#Ad Disclosure: Rockstar Games kindly provided me with copy of Red Dead Redemption on Nintendo Switch ahead of its release. No coverage was required in exchange for the copy nor is it editorialised by Rockstar Games. This message is to be compliant with the advertising standards guidelines.
Today, Rockstar Games have released two new versions of their masterpiece Red Dead Redemption. In this article I’ll be sharing my experience playing the Nintendo Switch version of the game so far.
2023 has been a busy year of great games so finishing a Switch playthrough before its official release was a task too far for me. However, I did spend several hours across a few sessions exploring and analysing this new port of the game. I’ll share differences from the original version, download size, performance and more below. Every single screenshot in this article is taken in the Switch version.
What’s included in this edition and why has it been made?
Rockstar Games’ western arrived in 2010 on the Xbox 360 and PS3. It quickly became beloved with a lasting legacy which has lived on well over a decade after its release and 2018 sequel. Rumours of a Red Dead remaster have swirled over the last couple of years; especially in the last few weeks. To many fans in the community, what Rockstar eventually confirmed this month was not what they had hoped: Ports for the Nintendo Switch and PS4 with a $50 price tag…
If we look at just the product itself, being playable on PS4, PS5 and on the go is an exciting proposition for some fans. Having the whole of New Austin and beyond at their fingertips wherever they may be is going to be fun. It also comes with the Game of the Year edition content and fantastic Undead Nightmare DLC.
Earlier this summer, I began another new playthrough of Red Dead Redemption on the Xbox Series X to experience it at 4K. I had only played a small amount of the story and multiplayer via backwards compatibility in recent years.
Despite its age, the game holds up due to its strong art direction and technical achievement. This is why some fans wondered if a “remaster” was needed at all. Of course, not everyone has an Xbox One X or Series X and can make use of their awesome backwards compatibility features.
There are over 100 million owners of the PS4 and another 100 million Nintendo Switch consoles out there. Opening this game up to that amount of players makes sense. We also have to mention Red Dead Redemption 2 has now sold 55 million copies, more than double that of the first game. To Rockstar and Take-Two, this is an opportunity to make money on a game they already have made. I’m always glad more people can experience games but the price point is too tall.
Which makes the fact we’re not getting a PC version at this time even more confusing. Red Dead Redemption 2 is huge on PC and yet those players still cannot experience RDR1 properly. A lot of gamers thought the imminent Red Dead announcement would include a PC port and it is still absent. As someone who is a bit obsessed with high frame-rates, not having access to a 60FPS or more version of Red Dead Redemption in 2023 is not great.
This conversion has been done by Double Eleven Studios, not Rockstar. Double Eleven specialise in porting games to new platforms and assisting other games in-development. The studio was actually founded by ex-Rockstar Games staff who worked on the original release of Red Dead Redemption. There are other employees that have played a part in the development of Rockstar titles as well.
How is it on Switch?
I started playing on version 1.0 but a patch was released not too long after receiving the game, updating it to version 1.01. The patch was not too big and I assume was for bug fixes; this typically happens with games pre-release.
The game’s digital download comes in at 11.4GB. This version of the game includes the base game, Game of the Year edition content and the Undead Nightmare expansion hence why the size is larger than the base Xbox version. There is also no multiplayer component which is definitely a negative. As someone who is fond of RDR1 multiplayer and has played it in more recent times, this omission will disappointing to other fans as well.
At its core, Red Dead Redemption on Nintendo Switch is literally the Red Dead Redemption we know and love on Switch. Some may expect it to look quite bad but it doesn’t. It is a 13 year old game made for the PS3 and Xbox 360 so it should look less blurry than other AAA releases on Switch.
I played the game in both handheld and docked mode and I’d say handheld is probably going to be preferred by most. The screen size and resolution enough for on the go but playing docked introduces a loss in clarity.
However, the game has a lot of aliasing which will be distracting to players. Fences, buildings, grass, bushes, trees, all cause the game to shimmer. This is particularly bad in locations such as MacFarlane’s Ranch and looking at anything past short distances.
Something that does standout as sharp though is the UI. The HUD, map, and menus are all improved over the Xbox 360 version. It looks great on the Switch’s display. This is likely down to the game being upscaled on Xbox but on Switch it is running at native resolution. This is a good time for me to note I’m playing on the base Switch model but I’d imagine this game will look even better for OLED Switch users.
Performance and bugs
In the few hours I’ve played across both Red Dead and Undead Nightmare, I’ve not come across bugs that are going to impact your experience or distract you. I’ve not seen anything distract me or an actual example to call out. It should be like this but after the GTA Trilogy Definitive Edition debacle, the fan’s trust and expectations in Rockstar and ports are lower. I can’t speak for later in the game though, I wish I had more hours in the day to play!
In terms of frame rate, whilst I don’t have tools to record the frame rate, I didn’t notice any major drops. It was a solid 30FPS to my eye in the several hours I’ve played. Like I said earlier, I’m someone who needs to be playing at 300FPS but am open to lower if the experience is stable, which this is.
There is aggressive pop-in of LODs at medium range but the 360 version also features similar cases for performance reasons. Draw distance wasn’t as bad as I expected for a game of this size on the Switch.
The Vaseline-like effect that is motion blur when looking around is not as good on the Switch version. It is far more distracting compared to how it looks on Xbox 360. You do have the option in the menus to toggle off motion blur which sorts this though.
Controls are tight and the game is not sluggish to play. The only issue I have is the short thumbstick is not as good for aiming compared to the Xbox but that’s not the fault of this game.
Differences compared to the original version
In this section I’ll be showing direct side-by-side comparisons between the original Xbox 360 release running on Xbox Series X at 1080p and the Nintendo Switch version. Note: the internal video capture does reduce visual quality compared to playing it, the game appears clearer on the Switch.
Firstly, we can take a look at the intro video which has some slight changes as you can see below. The Rockstar logos have a slightly different look to them and the Red Dead logo on the main menu screen is brighter. The copyright notices and EULA screens which appears before the Rockstar logos are slightly different and a third screen warning users of seizures is displayed. Following the Rockstar logos, the Double Eleven logo zooms in. You are able to select Red Dead normal, hardcore and Undead Nightmare from the main menu.
Intro video and main menu
Click on the images to view at full resolution.
Opening cut scene and gameplay
Now for a comparison of the opening cutscene and gameplay from when you first take control of John. Below you are able to tell there is very few differences aside from visual quality.
Now we can take a look at the control scheme and settings. Most screens in the menu are identical except for Switch UI but the Switch version also has a motion blur toggle and scaling options for text such as subtitles.
Is it worth the cost?
The RRP or $50/£40 is steep for a 13 year old game which can be found for a small fraction of that on Xbox 360 or PS3. It is cheaper in some places to buy a pre-owned Xbox 360 console and the game these days. If you have an Xbox One, One X, Series S or Series X you can still play your copy of the game at no extra cost.
The One X and Series X even get a bump to 4K and it looks great. But again, not everyone own’s an Xbox One or newer and those with a PS4 and PS5 might be happy to replay the game on their newer system again. Both lack PS3 backwards compatibility but Red Dead and Undead Nightmare were available at 720p via cloud streaming for 6 years before being removed last year. That was certainly not the way you’d want to play this game.
Whilst I’m not checking out the PS4 port of RDR1 here and can’t comment on how it plays, the PS3 version of the game is in worse shape than the Xbox 360 release. PS3 players have been subjected to lower resolution and more frequent frame drops below 30 since release.
We expect the PS4 version to be at least 1080p and if it runs stable, it will be a much better way to play the game over its 2010 counterpart. Other outlets will likely be covering the PS4 version so be on the lookout for coverage on that.
If you’re a fan and wants to add to their collection then this port no doubt will be a purchase at some point for you. The ability to enjoy the base game’s story and Undead Nightmare be it at the comfort of your bed or on the go is a huge plus. This is especially tempting to those that are yet to experience John Marston’s journey.
If you want to purchase it on sale…
Digital copies of the game won’t see much change to their price in the near future but physical versions are already reduced in cost. As I reported last week, some retailers are already offering a discount of around 15% on pre-orders. These versions release October 13th. On top of that, these can be sold later on and not tied to your account forever. Even at £34 with no remastering about it, it is not what fans have been wanting and bit much for a 13 year old game.
The announcement of these conversions went down like a lead balloon; not because the product itself might be bad but rather fans expect more from anything under the Rockstar Games banner. Especially something as cherished as Red Dead Redemption. After all, it was Rockstar’s parent company who said the team are “determined to set creative benchmarks for the series, industry and entertainment” with the next GTA.
These two new versions are fine re-releases giving more people the chance to experience the incredible story. They’re faithful to the original as they are unchanged. But that’s it. In the times we’re living, the cost of this product is too much nor a necessity. A PC version would go a long way and allow for better preservation of Rockstar’s masterpiece. Some could blame the fans for their expectations based on rumours but that’s not fair. Rockstar released PC versions of RDR2, GTA V, even The Trilogy Definitive Edition. It’s about time Red Dead Redemption made its way to the PC.