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How to fix stuttering in Red Dead Redemption 2

(Image credit: Rockstar)

Red Dead Redemption 2 is one of the prettiest games I've ever played, but I much prefer experiencing it as an uninterrupted stream of consciousness as opposed to a hitchy slideshow. Constant stuttering or sudden freezes are affecting quite a few Red Dead Redemption 2 players, and one week in, no official fix has been implemented yet. But this is the PC, and if there's a problem, be it intermittent stuttering or too many clothed cowboys, we'll do our best to solve it on our own. 

The solution for most cases of stuttering, suggested in multiple Reddit threads, is to limit how much of the CPU RDR2.exe can utilize. There are various ways of doing that—Task Manager can maybe work, but you're better off with a utility like Battle Encoder Shirasé (BES). I inherently trust any program that could also be the name of a wild mecha anime anyway. Suit up. Let's fix this. 

Download and run BES. This helpful program lets you straight up deny programs from as much CPU power as you like, forcing them to their little program knees in supplication.

Run Red Dead Redemption 2. The process needs to be active in order for BES to see it. Boot up the cowboy boot simulation. 

Return to BES, select RDR2.exe, and click 'Limit this'. Then, using the sliding bar at the bottom of BES, set the CPU limiting to -2 percent (ie, allocating use of 98 percent of the CPU power). That little buffer will ideally prevent RDR2 from choking the CPU and causing those stutters, leaving a little passage for air.

Play Red Dead Redemption 2 and note any performance changes. If the stuttering hasn't left or has only changed in the timing or rhythm of the frame drops, try diminishing CPU resources a touch further, between -5 and -10 percent.

RDR2's performance is already highly variable and hardware dependent, so BES could very well require a bit of tinkering to find the settings that work for you, if it works at all—it's possible CPU-limiting may not be the solution to your particular problem. Be sure to approach the problem from every angle, too. Update your graphics drivers and knock down the graphics settings a few pegs and see if the issues persist.

I've been chatting with our benchmarking expert Jarred Walton throughout RDR2's rough release week, and he says the root cause appears to be RDR2.exe juggling too many threads, or the simultaneous processes a given application kicks off to do its thing. In Red Dead 2's case, its thing is looking fine and simulating a massive open world. We expect it to push our hardware to the limit, but not to the degree that makes it unplayable, especially if we're sitting cozy somewhere in the recommended specs and aren't juicing every setting to the max. 

Faster CPUs shouldn't be affected, but for slower CPUs, particularly 4-core/4-thread models (which includes all Core i5 parts from the 7th Gen i5-7600K and earlier, dating back to the minimum spec i5-2500K), RDR2 is simply throwing out too much work for the CPU to process efficiently.

Seeing how simple the fix is with a third-party program, we'd guess a patch to clean up stuttering arrives any day now. I've reached out to Rockstar to see when we can expect an official solution.

James is PC Gamer’s bad boy, staying up late to cover Fortnite while cooking up radical ideas for the weekly livestream. He can still kickflip and swears a lot. You’ll find him somewhere in the west growing mushrooms and playing Dark Souls.