We tested the new DLSS 2.2 update for Red Dead Redemption 2: here’s what we saw

Of all the different synthetic games and tests we use here at PCMag to compare the latest graphics cards, perhaps none are as punishing as Rockstar’s love letter to the Wild West, Red Dead Redemption 2.

There are several reasons the title has won hundreds of Game of the Year awards, but its visuals (especially in the PC version) have almost always topped the list. Played at 4K resolution with all graphics settings set to Ultra, Red Dead Redemption 2 is, in this reviewer’s opinion, the most beautiful game on the market, even two years after its debut.

But beautiful games come at a price, which continues to be grossly inflated in 2021 by scalpers and GPU buying bots around the world. As one of the prettiest games ever made, RDR2 also happens to be our most hardware-hungry benchmark, sending out all graphics cards except the highest-end ones, like Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3080 Ti, running for the hills of Montana from the start of the 4K testing. So, if you want to play Red Dead Redemption 2 in Ultra Detailed mode, but are still running a lower or older GeForce RTX-based GPU, what’s your next best option?

Why, it’s DLSS, of course! Nvidia’s latest update to its DLSS AI-assisted oversampling technology, “DLSS 2.0” (and its iterative versions thereafter, such as DLSS 2.2), has slowly gained wider adoption since its launch in March. latest. But, while Nvidia has managed to grab some big name games since then (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Fortnite among them), even three years after version 1.0 launched, DLSS is still not supported. that out of about 60 titles in total.

Nvidia can add one more to its cap, though, and that’s a big deal. This week, RDR2 finally got the update that many have been patiently awaiting since its announcement earlier this year, adding Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sampling, which harnesses a neural network to scale images to scale. Higher resolution with an optional smaller speed penalty. in the graphics menu. We’ve tested every iteration of the technology so far, from DLSS 1.0 to the current version 2.2 supported by Red Dead Redemption 2, and have found some pretty incredible performance gains in AAA games like Death Stranding and Shadow of the Tomb Raider. . In these passages, DLSS was able to increase both frame rate and overall image sharpness, averaging 40% more frames per second depending on the DLSS quality setting used.

So how well will DLSS 2.2 help one of the more punishing PC titles? Let’s do some tests to find out.

Red Dead Redemption 2: Performance tested on DLSS 2.2

To remove as many variables as possible, we tested Red Dead Redemption 2 on our graphics card test bench (see its specifications in our article How we test graphics cards), using the GPU that Nvidia cited most often in its marketing materials for this update, the GeForce RTX 3070 Ti Founders Edition. The card has proven to be reliable and stable in our original testing and straddles the line between mid-range and high-end GPU performance for RDR2 going forward.

We first benchmarked the game at each resolution to get a baseline result, then performed two DLSS passes, one in quality mode and one in ultra performance mode. Red Dead Redemption 2 also offers Balanced and Performance modes, but we limited ourselves to the slower and faster menu options, Quality and Ultra Performance, to get the range we wanted to draw our conclusions from.

With quality mode enabled at 4K resolution, we saw a performance boost of around 18% over the native benchmark run. That’s pretty impressive on its own, but from a visual standpoint, as with other DLSS 2.0 titles, we actually noticed an improvement in overall image quality with DLSS replacing native rendering.

This is likely due to RDR2’s infamous TAA implementation, which has been widely criticized as being fuzzy at best since the game’s release on PC. DLSS is known to clean edges better than most other anti-aliasing approaches, so while it’s not exactly surprising to see this result, it still looks a bit like magic when the game is running not. only faster but manages to look better than a native renderer at the same time.

Comparing all of the DLSS settings, the performance gains in 4K were the most impressive, with Ultra Performance mode running 50% faster than native 4K. The gains, as always with DLSS, diminished from there as we moved down the list of resolution levels. For example, the 1440p results returned a maximum gain of just 28% (we’re still impressed, a little less), between Ultra Performance mode and Native mode.

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The gains were even lower at 1080p, which saw a net gain of 19% between native resolution and DLSS set to its fastest setting. As has been the case for most of its lifespan, DLSS is a technology that typically favors 4K gamers first.

Red Dead Redemption 2 DLSS Screenshots

(Click the button in the upper right corner of the slideshow below to have the option to view these images in full screen mode.)

The illusion quickly fades, however. Once you switch to something below quality mode (balanced, performance, or whatever), the individual leaves start to blend together and the distant foliage begins to spread out, to coax a technical term.

Having said that, you really have to look for it to see degradation in most cases. If you’re about to hit 60 fps (or whatever your frame rate goal is) with your current GPU, choose the right DLSS mode for your vision level and available hardware and do a bit of setting should get you there in almost any setup. Red Dead Redemption 2 was already a gorgeous game, and now that it can run reliably at 60fps on more hardware than ever before, I wouldn’t be surprised to see its Steam Charts numbers increase again as the people slip on their boots, hop on their horses and set off to experience Arthur Morgan’s story at ultra-smooth frame rates.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is at its best with DLSS

While AMD’s DLSS competitor Fidelity FX Super Resolution or FSR is really as easy to implement as the company claims, it might not be long before Big Red comes up with its own oversampling alternative for RDR2 in the near future. Until then, however, if you want the fastest possible frame rates and the prettiest version of Red Dead Redemption 2 seen to date, DLSS 2.2 on a GeForce RTX GPU is the only way to go.

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