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Shacknews Best Graphics of 2018 - Red Dead Redemption 2

Rockstar's western epic pushes consoles to the limit to deliver sprawling landscapes that feel more alive than any game that came before and takes home our award for the best graphics of 2018.


2018 has been a big year for pushing the graphical envelope in video games. God of War arrived in the first half of the year and wowed players with its razor sharp presentation and 4K nipples. Dutch PC port wizards Nixxes pushed the envelope for new graphics tech with the release of Shadow of the Tomb Raider on Steam, as well as demoing NVIDIA’s new ray tracing features at Gamescom in Germany. While Rockstar’s RAGE Engine has been around the block a few times, the development team pushed it and the current generation consoles to the limit to create a living, breathing recreation of the wild west of 1899.  Red Dead Redemption 2 may not have the sharpest textures, the newest effects, or working HDR, but it paints a breathtaking picture that is more than the sum of its parts, and the Shacknews staff agreed that it deserved the award for Best Graphics of 2018.

The first time you sit down to play Red Dead Redemption 2, the first thing that jumps out at you is the generous draw distance. The rolling landscapes appear to go on forever and fade into the horizon. The combination of the grass, trees, rocks, and mountains never fails to impress. No matter where you are on the game’s map, a gorgeous vista is no farther than a push of the right control stick. The environment is not static, either. Leaves roll with the wind, as does the grass on the prairie. A dynamic weather system adds even more variety to the mix. One of the best moments in gaming in 2018 is when you simply stop playing the game and sit still as a late afternoon storm rolls over the landscape.

Character models in Red Dead Redemption 2 get a huge boost over the original game and are even a noticeable step up from what we got on the upgraded versions of Grand Theft Auto V. If you get the camera close enough, you can see the fibers of the fabric in coats, shirts, and cowboy hats. Most building interiors look sharp and have an incredibly cozy feel, especially when being illuminated by candlelight.

The game’s state of the art animations help draw the viewer into the world of the wild west. Every step taken by protagonist Arthur Morgan just looks right. There is seemingly a bespoke animation for every scenario you can encounter, from falling down stairs to being thrown off a horse into river rapids. Speaking of horses, the four-legged vehicles often steal the show in Red Dead Redemption 2. Watching them flip their tails or shake their heads just adds so much to the visual presentation. The team at Rockstar even took the time to create high-resolution art assets and a physics simulation for the horse testicles. This attention to detail is the foundation on which the game is built and is what drives the visual presentation to heights never before seen in a video game.

Even if you think the wild west isn't for you, we wholeheartedly recommend you spend some time with Red Dead Redemption 2, if only to take in the wonderful sights. If you have the choice, try to play the game on the Xbox One X, as it is undoubtedly the best-looking version available.

Make sure you don't miss out on the best video games of 2018 — head over to the Shacknews Awards 2018 home page to brush up on our picks for the very best games to release this year.

Contributing Tech Editor

Chris Jarrard likes playing games, crankin' tunes, and looking for fights on obscure online message boards. He understands that breakfast food is the only true food. Don't @ him.

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