option up. But in Red Dead 2 you are not often in proximity of mirrors, because you are running around the lands where there are no mirrors. So this graphics option is rarely an issue and when mirrors are around it doesnt really translate into significant performance problems. If we notice something else regarding this option then we will update the article accordingly, but for now, turn it up and forget about it.

Performance Impact - 0/5

Priority - 1/5

 

Water Quality

Water Quality is an umbrella graphics option which affects three other settings - Water Refraction Quality, Water Reflection Quality, and Water Physics Quality. It is massively demanding on Ultra when near a lake or other water surface and should be dialed down for a big increase in RDR2 frame rates.

The biggest single graphics option frame rate drop in Red Dead 2 is caused by Water Physics Quality. So if you notice you are suffering FPS drops around water then lower this slider to get back a tonne of FPS. However, when it is running it does make the game look beautiful, so definitely mess around with this until your PC can deal with it.

Performance Impact - 5/5

Priority - 4/5

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Volumetrics Quality

Volumetrics Quality is another umbrella term which affects Near Volumetric Resolution, Far Volumetric Resolution, and Volumetric Light Quality. Of these three, Near Volumetric Resolution is comfortably the most demanding. Unlock Red Dead Redemption 2's advanced graphics settings and turn up Far Volumetric Resolution and Volumetric Lighting Quality, while turning down Near Volumetric Resolution, for best results.

As one of the biggest RDR2 frame rate drops comes from the graphics option Near Volumetric Resolution. The option doesnt make too much of an obvious visual improvement either and you can certainly make do with it turned down a notch or two to get back some of those FPS. Again we will explore this further and update the article with more findings.

Performance Impact - 5/5

Priority - 2/5

 

Particle Quality

Affects the number and quality of particle effects. This is particularly noticeable in the embers and sparks from flames, or the smoke drifting up from campfires. Particle Quality graphics setting will also have a visual effect on snow falling. This is a nice to have, as we didnt feel we would miss it too much if it was turned low, but as Particle Quality seems like a light weight performance hit on Red Dead 2 we figured you might as well leave it cranked up.

Game Restart Required - If you change this option then the game will need to be restarted to take effect.

Performance Impact - 1/5

Priority - 0/5

 

Tessellation Quality

If you can spare the FPS horses then we would recommend turning Tessellation Quality up high on Red Dead 2 as the landscape is filled with mud and dirty puddles and snow and footprints. And this little graphics option renders those textures to improve your experience. 

Performance Impact - 2/5

Priority - 4/5

 

TAA

This is the default anti-aliasing in Red Dead Redemption 2. It stands for Temporal Anti-Aliasing and it reuses previous frames to help enahnce image quality. While this graphics option does hit the FPS performance we advise having at least this or FXAA turned on. This one you could turn on to medium setting as it can really help to get rid of the nasty jaggies around the edges of objects. But we advise for you to use FXAA below, as it is lighter-weight on the FPS performance drain.

Performance Impact - 4/5

Priority - 3/5

 

FXAA

This is Fast Approximate Anti-Aliasing which is a graphics option that also reduces the number of sharp edges to objects. Jaggies are pretty harsh on the eye and you can turn this option on in conjunction with the TAA option above if you wish.

FXAA isnt quite the same performance hit as TAA, so if you need to choose one we would recommend this Anti-aliasing option for Red Dead Redemption 2.

Performance Impact - 2/5

Priority - 5/5

 

MSAA

Multisampling Anti-Aliasing provides the best image quality out of the three anti-aliasing options in Red Dead Redemption 2 but it comes at big frames per second performance costs. Roughly speaking it is creating a larger than normal image then shrinking it back down again to your screensize, which basically smooths everything out. We would advise only using this option if you have a beast of a GPU, but really its best to just go with FXAA above.

Performance Impact - 5/5

Priority - 0/5

 

Near Volumetric Resolution

In RDR2 the Near Volumetric Resolution option increases fog and cloud rendering quality. The game is filled with lots of the stuff. It really makes for a wonderful imersive experience as the damp fog rolls across the planes as a storm moves in. Its a nice graphics option to have turned up, as it can aid in a lot of the games atmospherics but if you are struggling for FPS then you can easily lower this and not be too upset with its omission.

Near Volumetric Resolution graphics option is one of the biggest frames per second hits in Red Dead Redemption 2.

Performance Impact - 5/5

Priority - 4/5

 

Far Volumetric Resolution

The distant clouds and fog are managed by this rendering graphics option. While doing a similar task to the graphics option above, it does not hit performance and frame rates in the same way as its close fog rendering option. So it seems safe to turn this up to max and forget about it.

Performance Impact - 0/5

Priority - 5/5

 

Volumetric Lighting Quality

This option often works best with the Near Volumetric Resolution (NVR) setting, and helps provide some great ambience and cinematic moments in Red Dead Redemption 2. And while the performance hit on this option is there it does not cripple the game experience when it is on. So if you can turn this on with NVR then do so and enjoy some lovely red dead 2 visuals. But if you are struggling definitely think about turning this down or off, especially if NVR is already turned off.

Performance Impact - 2/5

Priority - 3/5

Red Dead Redemption 2 best PC graphics settings for optimised performance