RED DEAD REDEMPTION 2 REVIEW
The last time we experienced the Wild West (the Rockstar West, that is – and let’s be honest here, is there any other West that really counts?) was back in 2010. Now we are in 2018 and Rockstar has released what might be one of the best games of all time. One does not simply play Red Dead Redemption 2; you live it. And in an amazingly fleshed out world made up of memorable characters and an even deeper story that grabs you by the throat from the get-go, is it any wonder that this is the game everyone is talking about? Westerns – they are no longer just musty old books you can find on your Grandfather Al’s bookshelf, now you can live them.
Also, RDR2 is a prequel, so all you guys who missed out on the first game (yes, I’m looking at you there in the back row, mister – continue to hang your head in shame) can play this masterpiece without worrying that you might get lost and have to first pull up a Wiki page.
That being said, a few things must be kept in mind about Red Dead Redemption 2. It is a much slower game. It is still a typical Rockstar title where the story progresses at your own pace, but it is more about how much things must be taken into consideration to help with that progress.
Your general movement is far more realistic than just your average open world game. I almost want to compare the movement with that of Max Payne 3. RPG elements have a stronger presence and role in the world, almost like you must do your part.
It honestly is difficult to start at a particular point of the game as there is so much, but let us go deeper into what Red Dead Redemption 2 is all about.
THE GOOD, THE BAD… AND THE DEAD
Our story begins with our protagonist, Arthur Morgan, and the main cast leading a group of people, The Van der Linde Gang, through a rocky patch in their journey. It takes place after a heist gone south in the town of Blackwater. So naturally it is best to escape into the snowy mountains with a blizzard hiding their tracks.
The game continues in this snow setting for a short period while serving as a tutorial of sorts. It is also during this time you will see a small sample of just how detailed the world around you is, from ice building up on clothing, facial expressions to indicate that the cold weather is not just for show, how substances, in this case snow, reacts when walking through it and leaving a trail, there is loads of detail and that is only a small portion of the world.
Things like tracking and hunting animals teaches you the importance of survival. You and the people you are taking care of have to eat after all. While in this snowy scenario, there is a rival gang by the name of The O’Driscolls that is hunting you. You will be met with a few encounters but nothing too serious, but this sets the tone that not only are the law after you but others too.
During this time, you will meet a familiar face, not too surprising really as some subtle clues are given leading up to that moment.
The story will continue for a while more, but soon the gang will pack up and head towards the new campsite in much warmer territory. On your way to the new site, you will see a lush and vibrant landscape that is brimming with life. Even though it as raw as an untamed west will be, it is nothing short of outstandingly beautiful. It is a good thing the wagon rides, in general, are slow, leaving you space to take in the scenery and enjoy the interactions of Arthur with the other members of the gang. These conversations with the characters riding with you, wagon or horse-back, feels genuine and reveal a little bit of their character, making you care for them more each time than before. It is a given how well stories play out, but characters in RDR2 feel like real people, giving them a much more human touch.
When at the camp and everything is unpacked, it becomes alive as everyone has their tasks. Some work related or some just trotting along. After a short but powerful speech by Dutch, you are set out to earn your keep in the gang. You will hunt as usual for animals, use their hides for equipment upgrades that Pearson the camp chef will sort out for you. Same can be used for campsite decorating or for Arthur’s living quarters. Kind of nice to have so many options just for customization.
You are also tasked at bringing in cash for the camp, from selling hides, meat, goods, looting, by any means possible. Your camp will then be upgraded using said money, from supplies to better living environments, this will help for your ammo and ammo types, medicines and tonics. Rather obvious about the ammo and meds, but tonics is the stuff that boosts your cores. Make no mistake, these cores are vital at how good your survivability is when in the midst of a gunfight or getting away on foot if need be. Luckily general food consumption helps with keeping your cores at a decent level.
In short, the story of Red Dead Redemption 2 is a tale set in the west about doing what is necessary to survive in a world that no longer wants you. Even though the Civil War is long but done, it is now a rapidly changing times and it is getting tough for those who choose not to change with it.
There are so many side stories that may or may not add to the overall experience of the plot, but no two playthroughs will be the same.
I SHOT THE SHERIFF
The world around you is made of 5 fictitious states of which each has its own look and feel. Open desert-like plains feels hot and dry, forests are plenty green and teeming with life, rocky mountain areas are pretty as they are treacherous and the rest is best to left explore as you go.
Civilization is not far from any of these biomes, small towns and developing cities all have their own atmosphere and charisma. Both are different with one being old school as they come, the towns, and the modern and flashy, the cities. Night or day, they are a treat for the senses. Going from busy day work to almost a recreational night lifetime, it is just a subtle joy to see how these settlements are in fact alive. This may be a small one but lighting at night is really impressive and changes the mood even, no matter the setting.
Like either one of these, they will have their fair share of people that will be friendly or just downright rude to you, usually being determined from past actions. The way people act towards Arthur is all about the honour system. Be more civil and not causing trouble, you will be welcomed as part of the town. Be the one that starts fights and disturbing the peace, then it is the polar opposite.
The honour system goes into the extreme as well in terms of contributing to the camp’s funds and helping folk on the side of the road. The extreme however general comes in the form of playing true to Arthur’s nature of being an outlaw. If you decide to go on a shootout, be sure to know that the law will be on in no time, but this generally only happens near towns. When a bit further away, there is at times the odd witness that will make a run for it to report you. Witnesses can be either taken out, bribed or intimated. However, if reported and suddenly have a bounty on your head, you can then make your way to a town post office and pay of your own bounty, that is if you haven’t been taken down on your way to said post office.
This aspect makes you more aware of your surroundings, to take caution before just wildly go off. In fairness, sometimes you are the victim of roadside robberies and to quickly get out of it is to shoot your way out of it. These do give a little bit of negative honour, but I, not one for being taken out by random on my way to a town.
Red Dead Redemption 2 has a vast open world with incredibly beautiful no matter where you find yourself. Besides all the side activities on offer, just continuing to play it is a reward in itself.
THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAIL
It comes as no surprise that Red Dead Redemption 2 is insanely detailed.
This comes in the form, and as previously mentioned, of how alive the world is around you. Other than that, Arthur is a living character that needs to eat, sleep, bath and grooming. Food helps with your cores such as health and stamina, so different food offers different levels of nutritional value. When Arthur becomes tired and needs to sleep, visual cues of dozing off is very noticeable.
Bathing is important it two ways. Don’t bath and people will actively avoid you but this generally just makes people pull their noses away. The other one is when hunting. Because you will have that morning fresh sun baked dead carcass odour, animals will detect quickly and make a run for it, making you hunting difficult. So take the time and wash up. You can buy clothing of all styles, so you can look the part for every occasion. My favourite feature is that Arthur’s beard and hair actually grows. If you want a certain style, you have to wait until his beard and or hair is long enough.
Besides you need a wash, your guns need to be tended too. Luckily not so much to keep them clean and in working order. Just a wipe and some gun-oil, and it’s ready for action. Also worth noting is when revolvers are being reloaded, you hear that slight noise of bullets sliding into the chambers one by one. It is subtle but satisfying.
The other detail that the game has been famous for, even before launch, I will not mention for obvious reasons. If you don’t know it, look up Red Dead Redemption 2 Horse. That is all you are getting.
Your trusty steed needs care too. Feeding and grooming are not just good for the horse’s overall well-being, it lets you form a bond with your horse. The way Arthur talks to his chosen partner slowly makes you care for them too. At the beginning of my game, I had a mishap that forced me to put down my first horse, I genuinely felt sad.
Browsing shops are done in one of two ways. Either with the catalog by the shopkeeper, or physically looking at the products on the shelves. So no more boring menus to look at for items.
PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS
Red Dead Redemption 2 is best described as art in Slow Motion. I don’t want to say even poetic, because it is not. The visuals give the feeling of being in a western film, putting you in the center of the story. Environmental noises, general chatter from people, the soundtrack when either exploring or in the middle of an action scene, it is all crisp and pure enjoyment. There were more than a few times where I was just standing still on a spot and gazed upon the landscapes, or just the finer details of a small town going about its business. There are memorable moments in story missions that still stick with me for some reason.
I can probably list all the little things I have seen, share about a million screenshots and videos, but it won’t do the game any justice as you must experience it yourself and be immersed in the world.
Thank you Rockstar, you have proven to us yet again why you are the best in the business. It was a long wait indeed, but it paid off beautifully in every little detail.