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[UPDATED] Red Dead Redemption 2 Graphics Reportedly Downgraded With Updates

Red Dead Redemption 2 may have removed or altered ambient occlusion in a recent update, according to fans showcasing side-by-side comparisons.

March 18, 2019

Update: After further digging, it’s been deduced that the Red Dead Redemption 2‘s reported ambient occlusion visual downgrade is far from new — in fact, the change has been active since Update 1.03 which rolled out late last year. Even still, it doesn’t appear that an explicit downgrade to shadowing via ambient occlusion was noted in the Rockstar patch notes.

In fact, some eagle-eyed users were able to spot the visual discrepancies then. User RolfStarGames on the GTA Forums captured the below images doing a thorough investigation between the original build and captures post Update 1.03. You can check those images in the following gallery:

Since publishing the story, there have been a few occasional developments. Update 1.07 has rolled out overnight, however it appears to just fix matchmaking in Red Dead Redemption Online. Though Rockstar hasn’t confirmed whether the speculation is true yet, there has been a community groundswell to take comparison photos of the game — either in temps to support or debunk the ambient occlusion issue.

This story is developing, and we will keep you updated on any changes. Original reporting follows:

If you have yet to play through the Western epic that is Red Dead Redemption 2, consider blocking the updates from your original disk install. According to reports from multiple gamers in dedicated Red Dead Redemption communities, Rockstar seemingly removed ambient occlusion in a visual downgrade — though that was not disclosed in the most recent patch notes.

The news originally came from Twitter user Darealbandicoot who shared side-by-side screenshots of version 1.00 and version 1.06 of the western game:

There’s a good chance you will need to blow these images up to notice the difference, especially if you are a newcomer to ambient occlusion. Put simply, ambient occlusion is a game rendering realistic lighting based on the actual geometry in the room — if a lighting source would be blocked, we wouldn’t expect to see every inch of nooks and crannies. For a visual demonstration, you can take a look at this (thanks to website GamingScan):

You can notice on the right image that shadows are more prevalent, dark colors are more rich, and everything looks more realistic.

Now, you can do that same comparison with the two photos:

Left: Version 1.0; Right: Version 1.06

Several things pop up in this comparison photo — you can see that Arthur’s jacket is more illuminated and has far less shadow on the right-most image that has is taken with Update 1.06. Shadows under the bar are less prevalent and the general lighting is all around brighter.

To spot the differences easier, go back and forth between these two images:

Oddly enough, it doesn’t appear that the latest update mentions anything about removing or altering the lighting of the game, let alone a full removal of ambient occlusion. In fact, lighting isn’t mentioned at all outside of small changes and texture issues.

Obviously, there is always the chance that there are mitigating factors causing these differences — in previous rumors of downgrades, these could have been caused by differences in the weather or time of day. On the other hand, it isn’t totally uncommon to see assets shift in updates as games are further optimized, either intentionally or unintentionally. However, if this is real and not just unfortunate side-by-side screenshot grabs, it is a shame. One of the principal reasons the game received a 10 from DualShockers is because it was a technical showstopper, including the lighting.

Of course, to enjoy the game as it was originally deployed, you would simply need to uninstall the game and reinstall without an internet connection and without patches.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is available now on PS4 and Xbox One; if you would like to get your hands on it, you can order the game through Amazon.

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Lou Contaldi

Lou Contaldi specializes in both reviews and the business behind gaming. He began writing about tech and video games while getting his Juris Doctor at Hofstra University School of Law. He is maybe the only gaming journo based in Nashville, TN.

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