Red Dead Redemption 2 is unfortunately rather lackluster with its HDR implementation, and on top, doesn’t offer a good 4K support on PS4 Pro.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is finally out after all this time. Fans who were eagerly waiting for the game picked it for their preferred platform out of the PS4 or Xbox One. Depending on which platform you pick it for, the experience is unfortunately not that great at all for those who have a 4K and HDR TV.
One of the reasons why Red Dead Redemption 2 fails to have an impact with HDR is the lack of proper calibration and a spotty implementation of HDR colors. It is hard to go into details when most of the implementation remains unknown, but there are so many reports of people complaining about HDR support that it is hard to ignore them. The main and most annoying complaint that I have personally faced as well is that the colors are washed out. This is true for the PS4 Pro but it also applies to the Xbox One X.
The other complaint is that the image lacks the sharpness of a typical 4K game, and this is true as well. I can attest to this and I can consider this a side-effect of the temporal reconstruction technique that is used to render at 4K on the PS4 Pro. Rockstar Games didn’t settle on a dynamic 4K resolution, neither they opted for full 4K checkerboard rendering. Their solution here was to merely reconstruct the game on one axis. The end result is a resolution of 1920 x 2160, which means only the vertical axis is reprojected to 4K resolution.
This resolution puts the game in a weird place because it doesn’t just work that well with the post-processing effects like the anti-aliasing used by Rockstar Games. It adds an additional blur to the game which doesn’t give a great first impression. Compared to the PS4 Pro, the Xbox One X renders it at native 4K, even if it uses the same reconstruction technique like the PS4 Pro, but the end result is a great degree sharper and thus better-detailed image quality. Although, even that doesn’t save the Xbox One X version from a terrible HDR implementation, which suffers from the same faults as the PS4 Pro version.
So what is the solution here for Rockstar Games? Well, first of all, the resolution is something that will be hard to change, but they can try to experiment with the anti-aliasing technique that produces such a softer picture. HDR implementation and calibration need to be tuned in a future patch and yes, it can be fixed this way. Perhaps, no drastic changes can be made at this stage, but still, this being the first game where I hated HDR, I still feel like there is room for improvement here.
Lastly, for what it is worth, if you try to calibrate the game’s HDR using the settings recommended in options, don’t do it. It is best to find your own optimal settings even if the game says otherwise. HDR is tricky to figure out for most, but it shouldn’t really have such a drastic difference as it is the case with Red Dead Redemption 2 here.