The hype train. We’re all fed up of it in the gaming industry as if a developer has enough money, it can throw stupid amounts of exposure towards its upcoming game, that more often than not, disappoints. However, sometimes, the hype is deserved, and after playing Red Dead Redemption 2, frankly, I feel there wasn’t enough!
Let’s get the superlative thesaurus a workout today as this game, is a genre-defining, masterpiece!
To start, the story of RDR2 is set before the events of RDR, and the game here leads up to the beginning of the events of RDR and John Marston’s story in RDR. Here, however, you play the part of Arthur Morgan, while part of the same gang John Marston is in too.
As this review is spoiler free, I won’t go into details of the story, but be aware, the story alone, is a 60-hour epic. It was actually shaved down by 5 hours to take out the love interest for Arthur, which is a shame as it would have fleshed out your character even more and feels disappointing for Arthur, as he does everything for everyone in this game, but gets very little back for his efforts. Rockstar though have danced that fine line with the story and narrative, as with such a long story to tell, it could have quite easily got bogged down with padding it out, but, just when you feel like the story is getting a tad tiresome, some unexpected jolt throws you a curveball you didn’t see coming and hooks you in some more. In short, the pacing is excellent. Immersion is the key here. Both in the story, the activities, gameplay, audio, and graphics. Everything in this world immerses you like no other, but the highlight most certainly has to be the jaw-dropping graphics.
I’ve played some pretty spectacular looking games, with God of War, Uncharted 4, Tomb Raider, Gran Turismo, Forza Horizon and my personal favorite Horizon Zero Dawn, among them. RDR2, is, by far, hands down, the current best looking most realistic world I have ever played on a gaming console by far
It’s not just the incredible, “how on earth have they done that” graphics but the physics and systems visually interacting to the world in the wind, rain, wildlife, foliage, dust, water, snow, sun, mud, and lighting, reacting and interacting in the environment with such stunning clarity, smoothness, and accuracy, it boggles the mind. It’s staggering beyond belief, how much detail has been crammed into a fictional world. The environment is as real as can be. If you just take one square acre of woodland and wander around it, trees have bark that is textured, rendered and weathered, as is the flowing in the breeze plants. Animals bound around you in gay abandon, and react to you and their environment as they would in real life.
Then just when your eyes have drunk in enough landscapes of utter beauty for a lifetime, wander into the biggest built-up areas of the game like the town of Saint-Denis, and you have to pinch yourself that what you are playing is not a movie or video but a computer generated, handmade, game. It’s no wonder the Rock Star employees were working 100 hour weeks, over 8 years, as what they have packed into this world just visually alone is incredible.
It’s quite obvious, with such beauty in a game I could yarn forever about every picture perfect postcard moment there is and still be telling you about something new months later, but there is also the gameplay aspect of the game.
Here I feel the game loses some of it’s magic that the visuals build on. One of my biggest gripes about RDR1 was it’s awfully clumsy radial menu system, which although is here again in RDR2 is much slicker and better. However other areas aren’t. Arthur, when walking has a heavy and labored feel to him, and feels frustratingly slow at times. Many of the games interactions, like hitching your horse, opening an item, don’t just have button presses but button HOLDS, which after 5 minutes became an annoyance. Then, as the game is so huge, it sometimes struggled to be quick. Again, for example, you press and hold the button to hitch your horse, only for the game to pause, think about it, and eventually start the hitching of the horse animation, by which time you’ve started thinking is it working or not and pressed other items.
The fist fighting mechanics are basic at best, and horse riding is still annoying in that to move you have to double tap a button and hold, to get going and keep going. When this is over long distances it becomes a chore. Unfortunately, the game has many useful game mechanics it simply doesn’t bother to tell you or explain very well.
The gunplay is exciting, and the battles are fierce, with aggressive enemy AI, flanking your position, whilst laying down covering fire from someone else. With authentic gun noises, shouting, horses screaming, and bullet zinging off stones, it’s electrifying gameplay. What is also electrifying are some of the mission types. Infiltrate a homestead at night to rob it, steal an oil wagon, stop and rob a train, hunt wild powerful animals. There is of course over 60 hours a lot of repeating this, but again Rockstar give enough variety in some way to never make it boring.
There are many other gameplay aspects that could be written about in depth, hunting, duels, fishing, horse riding, parlor games, in town activities, the honor system, and bounty system. Travel by train or coach. Getting drunk, having a haircut, new suit fitted, watching a show, taking a bath, customizing your groups camp or chores to do around camp. Random side missions, bounty hunts, sheep rustling, stealing wagons. All of them normally deserve a mention in some way, but the review would take too long.
What all this shows though however is the depth of things to do in this world you are in both visually, and in activities to immerse you in this world so that you will want to invest time here and feel utterly rewarded for doing so. In the game, money is hard to come by so when you do something daring, like rob a money coach, and get a big reward for it, it feels utterly satisfying afterward.
Lastly though, the main if not biggest gripe of the game would be the games, over-aggressive AI. If you bump into any of the NPCs in the game, they are VERY quick to want to start a fight, drunk or not, and things can very quickly escalate into gunfights that always seem to trigger a wanted bounty on you even if you were innocent. If you, or more importantly the horse that you have bonded with is killed because of this, it’s very frustrating, as death to your horse is permanent, and your death costs your hard earned cash when you respawn.