The headline news? Red Dead Redemption is now playable on Xbox One X at a true, native 4K. Ahead of the sequel’s promised October 2018 release date, the Xbox 360 classic is added to a growing list of back-compat titles running on X hardware, enhanced at the emulator level to provide a full native 4K resolution – while retaining the original’s pass of 2x MSAA. The fact that the game has finally broken free of its original 720p resolution limit is a big deal for another reason too – notoriously, Red Dead Redemption never received a PC release, meaning that this new Xbox One X-powered refresh is likely to be the best rendition of the game we’ll ever get.
At its best, the enhancements offered by Xbox One X are revelatory. At 4K resolution, effects like the heat haze and light shafts stand out brilliantly as you walk down the Armadillo Town’s streets. Even small interactions between NPCs are easier to pick out at a distance, and perhaps most strikingly, on a clear night, the bed of stars overhead looks pin-sharp – one of the clearest signs of that upgrade to 4K. As impressive as it is however, it’s not quite on par with a full remaster. After all, the textures and HUD elements still rely on the original Xbox 360 assets. Even so, while there is a rigid, somewhat angular look to Rockstar’s creation that hints at last-gen limits in poly count, this world still often holds up convincingly enough as a modern title.
Much like other back-compat games like Crackdown or Forza Horizon, Xbox One X’s res bump only seems to flatter the original work, using negative LOD bias on textures to bring better quality mip-maps to the fore, beautifully matching the increased resolution. But are there any other enhancements – in shadows, LODs, or even effects? Could this offer up some of the prospective features from the PC version we never received, or is a jump to 4K the extent of it? Presumably many of these variables – shadows for example – could be tweaked at the emulator level (as they were in the X-enhanced Assassin’s Creed), perhaps giving improved visual fidelity that better fits an ultra HD display. As it turns out though, Red Dead Redemption is emulated faithfully here; barring one extra, there are no augmentations.
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