Developer: Rockstar Games
Platform: PS4 (Pro), Xbox One (X)
Release Date: 10/26/18
(REVIEWED ON PS4 PRO)
Red Dead Redemption 2 is no different than its predecessors, however the open-world presentation in the new wild-west epic offers authenticity and grandeur in the most genuinely lived-in world I have ever experienced in video game history. At the heart of it all, Red Dead Redemption 2 is a vast story set during the end of the wild-west era revolving around the Van der Linde gang and their escape from the government as they push against the encroachment of civilization. At the start of the story, you assume the role of Arthur Morgan-one of Dutch’s most valuable assets and closest partners-as the gang carefully selects their next steps high on a blizzard-ridden mountaintop following a job gone south in Blackwater.
The first few hours of Red Dead Redemption 2’s story allow the player to become familiarized with its intricate control system before the massive world opens up. Expect to see close encounter fisticuffs with enemy NPC’s resulting in gun fights, looting bodies, and the search for consumable items to use later on, as well as the basic mechanics of horseback riding. This results in a genuine connection with the player and Arthur as you begin to familiarize yourself with the moves at his disposal within the confines of the claustrophobic mountaintop setting.
Saddle up for a long and beautifully visualized world, partner, because this is just the very mere beginning!
Giddy Up, Partner!
Red Dead Redemption 2 is a massive game, indulgently detailed down to every nitty-gritty detail of Rockstar’s re-envisioning of the end of the wild-west era. Acting as a prequel to the original which featured the fictitious state of New Austin and bordering Mexican state of Nuevo Paraiso, this time around Rockstar adds 4 brand new states and the inclusion of the original map (with the exception of Nuevo Paraiso). Ranging from the high mountaintops of the Grizzlies in the northern state of Ambarino, to the foggy dank alligator-infested swamps of Lemoyne, and in between with the vast sweeping landscapes of New Hanover and humongous forests of West Elizabeth, the map offers variety and wonder at every macro and microscopic corner. Not to mention all of this can be enjoyed in glorious 1st or 3rd person perspective at the player’s discretion with only the push of a button.
On the outset of the second chapter, the gang finds solace at Horseshoe Overlook- the first look at one of the campsites Arthur calls home- and where players can resupply on ammunition and consumables before saddling up. In this manner, Arthur’s camp acts like the Firelink Shrine of Dark Souls, where players can also partake in daily camp chores that increase Arthur’s stats, interact with gang members, eat, shave, and select various outfits that can be stored on the horse. Underneath the beautifully polished exterior of Red Dead Redemption 2 exists an intricate layering of all these different gameplay mechanics, resulting in a feeling of satisfaction when the player takes the time to become immersed in the big and small of it all.
Even before venturing off to the first few missions offered in the open world, I found myself immediately adapting to the world around me as I explored- simultaneously abiding to the dynamic weather system- giving a sense of fulfillment in every simulated day in Red Dead Redemption 2. The game can be scary sometimes, and traveling alone at night may not always be the best option as Red Dead Redemption 2 can rob, steal, and kill players as they travel from point to point. But it doesn’t have to be like this: the game encourages discovery and exploration so long as you are properly equipped for the trips ahead. With that being said, Red Dead Redemption 2 will handsomely reward the player if they pay attention to context clues, townsfolk chatter, and flat out engagement with every single NPC that Arthur approaches.
About 30 plus hours into the game and I’ve only just revealed a majority of New Hanover and the four adjacent states. I haven’t even ventured anywhere past Blackwater or anywhere near New Austin because I’ve been too busy getting stopped by O’Driscoll’s on their way to attempted robber-only to be disappointed by my glorious gunslinging abilities. Not to mention the numerous strangers that plead for help-some of whom screw you over-while others cry for genuine help from the likes of bear traps, snake bites, and train and stagecoach robberies, among many other constant random encounters.
Adventure Awaits in the Wild West Simulator
Red Dead Redemption 2 ranks amongst the best that Rockstar has ever produced. From the spread of characters that are Dutch’s gang of 24, to the troublesome gangs that amass at your heels, federal agents, and fauna that react to your actions, the story of Red Dead Redemption 2 recounts the wild-west in all its glory. It is rich and engrossing at all corners, and does best when things go awry and crazy throughout a series of successes and failures, in ways that solidify this as classic Rockstar scriptwriting. With eight chapters in its entirety with the last two acting as the epilogue to the main story campaign, with myself only being about halfway done, what I can say is that the story is cray. Every action that drives the story culminates into a progression of love and hate for the ever hopeful charismatic leader of the crew: Dutch van der Linde.
The story is a prequel in all regards, so it is interesting to see how all of the previously seen action in the first Red Dead came as a result of the mess that plays out. If you’ve played the first, then you know the story set ten years after RDR2 of John Marston’s redemption. There is so much more to be seen in this new cowboy universe that encapsulates it as a fantastic re-rendering of what the original did so well: the second just perfects it in all regards. Sure the game’s mechanics might be a little bit too much at times, with the internet being a beacon of great moments caught in the wild-west, but all of this amounts to a world that Rockstar involves the player in, whether they like it or not. If you ask me, all of those hard painstaking hours working nearly a decade on this game are paid back in full, with the world begging to be explored even more as the days go by.
I am reminded of the many instances that transpired over the course of the in game events that played out in my personal playthroughs that probably did not play out the same for others: another reason why this game is so special. It is safe to say that this game ranks among the best this generation of gamers and nerd culture has seen, pushing the current generation of systems to their limits, all the while acting as a sign of bigger things to come in the open-world genre. Not to mention the critique that Red Dead Redemption 2 casts on the times in their cracked reality of America and the world: a broad stroke of genius adding to their impeccable story telling. The combination of the two interlaced with intricate gameplay mechanics solidifying this as game of the year contender, if not winner, of 2018. Now if you’ll excuse me, this yee ain’t gonna haw itself.
Some Wildin’ Facts
You can hitch your horse to a tree. That’s so sweet.
Horses poop throughout the day and leave a mess behind.
Make sure you clean your guns or they might not work properly.
Oil in the water where civilization encroaches the west.
It really pays off to play in first person.
Arthur will gain or lose weight and this effects in-game play.
There are moon phases.
Horse testicles. That is all.