A Western for the Ages
Well, it’s finally here. After eight years and the excellent GTA 5, Rockstar Games returns to the wild west with Red Dead Redemption 2. Was it worth the wait? Lets find out.
Set in 1899, the age of the old west is coming to an end. Outlaws and gunslingers are an endangered group. The few that are left are struggling to survive within these new times. You play as Arthur Morgan, the right hand of Dutch Van Der Linde, leader of the Van Der Linde gang. After a heist goes horribly wrong, they’re forced to flee from their home in Blackwater. Chased by government agents and the best bounty hunters, the gang hides up in the mountains during a terrible snow storm. Throughout the game the gang constantly has to move from one place to another while members slowly start to doubt and distrust each other.
This is the most nuanced storytelling Rockstar has done. There are still humorous moments, but it’s definitely more serious then the first Red Dead Redemption and especially the bombastic Grand Theft Auto series. Arthur is a much more complex protagonist than John Marston was. Neither a hero or villain, he values survival and trust above all else. When things start to deteriorate from within he starts to make second guesses himself. The story doesn’t go too deep into his back story, you only learn a little through conversations and what you read in the newspapers. I didn’t think much of him at first but as the narrative progressed I got really into his character.
The game is actually a prequel to the 2010 original. Familiar faces pop up, including John Marston. If you played the first one then you’ll probably know how this one will turn out. That being said, it’s a gripping story with interesting characters that will keep you engaged throughout.
I could write an entire blog on the gameplay alone. There is so much content and attention to detail here. You travel through the world primarily on your horse, or by train and stagecoach. Combat handles like a tight third person shooter. You have the choice to play in first person, which works very well, but I chose to stick with third person. When you’re not working on the main story, you can do a number of side quests and activities that pop up during your travels. You can also spend time getting to know the members of your gang by doing things like fishing, hunting, drinking at the saloon, or even pulling off small heists.
There are tons of mini games like poker, five finger roulette, horseshoes, and black jack that you could spend hours playing. You can customize Arthur with many types of outfits. What’s intersting is that the clothes you wear aren’t just for style, you have to pick something appropriate depending on the climate. If you’re somewhere warm but you’ve got a heavy coat on, then your health and stamina will weaken.
Damn this game is beautiful! If there is one thing that Rockstar Games does extremely well is create detailed and fun worlds to play around in. The landscapes in this game are well varied; you have snowy mountains, bustling towns with a number of attractions like theaters, large forests with tons of wild life, bogs with dangers such as crocodiles, and much more. There’s a full day night cycle and different weather effects that change throughout. The further you go north, the colder it gets, and when you’re high in the mountains it will get dark and start to snow. If you travel south, it becomes visibly more hot and humid. No matter where you are there is always something new to see!
Most of my problems are primarily nitpicks but I figure I should mention some. As this is an open world there are bound to be some graphic glitches and texture pop in. It doesn’t happen that much but there were moments where it was kinda bad. It can be very easy to piss off the law by doing the smallest thing. I bumped into someone while I was walking through a busy street, next thing I knew I had a wanted notice on the screen. I felt like I had to tip toe through towns. When I’m on my horse you have to be careful because if you bump into anything you’ll go flying off. It led to some funny moments but it got old when I was trying to complete a mission.
As I said, these are only nitpicks. The only real issue I have is that fast travel is extremely limited. Previously you could instantly go back to any place that you had already discovered. In this game you can only fast travel from your camp, which only becomes available after you buy an upgrade. You can’t, however, fast travel back to camp or any where else. This means that you have to gallop long stretches of terrain or take a train. This was a design choice on the developers part, and maybe it was down to take in the world itself or to give the trains more of a purpose. I could understand that to a point but after a while it can get tiring. In there attempt to be realistic as possible I feel that it detracted from the fun aspect, just a bit. Here’s a tip that can help; once you select a destination and you start galloping there, hold down the menu button. That will put you into cinematic mode, which is basically auto pilot. It’ll still take a while but a least you don’t have to keep mashing the x button to go faster.
So overall, Rockstar Games has once again delivered a game that is highly polished, bursting with content, and expertly written. Is this Rockstars best game? Did it surpass the original Red Dead? This is all opinion really, but to me it absolutely is their best game and it has surpassed the first one. If you’ve never played the first Red Dead Redemption this is a perfect place to jump in. If you have played the original, you’ll be blown away with all the improvements and new additions it has. The main story alone will take you dozens of hours to complete and when you’re down you can continue to play around in this world, and why wouldn’t you? Sure there are problems, in my opinion there is no such thing as a perfect game because there will always be some flaws or things that could be improved upon. But most of those negatives pail in comparison to everything this game does right. This is quality game making and it’s one that everyone should play.