Alongside Marvel’s Spider-Man and Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, Red Dead Redemption 2 has been one of 2018’s most anticipated AAA titles, and the series is regarded as one of the best open-world adventures next to Rockstar Games’ other stable title Grand Theft Auto.
Published by Take-Two Interactive and developed by Rockstar Games (Grand Theft Auto, Bully, L.A. Noire), the latest installment in the Red Dead Series has already beaten this year’s first-week sales record which was set by Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 earlier this month. The title has also been touted as one of the most expensive and most worked on games that has ever been created with Rockstar Games confirming 67,000 work weeks this year alone and over 1000 people included in the development team. They have not (as of yet) confirmed the total production costs of the game.
Established gaming websites such as Gamespot, IGN and Games Radar have granted this game extremely high scores of or equivalent to 9 and 10 out of 10, however, various other gaming websites have given mixed reviews, citing an overly long tutorial mode, lack of fast travel and the sheer amount of activities as reasons for lowering their scores. Just to point out, I largely disagree with those statements.
One website has even compared the story to Red Dead Redemption and judged it not as interesting or as fun, with no real attraction to the characters.
“By 1899, the age of Gunslingers and Outlaws was at an end…“– Opening sequence, Red Dead Redemption 2.
Right from the off, Red Dead Redemption 2 gives you the impression that it will be special. As a disparate group of outlaws on the run make their way through a blizzard; men, women, children and the injured alike, the game instantly conveys the dramatic, story-driven narrative that Rockstar Games has become known for.
As your group of survivors make their way through thick snow and white-out conditions, they eventually come across a cabin which is to be their refuge for at least one night.
Upon reaching the cabin, part of an old mining operation, the dire situation of the group’s predicament becomes clear. On the run from Blackwater following a botched job, the close-knit party has fallen on hard times having had to flee quickly and leave all their valuables behind. Some have survived the odyssey, and some have not.
Taking shelter in the cabin, Dutch, the head of the ragtag band of ne’er do wells parlays a surprisingly inspirational speech that serves to highlight the sense of responsibility felt by the leader, even though the sense of desperation is plainly evident in his delivery. This shaky attitude and sense of responsibility plays out well and has function later on in the game while being delivered by the developers sublimely.
Following the opening sequence and as the game presents itself, the great attention to detail (and this game has astonishing attention to detail) becomes immediately apparent. Those effects that you thought were part of a pre-rendered cut-scene, evidently, are not.
As you take control of the game’s playable character Arthur Morgan (on horseback) and head out with Dutch in search of some supplies for the group, you can clearly see the deep tracks being left in the procedural snow of the immediate environment while ice and snow forms on both the horses and the characters.
The blizzard conditions lend a strong sense of spooky foreboding as you make your way through the dense unknown with only a squeaky lantern to guide you and it is right there that you will immensely hope that the rest of the game feels as good as this… and it does!
The feeling of the game has changed completely since Red Dead Redemption, and that’s not a bad thing.
Where Red Dead Redemption was influenced by classic Sergio Leone Spaghetti Westerns such as The Good the Bad and the Ugly and Once Upon a Time in The West, RDR2 has a more modern feel to it, lending style from more up to date Westerns such as Quentin Tarantino’s latest movies Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight, and it has been implemented exceptionally well; the voice acting and animations alone are award-worthy, being so good you will sometimes forget that this is a video game.
Trudging through the snow, Arthur and Dutch find Micah, a member of the group who has scouted up ahead and found a cabin lively with occupants, the plan being to rob them of some much-needed supplies.
Upon reaching the cabin you get your first taste of the Red Dead Redemption 2’s excellently implemented (and very streamlined) combat system. Let’s just say that from this point onward, it all kicks off!
Taking aim is easy and players of Grand Theft Auto V will feel right at home here as the controls are exactly the same. One thing that RDR2’s combat system has over GTAV is that it is a lot more fluid and accurate.
Ducking in and out of cover and trying for the headshots with a classic long-barreled revolver is great fun and exactly what you would expect. Enemies stumble when hit in the leg, dramatically drop dead if hit in the head and will even limp away holding their shoulder if they feel they cannot win. It all looks great, feels great, and is made into a Western movie experience by the astounding music and sound effects.
The dramatic effect of night and snow is special and obviously Rockstar Games felt that some special music was required to go along with this excellent introductory combat mission.
The score for this particular mission is a heavily melancholic string track reminiscent of Ennio Morricone’s legendary themes coupled with the nuance and complexity of a Hans Zimmer Oscar winner.
The amazing score is heightened by the special sound effects like something straight from the movies; guns have a loud bang while bullets ping and pew off the surfaces all around you, and this all carries on throughout the entire game every time there is combat or a special cinematic sequence such as making your way to a new camp later on.
Even though RDR2 is a single playable character title, it is very much a multiple character story-telling experience, as the complex community system works in such a way as to tell you as much as possible from other characters’ perspectives without you actually controlling them.
This works by either hanging around the camp (or indeed other areas such as towns) and listening in on conversations, being greeted and then spoken to by others, or by utilizing the game’s interaction system to talk to characters. People will usually have something interesting to say, may ask you to do something or be nice/antagonize depending on their mood or personality and you can of course do the same.
Doing favors for people will grant you honor, which is a culmination of the good or bad deeds you perform, many of which are irreversible and will impact your game. Help a man out of a bear trap for example and later on you may bump into him and get a reward such as free items from the store on his tab.
Honor can also be gained from contributing to the camp funds (money or items) and doing chores around the camp such as feeding the horses and supplying grain to the chef. All of these are optional and at the player’s discretion of course.
Speaking of horses, the horse system has been upgraded greatly in RDR2. A bonding system has been applied and carries weight in terms of what you can and cannot do with your horse. For example, a higher bond will allow you to get more speed from your horse or indeed skid your horse when traveling at speed, and many more features.
There are a great number of horse breeds in the game, all of which have unique stats and personalities which makes some breeds better suited for particular tasks than others. Shire horses are better suited for pulling carts for example while a Nakota is best used for racing.
Other animals in the game such as birds, woodland creatures and fish are found all over the map and while they cannot be ridden (apart from a mule) they can be hunted (or fished) for pelts, meat and other items, all of which can be used for crafting or sold for profit. Hunting in this game is implemented so well that it could be a game in and of itself.
Smaller animals need to be baited and trapped, some need to tracked (while covering your own scent) and others must be stalked. There are too many animals in the game to list here but needless to say, there are well over two hundred species to be found, with the animal kingdom featuring its own eco-system; Vultures and other scavengers can be seen around corpses and carcasses for example, while if you watch long enough, you will actually see a predator hunting for its food.
The hunting part of RDR2 is truly remarkable and must be played as part of the overall experience of survival in this game.
The hunting aspect serves to implement the immense sense of responsibility you will ultimately end up feeling towards the people of the camp. By actively participating in camp life, you will feel that these are real people, with genuine worries and in need of some guidance, so much so that doing the camp chores feels more like an honor rather than a menial task.
There are times when I genuinely feel that I could relate to the feeling of dutiful leadership felt by Rick Grimes in hit TV series The Walking Dead, and a part of me can’t help feel that this has been implemented very purposefully by the game’s writers and producers.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is a very large and exceptional game. In the interest of not spoiling your experience of this remarkable title, I shall not detail any more as I would want you to experience this for yourself. However, if you feel you require some more information or need some help on one of the game’s many subjects, here are some links:
WARNING: May Contain Spoilers.
Savor the Experience
From the excellently directed beginning of the game, you will fall in love with this latest blockbuster from Rockstar Games.
Any fan of Westerns, old or new, young or aged will feel right at home. The sheer complexity of the game’s primary characters shines through with each character having their own agendas, ideas and backstories for you to explore and have fun with.
Getting stuck into the game world has never been as fun or as interesting as in Red Dead Redemption 2 given that there is so much to do, so much to explore and so many stories waiting to be uncovered.
So put on your spurs, (probably take your shoes off) chew some tobacco (get some Cheetos) and jump on your steed (gaming chair) because with RDR2 you are in for the long haul, but I promise that at the end of every gaming session, you will feel like you have ridden off happily into the sunset as Red Dead Redemption 2 hasn’t just set a new gaming standard by raising the bar, it has taken the bar and blasted it into tiny pieces so small that I can’t see any other title being a serious competitor any time soon.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is available now for PlayStation 4 (and variants) and Xbox One (and variants).
- “Red Dead Redemption 2 Sales Almost Double the First Game“. GamesIndustry.Biz. Retrieved 29/10/2018.
- “How Much Did Red Dead Redemption 2 Cost to Make?“. Venture Beat. Retrieved 29/10/2018.
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Many thought that his youth (and adulthood) playing video games was a waste of time but here he is writing about them for a living.
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