Game Reviews

Red Dead Redemption 2 Review: The wild west never felt so good

Red Dead Redemption 2 is more than just your average video game. It’s easily one of the most detailed experiences on the market today, but with all that detail comes with its own set of issues.

Where it all begins

During Red Dead Redemption 2’s massive campaign you play as Arthur Morgan, a cowboy amongst a group of outlaws running from civilization.

It’s 1899, and you and your gang have narrowly escaped capture in the middle of a blizzard. After finding shelter you and your diverse crew of bandits, including you father figure Dutch, set off on a multi-hour tutorial through the snowy mountains.

While it’s nothing more than a glorified tutorial, it’s fun for the most part, but does get a little tedious toward end.

Luckily, just as you’re getting a little bored of the tutorial section, the game finally sets you free.

And once you’re free, you’re in for one of the most vast, beautiful open worlds to date.

A whole new world

The world at Red Dead 2’s disposal is incredible. That really is the one single word that describes it the best.

Remember how detailed everyone thought GTAV’s world was when it was release? This is that same thing, but on a whole new level.

Throughout my time with the game I never felt like I was playing an open world game, instead I felt like I was playing a game where the world had no real end.

The world is so diverse and massive that it’s almost daunting to go exploring on your own. And the game really encourages that exploration too.

There’s something to find around every corner. Whether it be a new town, an interesting side quest, or just a meetup with a new NPC the world continues to dish out something new with every hour.

The turtle and the hare

Compared to most games you’ll play right about now; Red Dead Redemption 2 is extremely slow. And while in the classic tale, the turtle ends up winning the race, I’m not so sure that’s how it works out here.

One problem I constantly has was the game’s extremely slow pace.

While it may seem weird, the thing that really slows this game down is the amazing attention to detail that it has.

Looting animations are amazingly well done, but they’re slow and take up far too much time when you’re looting more than a couple bodies or cabinets. Cleaning your gun feels cool the first one or two times but ends up feeling like a frustrating chore. A lot of the detail is spectacular, but after a while its greatness is overshadowed by the fact that it makes the game slow and chore-like.

Riding to and from locations is the biggest offender in the chore department; not because of the speed though, it’s the controls that make this a pain.

Unforgivably clunky

The control scheme Read Dead 2 goes for is somewhat familiar if you played GTA V, but it really doesn’t work here.

I can’t count how many times I accidentally pulled a weapon instead of waving to someone in my first few hours of play time. Who in their right mind thought mapping hello and murder to the same button was a good idea?

While you do get used to it after a while, the controls haunt this game throughout its entirety.

Like I mention earlier, the horse riding is a good example of poor controls in the game.

While riding, you run just as you would on foot; by tapping X (on PlayStation). In theory this is fine, but after riding for more than 45 seconds you being to feel the issue in your thumb, because it will start hurting pretty soon.

To go any speed above walking you’ll have to hold or tap X, and with a world as massive as this it gets painful real fast to travel for long distances.

But that’s where Rockstar thought the implementation of “cinematic mode” would come into play.

When riding your horse, you’ll have the option to throw on cinematic mode. It’s the typical cinematic camera mode from Rockstar games, but it’ll steer you in the direction to a waypoint you can set on the map.

Again, in theory this is fine, but by using it you’ll end up missing out on a ton of the random events in the world and the freedom of controlling the horse for yourself.

The story (spoiler free)

All that rambling aside, the game can be incredibly fun.

It’s easy to get lost in the world and its various systems and activities, but the story at hand just gets better the more you play.

While it does have some pacing issues towards the 75 percent mark, it’s a smooth story for the most part.

Towards the beginning quests are a tad on the tedious side, especially since you’re still learning a lot of the game’s mechanics and there are multiple quests placed back and forth from each other,but as the campaign goes on it smooths itself out and becomes a lot more enjoyable.

It’s hard not to get invested in Arthur’s story and stories of the gang members around him, and that’s made even easier by the fact that you don’t need to remember the original Red Dead Redemption to enjoy the story due to the fact that Red Dead 2 is a prequel.

That being said, your memory will be rewarded if you did play the original.

A beautiful tune

Red Dead 2’s music is deserving of all the praise in the world. Everything from the background score while riding in between missions to the big explosions of music during a shootout is spectacular.

Better yet, the reactive music gives the game new life when you’d least expect it.

During one quiet ride I stumbled upon a Mexican that bet me he could shoot some bottles better than I could. We had a shoot off, and he lost. When he decided to up the ante and beat the shit out of me in the next gun-slinging contest I knew I had been played.

I wasn’t dealing with this so when he asked for my money I pulled my gun on him and killed him in cold blood.

As exciting as the moment already was, the music swelled to reflect my dark decision. It made the moment all that more memorable.

You’ll encounter plenty other moments like this too, and it makes you feel like the lead in a cowboy movie every time something similar happens.

Every character is voiced unbelievably well, and it shows even in the most uneventful moments of the game.

Characters will ramble back and forth while at the campsite, and sometimes get into heated arguments. You have the option of defusing the situation, but you could also sit on the sidelines and watch the whole thing unfold.

Just like any Rockstar game, during long moments of traveling there will be plenty of banter between the characters. You’ll sing with the member of your gang that ended up meeting up with you or going on the mission with you, and it all feels very natural.

That’s what makes the voice acting even more special, the natural feeling it all has. Nothing feels forced. Everyone feels like like a close group of friends during good times and like a cutthroat gang of bandits during the hard times.

Sound design also has the same great quality as the music and voice acting. Everything from the ambient sound of the world to the echoes of a gunshot in a canyon sound spectacular.

It truly adds to the immersive experience.

Same old online

If you played GTA Online, you know what you’re getting into here. The full Read Dead Redemption 2 open world is your for the taking with missions and matches scattered around to join. Its great fun if you play casually, but try and take it too seriously and you’ll find yourself getting annoyed by some serious issues.

Right from the start you’ll get to customize your outlaw and watch the series of cutscenes leading up to your very first tutorial missions. It’s nothing special, but I don’t expect a lot of story from an online mode.

I guess that’s great though because I’m not going to get any for a while. There’s only a few story missions available right now which really drags the whole mode down a bit.

Rockstar, of course, is using the “early access beta” bullshit as an excuse for the mode. The entire online mode is only currently in “beta” which is a little ridiculous for this kind of game to be pulling the whole unfinished beta card.

Whether or not the game is amazing, releasing unfinished content and calling it a beta isn’t a good look.

Luckily though the online mode is just more Red Dead with the possibility of playing with friends. Not much more can be said at the potential for fun there, because there’s lots of potential.

There isn’t a passive mode as of yet, so there isn’t any just walking around and having fun. You’re going to get shot, a lot.

Other than griefing, which I’m torn on just like much of the community, the biggest issue lies in the economy. Items are extremely high priced, and things like beans cost more than a gold wedding ring.

Some of the pricing woes have been fixed after an update, but it still feels fairly grindy, and I trust it will get worse with time.

This is all for the sake of forcing the player to grind or buy currency. We don’t have the purchasable money in game yet, but we all know it’s coming.

*UPDATE*

Rockstar has just released micro transactions in the form of gold bars to Read Dead Online.

Conclusion

While I had my issues with some of Read Dead 2’s design decisions and its slow pace at first, it all grew on me to the point where I couldn’t put it down.

It does have its issues, after a little bit of getting used to they seem like a drop in the bucket compared to the rest of the game at hand.

Online has a huge problem with its economy, but if you can put it in the back of your mind you’ll have tons of fun doing a large array of activities with friends and other players.

It really is a different experience to most other games. I recommend you take it slowly and enjoy its pace rather than grind hard. I think you’ll enjoy your time even more if you so as slow and steady as the game does.


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