Red Dead Redemption 2’s messy PC launch encapsulates the good, the bad and the ugly of PC gaming

Yes, that's a cowboy with a laptop
Yes, that's a cowboy with a laptop. (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Red Dead Redemption 2 is finally out on PC! At long last, PC gamers can play Rockstar’s cowboy simulator! Well … that was the plan. 

For many PC gamers, the long wait to play Red Dead Redemption 2 on their PCs ended up being a whole lot longer.

Instead of being able to jump into Rockstar’s beautifully detailed world of cowboys, lowlifes, button mashing and seemingly endless horse riding, many people were instead left staring at a message that reads "The Rockstar Games Launcher exited unexpectedly." Boy, howdy!

Now, the less charitable amongst us who have already played the game might say that this level of frustration offers PC gamers a pretty accurate Red Dead Redemption 2 experience. After failing a mission because you walked the wrong way, or died in an ambush because the game decided to lose all your weapons, you may actually wish for the beautiful simplicity of a simple old fashioned crash to desktop error.

Red Dead Redemption 2 PC ReShade

When it works, Red Dead Redemption 2 on PC can look stunning – especially with mods. (Image credit: DigitalDreams)

Saddle up

Joking aside, if you’ve just bought a game, you should expect to be able to play it. That’s kind of the point. And, the messy PC launch of Red Dead Redemption 2 has reminded many of us why gaming on PC can be so frustrating.

While we’d love to say that games crashing because of outdated drivers, or throwing up incomprehensible error messages that leave even the more technically minded of us utter confused about what went wrong – and how to fix it – no longer happen, sadly it does. And, for console gamers who have sworn off PC gaming because it’s too complicated … they might well feel their prejudices have been justified, especially since they can get all the Red Dead Redemption 2 cheats on console as well.

It’s a shame, because the PC is undoubtedly the best platform to play Red Dead Redemption 2 – when it works.

We had our share of problems, with the Rockstar Games Launcher, the piece of software you need to install to play the game, taking forever to decrypt the 100GB file we’d just downloaded. And once, it had finally installed, the game refused to load.

This cowboy is still trying to get Red Dead Redemption 2 to load.

This cowboy is still trying to get Red Dead Redemption 2 to load. (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Thankfully, Rockstar released an update that seemed to fix the issue – after we updated our graphics driver.

And once we were in, it was definitely worth the wait. The graphics quality of the PC port puts the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro versions to shame. Not only does the PC version support a huge range of resolutions, including 4K and above (as long as your hardware can handle it), but it also supports ultra-wide aspect ratios. And, as we found, this super-wide view is quite possibly the definitive way to play this game if you’re after a truly cinematic experience.

Add in a multiplayer mode you can play for free (remember that?) and an already promising collection of mods that will make the game look – and play – even better, and the PC is clearly the ultimate platform to play Red Dead Redemption 2 on.

It’s just a shame that, at the moment the port is so messy, that it’s detracting from that fact.

Matt Hanson
Managing Editor, Core Tech

Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Core Tech, looking after computing and mobile technology. Having written for a number of publications such as PC Plus, PC Format, T3 and Linux Format, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming. Ever since he got an Amiga A500+ for Christmas in 1991, he's loved using (and playing on) computers, and will talk endlessly about how The Secret of Monkey Island is the best game ever made.