Considered one of the most anticipated games of the year, Red Dead Redemption 2 (RDR2) was originally slated for a 2017 release but finally launched in 2018 for the PS4 and Xbox One family of consoles. We played the game on the Xbox One X. It the game worth the all the hype?
The game is a prequel to Red Dead Redemption so if you haven’t played the first one, it is ok. If you have however, then you will get an in-depth look at the background of the protagonist of RDR2, Arthur Morgan. The story of the game kicks off bang in the middle of events set in 1899. Arthur and his band of mischief makers have left the town of Blackwater after a certain mishap, that Arthur was not privy to. You learn of the mishap through the game as he does. At the beginning of the game you are low on resources, need to set up base for your companions, provide food, resources, shelter and essentially ensure their survival. The larger picture is of course dived into numerous sub plots that unfold throughout the game. These include random encounters with towns folks you come across and of course the story-based mission driven from your camp which also acts as a hub.
A lot of the story-based missions are straightforward and if you have played games like GTA V or the first Red Dead game, you will feel right at home. The missions are varied and a lot of fun with the only problem being that there are so many other things to do in the game that it is easy to lose sight of what is important.
Coming to the side missions, the way these are introduced to you is quite interesting in some cases. You could be strolling through the woods and will come across a campfire. You can either greet the person/people at the camp fire, have a friendly conversation, find the locations of some weapons or money, trade, chat or attack. How you play out this situation is vital and affects your interactions in the future with that person and/or the area the incident took place in. This also influences some story-based missions. For example, in one of the story-based missions, I took someone else’s horse and went on a chase. When I came back and got off the horse in the same town, a person greeted me and said, “you actually were just borrowing it”. The town was friendly, and things went on. I replayed this to see what the reaction would be if I didn’t return the horse returning to the town on foot. The same person was hostile with me for not returning his horse and the attitude of the town folk changed as well. These are small things that make the game feel real.
Another example is that I ran into a person in the middle of the jungle and he offered me a map to a safe full of money for $10. I haggled with him till the price came down to $5. I thought I could haggle more, and he said no and rode off. I could have chased him and killed him for the map, but I didn’t. Now when I bump into the same person, he acts hostile before entertaining me. I accidently shot a bystander instead of greeting him leading to a duel. There is just so much happening in the game that is just like the real world, it feels like you are living in a virtual world.
Overall, without spoiling it, the story of the game is interesting and can get a lot more interesting based on how much you explore the world. From meeting gunslingers with a messy past to finding a ghost train, the adventures you will unravel is very interesting. You can go through the game without upgrading your camp or doing a lot of side missions and that’s ok. However, the joy lies in straying from the given path.
“Dear lord this game is slow” is the first thing that comes to mind during the first few hours of the game. That is because the game is hand holding you through the complex mechanics that it has to offer. From feeding, bathing and shaving to monitoring the health of your horse and yourself to maintaining relationships, everything is explained nicely. If you forget some of the mechanics worry not. You can always go in the pause menu and revisit the information.
The game is a third person shooter and the only one in recent memory to offer different options of third person views and a first-person view, similar to that found on racing games (yes, GTA V has it but the FPS mode in GTA came later). Changing views really helps based on the mission you are tackling. There is also a cinematic view when riding your horse and it works as well as it did in GTA V.
When it comes to shooting mechanics, the game is more of a cover-based shooter than a run and gun game. The gunplay is very simple. Position your camera somewhere close to the one you want to shoot when hiding behind cover, press the aim button, tap the analogue stick a little and you are good to get a headshot. Initially this feels like a little too much hand holding but as the combat scenarios change, this helps the experience become more cinematic and immersive.
Dead eye makes a comeback in RDR2 and works exactly like it did in the previous game. Slow down time, mark your enemies and watch them fall. If you haven’t experienced this mechanic before, think of it as a more evolved version of bullet time from Max Payne.
There is of course horse riding, trailing someone to get to a location, stealth sections, and more but the biggest bummer of the game is that there is way too much riding in between missions. Calling the map huge is an understatement. The map is big and has a lot of things to do like hunting, fishing, meeting strangers, yada yada yada but 10 hours into the game and you just want to get from mission to mission faster. Don’t get me wrong, the world in the game looks phenomenal, especially if you have a fantastic display. But the amount of time spent in the wilderness can get boring until you encounter a hidden secret or a side mission.
The map in the game is huge and yes, if you love open worlds games, this is one world to take in and really enjoy. However, for someone like me, big isn’t necessarily better (no pun intended). Maps in games like Horizon Zero Dawn, GTA: Vice City, etc. aren’t the largest but they are dense enough and there is enough to do to keep you engaged. Plus, its harder to miss the little things when the map isn’t very large. But this is my opinion. There are those that love the open wilderness in games and this one will definitely appeal to them.
Overall the gameplay is a lot of fun when interacting with people, getting into fights, gunplay and of course robbing a train. However, the time spent riding from one point in the game to the other can get annoying till you get the ability to fast travel.
‘How can a game look so good on the current console generation’ is the first thought that comes to mind when you play the game. Of course, we have games like God of War that look phenomenal as well, so I guess one can expect it. From the animations of the horses to the way NPCs react to how the weather changes it is extremely detailed and realistic.
Kicking things off with the world, it is beautifully diverse with vast jungles, snow-capped mountains and considering the time period, bustling cities. This is a living breathing world where you will be hard-pressed to find flaws. The world draws into view in a beautiful detailed way with virtually no texture pop-in.
Speaking of Arthur himself, he is well detailed, and above all, functions like a living person in the game. He needs to sleep, eat food, shave his beard and just like i Metal Gear Solid V, take a bath or he will be met with a lot of resistance.
A lot has been spoken about the horses in the game and the horse animation and yes, everything that’s been said is true; let’s leave it at that.
One thing that deserves special mention is that the animations of the characters during combat is extremely good and you can enjoy these moments during the slow mo shootout. Shoot a foe in the shoulder and he will fall back, shoot one in the knee and he will stumble and crawl, so on and so forth. The attention to detail is great.
The voice performance in the game deserves special mention. I’d like to pinpoint certain scenes later in the story of the game but for spoiler reasons let’s just say that you will be impressed with the recreation of the old west. Each character brings a unique situation to the game and it can be expressed in the tone of their voice. From a poor farmer who can’t pay up as he doesn’t have the money to a cocky bounty hunter threatening you as you greet him, each interaction feels unique, even the ones with standby NPC. Games like Horizon Zero Dawn paid a close attention to the key characters while compromising on the ones that aren’t important. However, RDR2 has paid an insane amount of attention to the visual and audio quality of each actor in the game and that deserves special credit.
Developer: Rockstar Games
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Platforms: Xbox One, PS4
Speaking of the natural sounds of the environments, chirping of the birds, random banter in town, the gunfire, everything has been worked on to bring you an immersive experience.
Verdict – Red Dead Redemption 2
There is no denying that Red Dead Redemption 2 is a fantastic game. There is a lot to do and if there is one action adventure game you want to play for more than 50 hours then RDR2 is the way to go. It has stunning visuals, a good story, and the combat is engaging. However, there are times with the ultra-realism like walking in your camp and riding long distances, feeding and bathing yourself and your horse can get annoying. There are also times when straying off the path will pull you out of the immersion of an interesting plot point because you decided to pursue a wild goose chase instead. I would have preferred a tighter package of a game in comparison to the ultra-realism.
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Sameer "Psycho Mantis" Mitha
I live for gaming and technology is my muse. When I am not busy playing with gadgets or video games I delve into the world of fantasy novels.