Should you choose Vulkan or DirectX 12 in Red Dead Redemption 2?

The PC version of Red Dead Redemption 2 offers two different graphics APIs. What are the differences and which should you choose?


Now that Red Dead Redemption 2 has finally made its way to the PC platform, thousands of players are hopping into the game to get a taste of the wild west. Like most multiplatform games that release on PC, Red Dead Redemption 2 offers visual upgrades and options not available in its console counterpart. In addition to settings for increasing draw distance of objects, the precision of physics simulations, and the quality of graphical effects, the game also offers PC users two different graphics APIs. Both Vulkan and DirectX 12 are selectable from the graphics options menu. What do these APIs do and which is best for you? 

Should you choose Vulkan or DirectX 12 in Red Dead Redemption 2

Vulkan and DirectX 12
Vulkan and DirectX 12 allow for communication between the game and your PC hardware.

What is a graphics API?

API is short for application programming interface. When it comes to video games on the PC, developers almost always use one of the popular APIs to bring the games to life on the platform. These APIs allow the developers to have the game engines talk to the hardware without the developers having to code directly for each specific variant. Instead of the developer having to write unique code for a Radeon RX 5700 XT, Radeon RX 580, and GeForce RTX 2080, a graphics API translates information and commands to the hardware.

Which API should I choose?

Red Dead Redemption 2 offers both Vulkan and DirectX 12 APIs within its graphics menu. Vulkan is a multi-platform rendering API that is maintained by the Khronos Group and is based on AMD’s Mantle API. It has been used in titles like Doom (2016), The Surge 2, and various Linux game ports. DirectX 12 was developed by Microsoft and is used by the Xbox One and Windows PCs. Notable DirectX 12 titles include Gears of War 5, Metro Exodus, and Resident Evil 2.

Vulkan and DirectX 12
There is no visual difference between Vulkan and DirectX 12.

In Red Dead Redemption 2, there is no visual difference between selecting Vulkan or DirectX 12. The only differences between them are how they interact with your PC hardware. The way the game performs with these APIs can differ depending on what hardware is being used. Based on the earliest benchmarks are reports from players, Vulkan offers slightly higher average frame rates (< 5%), while DirectX 12 offers a slightly smoother experience overall (particularly on NVIDIA graphics cards). Frame rate fluctuations are less intense using DirectX 12, so it may feel a bit more consistent in practice, even if benchmarking shows it to be slightly behind Vulkan when calculating raw frame rates.

Ultimately, you are likely to get a great experience with either of the APIs. Switching between the two options requires the game to be restarted for the change to take effect.

For more guides, walkthroughs, videos, and other content for Red Dead Redemption 2, keep an eye on our RDR 2 hub page.

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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