Developed By: Rockstar Games
Published By: Rockstar Games
Platforms: PS4, Xbox
Reviewed On: PS4PRO
Red Dead Redemption 2 is without a doubt one of the most highly anticipated sequels to one of the most amazing game experiences of previous years with Red Dead Redemption. Set in the year 1899, Red Dead Redemption 2 is a prequel to the first game starring Arthur Morgan, trusted senior gun of the Van der Linde Gang and who is also the right-hand man to the illustrious and charismatic leader Dutch Van der Linde, on the run from the law following a botched job in Blackwater. From snowy mountaintops, lush forests, deathly deserts filled with beautiful vistas, the gang must constantly do whatever they can to ensure that each other survives. For what you may ask? Simply to be free. To have land and a home where all of them can finally be free and live out their lives peacefully.
I do feel that even though the game has been out for quite a while now, I would be speaking freely and there might be spoilers but I do hope its a journey you decided to take on anyways. To be honest I wasn’t even supposed to do this review but after watching the credits roll, I grabbed a beer and stared at the computer screen trying to convince myself not to write about this game. I couldn’t. Even if a review had been written about this game, I would still feel the need to share my thoughts on this game. It’s a profound achievement that should be celebrated by everyone.
People don’t change, they just become more of who they are
The story in Red Dead Redemption 2 starts out fairly simple but slowly develops over time into one of the most emotional and satisfying stories I have ever witnessed in a video game. The Van Der Linde Gang are quite simply a product of times of old and are slowly being left behind as the world moves around them. They are clinging to what they know to be true and the way of life they have been accustomed to. Yet along the way they also know how they are slowly becoming relics of days past as the world is moving towards civilization and they either have to adapt to it or slowly disappear into irrelevancy in an unmarked grave. Thankfully, throughout your journey through this carefully curated story you will be greeted by one of the most diverse and memorable casts in gaming.
The gang consists of the charismatic Dutch van Der Linde who is the idealistic leader of the group always scheming and thinking one step ahead. Molly O’Shea, the Irish firebird who is also a companion to Dutch and the apple to his eye. Charles Smith, who is of mixed parentage and owes his upbringing to his Native American heritage, always cherishing life and land. Sadie Adler, who is the newest member of the group. She was rescued from the O’Driscoll’s who killed her husband and almost burnt her alive in her own home. Hosea Matthews, who is one of the founding members of Dutch’s group, a brilliant schemer of his own who helped guide Arthur to grow to be a smart outlaw. Leopold Strauss, the shrewd German financier who conducts his money lending side business which in turns keeps the gang afloat. Bill Williamson, a disgraced former military man whose loyalty knows no bounds and now serves the gang faithfully. Javier Escuella, the wild Mexican who blends in and always steps up to the plate to help the gang. And then there is Karen, Mary-Beth, & Tilly, the three lively women who help Mrs Grimshaw manage all affairs in the camp but would not hesitate to pick up a rifle to defend their camp. Micah Bell, the detestable outlaw who has questionable methods but always guarantees results. Uncle, he has lumbago. Not forgetting, John Marston, his companion Abigail and their son Jack who fans might remember from the first game. Along the way, they will be joined occasionally by Josiah Trelawney, who always has information about what they need when they need it but cannot keep himself out of trouble. Not forgetting Lenny, one of the youngest but bravest who provides one of the most memorable moments early in the game. Sean, the Irish whippersnapper who talks too much and drinks even more.
All of these characters will burrow their way into your heart as you slowly take the time to get to know them. The same way how in real life if you take the time to get to know someone you start to learn so much more about them than you thought you did. For each and every one of these characters, it unravels the same way. Some in violent outbursts, others in quiet poignant moments but I can guarantee that by the end of the ride you will remember every single one of them. And you will miss them.
The more you realize how big the world is, the more you realize how small you are
The locations you will visit are always diverse and feels so believable. Whether it be in Valentine, Strawberry, Rhodes, Saint-Denis, Blackwater, or all the amazingly curated locations throughout the map feels amazingly distinct. One of the things I dislike most about open-world games is how once you have seen it all it all kinds of blend together. Not here though as every encounter and location unfolds beautifully and organically that it is truly a joy to witness. It is so diverse and is only magnified exponentially by the amazing amount of wildlife that populates the world. I can count a handful of times that I took the stagecoach to skip areas as I took joy in riding everywhere and taking all the sights in. As perfect as it might seem to be though, I did experience a few repeated moments namely the snake bite victims (although the game cleverly tries to disguise this by having an inside joke where he knows he keeps getting bitten for no reason) but even then, the repetition happens so rarely. There is so much to take in that it never feels repetitive. I even watched a couple of shows at the theatre in Saint-Denis and the amount of work that was put into it is staggering. Shows can go on for a good long while. The player can participate in games of Poker, Blackjack, Five Finger Fillet & Dominoes. I have never played Dominoes in my entire life yet here I was getting frustrated by Abigail kicking my ass.
Aside from that, the player can choose to go hunting the various wildlife to craft and improve various equipment. When the game starts, the player will have access to a fairly limited inventory space which if they choose, they can increase by hunting and collecting the appropriate pelts required. This is not limited to inventory upgrades only as the camp the player resides in can also undergo cosmetic changes which in turn will provide a morale boost to all members of the gang. Players will also have the option to hunt Legendary Animals or Legendary Fish. Legendary Animal pelts can be sold to the trapper exclusively for him to craft unique clothes for the player to wear if they choose to. The other legendary items can then be used to craft Talismans or Charms at the Fence that provide various boosts such as boosting the pelt quality of hunted animals or reducing the rapid degradation of health or stamina.
Apart from that players can also stumble upon Random Events and Stranger Missions which are optional Side Missions for the player to undertake. Some will yield beneficial rewards while others mostly providing even more insight into the world and the characters living in it. Each is a unique mission and introduces even more fascinating characters. Even if they are there for a short while they are written so well. Mr White and Mr Black, who are not quite what they seem. Mr Hamish, who has been through so much yet maintains a positive outlook on life. Obadiah, the unfortunate victim of a con artist who prefers to believe in evil spirits rather than face the truth. These are some of the examples of the characters you will meet on your adventures and I always sought out that question mark on the map because each one of them was worth experiencing.
And there are so much more activities to do including hunting for exotic plants, dinosaur bones, unexplained rock carvings, and etc that always promises something interesting at the end of the road. I spent countless hours just exploring the world while still stuck in Chapter 2 due to how much I loved discovering everything.
What I Loved
- Graphics – It is truly a spectacular achievement to how AMAZING this game looks, picture perfect at all times.
- Story – It is a slow burner but it is one that is worth sitting through. Although you can probably tell how it ends up (especially if you played the first game) the subtle nuances and the amazing storytelling escalates the experience into an incredibly emotional journey.
- Characters – Not a single wasted character. Almost everyone is so well realised that the world just comes alive. I don’t think I have ever cared about a cast of characters more than I have here.
- Music – The music and sound design is such perfection. Everything is executed with precision and perfectly accompanies every situation. Eastward Bound is just one of my absolute favourite tracks of the game.
- Side Content – You know it’s a funny thing. In games like Far Cry or Assassins Creed, I always loathe the main map as all these icons pop up and I feel compelled to clear all of them, maybe it’s an OCD thing. But the subtle way that this game turns it all off and only turns it on when I am close or only if I discover it gives me the option to do it because I want to and not because I can’t stand its there. It’s a very small thing but I think this works better.
What I Wished Was Better
- Pacing – I do believe the game does suffer from very slight pacing issues. It’s barely there and it does not hamper the entire experience but I have to say that for a game that wants you to linger more, it does rush things along unexpectedly.
- The Education – I remember starting out this game and going “How is anything supposed to work in this game?” It can and does feel overwhelming at first and for some players, it can be too much for them. For the record, I don’t think this is a bad thing, but it does require a bit of patience and perseverance for players to get to that point where everything clicks and the game just feels right. It’s getting to that point is a challenge in itself.
- Red Dead Online – It’s fun but there are obvious economic issues that if not fixed will definitely be a cause of massive frustration for fans such as myself. Also not having a passive mode will open you up to griefers. It’s strange that it was not included at the launch of the beta.
When I started up Red Dead Redemption 2, I didn’t expect it to affect me as profoundly as it did. Even then I knew that this game would not be for everyone. In the same way that life presents us with choices we have to make along the way, it’s strange to find that in a game. I became more and more invested because I chose to hang around the camp and get to know everyone in the gang, listen to the conversations they have among themselves, conversations they have with Arthur, drink with them, sing songs around the campfire and do chores for the camp. It’s amazing how much there is to listen to and immerse yourself in. But it is a choice that you have to make for yourselves. Personally, I feel it is truly a tremendous achievement for a game to not feel manufactured. Ironically, as it is a game about the life and death choices that Arthur Morgan has to make it manages to mirror real life in many ways. We live our lives the only way we know how to even when we know we are slowly getting older and irrelevant. We always take for granted the choices that are presented to us and the kind of people we want to be and who we want to be remembered as when we are gone. Red Dead Redemption 2 lets the player feel these choices in a very simple subtle way. We live in an era where most video games grab your attention from the get-go and pump up the adrenaline levels to keep your attention. This game does the complete opposite. It wants you to stop, smell the roses, stare off into the distance and reflect. There was so much to write but I decided to restrain myself because I want you to experience it for yourself. It does fall short of being a perfect game due to its own ambition and some technical issues. While it comes awfully close to being my Game Of The Year, I would have to reserve that distinction to another game simply because of how better executed it was but Red Dead Redemption 2 rightfully stands as one of the games of the generation. I would like to congratulate everyone who worked on this amazing game.