Players Debate Whether Red Dead Redemption 2's New Patches Downgraded The Game's Graphics

Screenshot: 2K Games, Red Dead Redemption 2

Post-launch updates are supposed to make a game better, but some players now believe Red Dead Redemption 2’s graphics have been slightly downgraded following the release of the most recent patch. They have been sharing before and after screenshots to try and prove it.

Rockstar Games released Title Update 1.06 on February 26. It introduced new items and tinkered with stuff in the online mode, like adding new daily challenges and making it easier to identify players that were potentially griefing other people. The single-player campaign was seemingly left unchanged, but some players are now saying they see less detail and poorer lighting in some areas of the campaign. Other players think that’s wrong and are countering with their own before-and-after shots.

On March 13, a player going by Darealbandicoot‏ on Twitter tweeted an alleged comparison of the inside of a saloon between when the game launched and now. The first image is clearer and has a more striking contrast between the shadows and highlights on objects, while the latter looks a bit foggier over all. There are also some things missing in the post-1.06 screenshot, including one of the non-playable character’s pocket squares.

Other players have argued that the changes can be accounted for by differences in the time of day between the two shots, and that the second shot was potentially doctored to look worse. In response, Darealbandicoot shared a second comparison shot involving customising protagonist Arthur Morgan’s clothes. There are still noticeable differences that wouldn’t be caused by the time of day, like fewer shadows on the folds in Morgan’s clothes and the floorboards in the cabin he’s in.

Screenshot: Darealbandicoot, Red Dead Redemption 2
Screenshot: Darealbandicoot, Red Dead Redemption 2

In an email, Darealbandicoot told Kotaku the screenshots were did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the shots.

Another comparison point has been the game’s street cars. A handful of shots comparing them pre- and post-patch show similar differences in the lighting, with supposedly fewer and more shallow shading effects on the side of the cars in the current version of the game. There’s also a before and after shot of a hallway which looks practically identical at first. Upon closer inspection though it’s clear the lamps lining the walls in the first shot shine more brightly and warmly on the parts of the wall immediately behind them.

How a hallway appears in version 1.0 (left), compared to version 1.06 (right). (Screenshot: Marcoshmg, Red Dead Redemption 2 )

Other players have come forward with shots that appear to show that some of the changes in the lighting effects might go back even further to the Title Update 1.03 from November 29. In a thread posted on the GTA Forums that same day, some players mentioned differences and talked about trying to re-download the original version of the game to revert back to the earlier graphics.

Screenshot: RolfStarGames, Red Dead Redemption 2
Screenshot: RolfStarGames, Red Dead Redemption 2

Rockstar Games did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

These lighting effects in games tend to be associated with ambient occlusion rendering. In PC games there’s usually an option to turn it off in order to run a game more smoothly on a less powerful graphics card. Some players have speculated that the visual downgrades are an attempt to make Red Dead Redemption 2 run more smoothly on base PS4 and Xbox One models. It’s also possible that the visual changes are simply a bug.

The 1.06 patch notes list dozens upon dozens of bug fixes, some aimed at things like lighting effects. “Fixed an issue that resulted in incorrect textures and lighting effects on some combinations of player clothing,” reads one.

It’s possible that there’s no problem at all, and the differences in screenshots can be accounted for in differences in the time of day or weather, both of which are associated with lots of nuanced, visual changes in the game. The act of compressing images down to share them online could also be partly responsible for at least some of the apparent changes.

Whatever the cause, it hasn’t made Red Dead Redemption 2 look ugly by any means. The game remains a technical marvel. It has, however, led to a new contingent of the game’s most diehard fans committing themselves to going back to the 1.0 version of the game and not installing any future updates.


    Does this even matter? Seems more like pissing contest to prove who’s ‘right’ more than anything

    have any of these patches fixed the 'realism' problems with gameplay/riding?

    Did they remove puddles again? I can't play any game that doesn't have puddles.

      I create my own every time my horse hits a tree and piss myself laughing!

    In an email, Darealbandicoot told Kotaku the screenshots were did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the shots.Wait, he did didn't not do what now?

      The screenshots were did not immediately respond to the request, it's English simple to understand, clearly.

      Ah, I see the problem. Its missing a little punctuation. Maybe this will help.

      “In an email, Darealbandicoot told Kotaku the screenshots were 'did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the' shots.”

      Or maybe not.

    A great many of those screenshots could easily be put down to time of day... But even some of the interior ones, if anything was changed it seems like they made the AO less intensive and arguably made the shadows more realistic by comparison.

    Because some of the AO shadowing was pretty dark before, even though there is a light source nearby... Such as the shop/register pictures with the lantern next to it.

    *Take Screenshot*
    *Turn off HDR*
    *Take Screenshot*
    *Post Online*
    *Make the Internet fanboys lose it*

      Only works with people who have HDR compatible monitors. Otherwise the screenshots will look the exact same.

    Really people still playing online.

    I really enjoyed the story of RDR2 but the online is a complete let down. I enjoyed it to begin with but it just became boring, I know it's a beta but come on there is little to no content and when will this so called beta even end.

    It's a shame because RDR online was my favourite online experience, even better than GTA5 in my opinion but RDR2 is just dreary and boring. I love my cowboy role-playing in game but come on release it or put it to rest.

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