To list or describe every little detail, every little thing, every little moment that can occur in Red Dead Redemption 2 would take more words then any review should have. This is a game where you can lose entire days doing nothing but exploring the huge and alive world that Rockstar has created. Saddle up your horse, grab some ammo and head out, there is no shortage of things to do but we will get to some of them later.
First things first, Red Dead Redemption 2 is a sequel to the 2010 epic Red Dead Redemption. A hugely popular game, it is spoken about in the same breath as Grand Theft Auto. Like most Rockstar games, a huge amount of time and effort has gone in to craft a game that is seeing it get rave reviews everywhere and this one will be no different.
The story, yes it is easy to forget that Red Dead 2 has a main narrative at times, is set many years before the events of the first game.
Set in 1899 the story follows Arthur Morgan who is part of Dutch van der Linde’s gang. They are forced to flee their hideout in Blackwater after a botched ferry heist. The survivors of the gang head into the mountains before eventually moving on and robbing a train that belongs to the oil magnate, Leviticus Cornwall.
This turns out to be a bad decision as Cornwall is not a man to be messed with and he hires the Pinkerton Detective Agency to hunt the gang down. This forces them to constantly be on the move to try and stay one step ahead of the law. They are a dying breed of outlaws in an America that is changing…
While it is very easy to forget about the main story, it’s far from lacking in impact and drama. The story campaign alone can take upwards of 50 hours to play through and there is a really huge amount of variety in the quests.
Once again Rockstar delve into the murky waters of the dying Wild West. The last of the outlaws in an ever changing world, one they can’t adapt too and can’t understand why they can’t be left alone. This is highlighted at several points in the game where Dutch, Arthur and company question why they can’t be left alone to live in peace all while robbing banks, having massive shootouts with the law and often behaving like reprobates.
Other times they proudly acknowledge their behaviour and scoundrel ways. It makes them all the more complex and interesting even if sympathy starts to run short as the story plays out. The family angle of the camps inhabitants is done well and provided you want too you can really find yourself liking and caring for these people. It helps that Rockstar have done a top job of bringing them to life both in animations and voices. There is no question that when you’re not there life continues in the camp.
Making these places fit for all by buying upgrades makes it feel all the more homely and many will feel a sense of duty to everyone. While nothing forces you to contribute to the camp funds and food supply, do chores or interact with other characters it’s all about your standing. Annoy people by antagonising them, refuse to do chores and only take instead of giving and you’ll quickly find you’re not the most popular person there anymore.
It’s just one of the many things that make Red Dead Redemption 2 a living and breathing world.
It’s not just the camp though. Outside it there is never a doubt in your mind that animals aren’t running wild, stick-ups aren’t occurring, coaches aren’t being robbed and people aren’t living their lives. Go explore and you’ll find no shortage of people to help, rob or kill. No shortage of animals to hunt with the legendary beasts returning for added challenge. No shortage of bars to get drunk in and fights to start. Once you’ve gotten past the opening Chapter (admittedly a little too long and handholding) the world is yours for you to decide what kind of man Arthur will be.
How you behave out in towns and with strangers also has an effect. Help that stranded man back to town? Rescue a woman from being kidnapped? Save someone from being killed by a bear? They might find you later in the game and reward you for your good deed.
Then there is the negative side of things. Cause too much trouble and you will find not just the law but bounty hunters on your tail forcing you to lay low and take different routes in and out of towns. It’s all very exciting and coupled with an amazing level of detail and stunning visuals, it just makes the whole experience even better. This is easily the best looking game created to date.
Not only that, it sounds fantastic not just with the music but the sound effects. Composed by Rockstar regular Woody Jackson, he has done a sensational job on the soundtrack.
While there are few negatives, there are some. Red Dead Redemption 2 aims to be very realistic meaning you’re going to have to be aware of more then just Arthur’s ability to soak up bullets. You’ll have to manage his ‘cores’. Health, stamina and dead-eye. Each deplete over time and dependant on how hard you push Arthur. Take him for a swim in some rapids with low stamina and prepare to drown. Enter a heavy gun battle with no dead-eye and you’re unlikely to be walking out alive.
These cores increase as you go on in a realistic way. See it as trying to improve Arthur’s well-being. Eat smart, don’t push him too hard but also make sure he is exercising regularly and practice dead-eye. Very realistic and not the easiest thing to get to grips with at first. Especially when you also need to be considerate of your horse’s cores too!
Then there are the controls. In an attempt to make this as realistic as possible, Rockstar may have overdone it in this departments. Press and hold to bring up a radial then select a weapon, potion or item and release to use. However many items are grouped together so as well as holding to open the wheel, you then need to cycle through layers to find what you’re looking for then remember to release to use. It’s not overly complicated but it feels unnecessarily picky.
That also applies to the animations, something that really didn’t need to be this way. For example, skin an animal (you’ll be doing this a lot) and you’ll have to watch Arthur skin it over and over again in an animation that can be 5 seconds to 15 seconds long. That may not seem a long time but if you’re on a hunting spree, these can feel like a lifetime.
The first act is pretty slow and the lack of fast-travel is for quite some time in the game is a tad annoying too.
Then there are glitches, which are to be expected and Red Dead 2 has plenty. How many and how bad they are seems to vary. The worst I experienced was the inability to start a quest requiring a restart of the game to fix. The majority I’ve seen involve items that should be on tables floating in the air. Nothing to get too worked up about.
It’s all minor complaints because Red Dead Redemption 2 is a polished masterpiece of gaming. It’s better then the original in almost every department and can proudly sit alongside GTAV as one of the finest games ever made.
Red Dead Redemption 2