Video Game Review: Red Dead Redemption 2

A much loved game for both myself and many others. I am today covering a game of both vast popularity of a highly anticipated game. As a long-time fan, I know every tiny detail this game has to offer, including every good moment, and bad.

So, where to begin! I played this game on Xbox One, but it is also playable on PS4 and PC.

The Setting and Story

You play as Arthur Morgan, right hand man of Dutch Van Der Linde (I know way too many conspiracy theories on how this gang leader was created that I could easily write multiple essays about). The story, a prequel to RDR1 set in 1898, picks up after a botched job in Blackwater, a prominent town in West Elizabeth that players from RDR1 would be familiar with. The gang taking shelter in a very inhospitable snowy region of the world you are literally thrown into the depths of the world.

The game is historically accurate in many ways and a reflection of the times. It makes many nods to real world progression and invention during this industrial age. As the gang moves around the 5 states this world has to offer, the modern age of technology and civilisation is closing in on them. The “wild west” ideology of the gang and being content with a camp, easily escaping the law, are quickly disappearing as new federal agents begin their hunt for you and the gang.

Dutch has a grand scheme of “one last job” that would get them the money to escape once and for all. Players of RDR1 know that with this many gang members in RDR2, there is going to be an inevitable ‘shedding’ of numbers, but you never expect it and you as a player are left in awe at every intrigue and scenario that plays out. You will get attached to a lot of the gang members which makes this tale all more intense.

I won’t give away too much of the plot, but there are some gang members that don’t even get a cut scene. It is a truly harsh way to hurt the player as you go through the story and gradually unfold how everything goes down and why RDR1 starts as it does.

The story is gripping. The characters are all detailed and played well. It is clear to see why this game achieves its high status, its many awards, and accolades.

One negative I could draw from the experience was an epilogue that could have been a fraction of the time it was, but there were even great moments in that too and it helps lay the ground work for the events of RDR1 to unfold.

The Game Mechanics

Players familiar with Rockstar’s typical control scheme will be very familiar with how to do most actions straight away. An added touch I am a huge fan of, is the realism of guns holstered on you are the only ones you can draw, and the rest are stored on your horse! I think this is a great way to reflect the importance of choosing carefully rather than knowing you can whip out massive weapons at any time (yes, I’m looking at you Grand Theft Auto).

Newer mechanics to the series include horse care, forming a close bond with your 4 legged friend has its benefits that bond you closely with this unsung hero horse. The signature “Dead Eye” feature was re-worked and improved upon somewhat though I do wonder if it’s a feature that is really needed at times.

Hunting animals now had more worth to them with the introduction of you and your horse’s core’s. Health, Stamina and Dead Eye all had a core which could be topped up using various foods and drinks acquired or made around the world. Adding this need to eat and drink is a nice change in pace from the feeling of being invincible, with a lot of games featuring either a “drink/inject this and you heal” or “go hide and magically heal from deadly wounds.” Red Dead Redemption 2 has a much more realistic feeling to it.

Keeping your weapons clean is also important, the dirtier the weapon, the less impactful it is. All these smaller details make the game so much more than just an action RPG. You fall utterly and wholesomely into a different world filled with wildlife and interesting civilians you can have basic conversations with. You could very easily ignore the epic story and go venturing off into the sunset atop your horse, go fishing, hunting, perhaps bump into one of the many random encounters, get ambushed by a rival gang or a pack of wolves. The possibilities are endless.

My Experience

So, I was there at the stroke of midnight. I was one of the first in the shop, one of the first home, and as I installed the game I trawled through my metal box as I bought the collectors box and ultimate edition. I was a crazy fan of the franchise, having played both Red Dead Revolver (most people forgot about that one huh?) and Red Dead Redemption(1).

The amount of information I had at my disposal at the start of the game was crazy and I easily lost myself in the world. I could easily reply the whole story over and over again if I wanted to but all in all I was happy with the progress I had made.

Unlike a lot of games, RDR2 was quite well polished, it was by definition a complete game that didn’t have many (if any) noticeable issues with the solo story side of the game, which is a rare thing these days! The character, whilst quite evil at the start has some epic character progression that really does bring about the use of the title ‘redemption’.

At first you could be fooled to think in RDR1 that John Marston is finding Redemption by dealing with his old gang pals to get his family back but that isn’t true redemption. Whilst his story is seen unfolding in RDR2 I do wonder if the redemption ark of Arthur’s is more compelling as, unlike John, Arthur isn’t being blackmailed into hunting people or forced into situations. If you go from bad to good its because of a personal choice.

Red Dead Online

So, this is a beast of its own. Set before the events of the story, Red Dead Online sees your custom character of no voice (a trait similar to the GTA Online characters) have a serendipitous moment where they miraculously escape prison. You are then put into the world following a very rough, not very well connected back story to do with some lady (whose name ultimately isn’t important) wanting revenge.

I get that they want to be creative in how they introduce the online world characters in a story telling way, but if this was skipped, I wonder if it’d make any difference!

I have mixed feelings about Red Dead Online. Suffice to say, it’s boring to play solo in the online world and you’ll be easy pickings for any half organised group. You have horse bonding, and even more reasons to hunt and fish as a source of income as well.

The pricing of the weapons and clothing are somewhat odd. I don’t fully understand how a hat can be more expensive than a revolver, but this is a little bit of a trick to try and coerce you into doing one of the many lucrative, content injected jobs you can take up.

These jobs or ‘roles’ include; Bounty Hunting (the most enjoyable), Collecting (kind of fun, but most lucrative), Trader (most time consuming, pay outs are slow but large and come with added PvP risks) and more recently, Moonshining (enjoyable content of having your own illegal bar, and can be lucrative).

All these take time and effort but can be enjoyable. Except for Trader. I do not know why anyone would bother with it myself, and as a Red Dead Redemption hardcore nerd and fan its hard for me not to try and max level all roles, but Trader is too dull, even for me!

Lets discuss another element of RDR Online. Perk Cards. You can assign 4 (gradually unlocked as you level up) perk cards. These cards provide nice little boosts like extra damage whilst riding a horse, if someone head shots you, the first bullet will shoot your hat off. Then, there are the Dead Eye perk cards. Some of these perks, sprinkled with as many tonics and high level stat boosts can make someone near invincible.

Now, I hear you ask ‘who would even go to such lengths?’ The answer to that question is someone looking for exploits in the game to not play the game as intended in order to PvP in a toxic manner. If you scrapped the entire perk card system, the main aspects of the online wouldn’t be impacted. I feel that this added system is purely abused by people who rarely have enough people to play with and feel neglected by Rockstar for content which is certainly a prominent critique for the Online aspects of Red Dead Online.

It is certainly frustrating when you see vast new features added to the likes of GTA Online, a game that came out in 2013! Yet here we are with this beautiful world with so much wonder and awe and they occasionally and at random might add a new coat and hat in every now and then. They even introduced this idea of seasons – an increasingly common trope of games these days. Their Outlaw Pass provides bonus content and would regularly update.

There has only been 2 periods of this Outlaw Pass, the first lasted a couple of months, and the 2nd period has been going on for 5+ months so far! There’s such inconsistency its really hard for me, a long time fan of the franchise and pretty much anything Rockstar has previously made to not feel let down. From collectors edition excitement, to and epic story, to an online experience that feels forgotten about.

With Rockstar having the enlightenment of one of the biggest grossing games of all time on their lap (GTA5) you would think that they’d understood; the success of a game is very much in the innovative expansions of its online world and giving its players new content to keep them busy for years!

They have all the ingredients on Red Dead Online to evolve it on an epic scale, they have all the successful experience that GTA Online has had and continues to have, and yet somewhere there seems to be a miscommunication.

I almost imagine this conversation taking place at Rockstar:

“We need to add content to keep the RDR Online community growing”

“give them a new buckle, a saddle and if they only spend gold*, give them a hat”

That level of content creation (I use creation lightly) is frankly disgraceful!

*Gold, by the way, is a secondary currency you can buy with real world money. A redeeming quality to Rockstar, they have made it possible to earn (slowly) as well.

With all that said, I still play the online often. I play with a large group of friends and combined with our own creativity and group activities we’re able to amalgamate the content provided to keep it a fresh experience. That said, I would still very much like more content! I can own a bar but not a house? A luxury tent but no NPC’s under my control? If you’re struggling Rockstar, feel free to get in touch, I have infinite ideas that could be added to the game!

Reception

The game has been rightly well received. Its single player story is epic on a scale rarely seen, and it has a truly breath taking world to lose yourself in.

96% of Google users recommend it. Ratings from other critics never falling below 9, often we’re looking at 5 star ratings and 10/10’s.

My Ratings

Complexity = 5 / 10

Its not a tricky game to learn, but with new features and some so subtly added, you could play the whole single player without understanding how your cores work!

Story = 10 / 10

I love the story. I love the characters. Love the development and every tiny detail. I would play this repeatedly just to capture every emotion with the hindsight there are bound to be things previously not spotted!

Gameplay = 9 / 10

Gameplay is smooth, there are a few horse jumps that look a little unrealistic but other than that, there is depth and detail too good to be ignored. Explosive rounds are somewhat not necessary in this setting, but all in all a stunning well built game.

Online = 7 / 10

There is content, and it will keep you busy for a while. If you don’t play with others, and don’t care about investing in a role, you will quickly get bored and you will be angry with the prices of basic items. As a team though, the game can be much more enjoyable and worth pouring hours upon hours of time into. Just be wary not to exploit the unbalanced perk system!

Overall = 9 / 10

No easy thing for me to not have some bias and give a 10 to without thought! A realistic view on the entire product and what the game brings to the table. Also I’m taking into consideration the neglected online community that is also growing, means that I would have to give this a 9 out of 10.

If Rockstar begin to add lots more into Red Dead Online, and seriously review the pricing of their items, then this will easily jump back up to  a 10. In its current state, a 9 is a reasonable level for this to sit at.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is currently part of the Xbox Game Pass package! So if you have the Game Pass which is a subscription based service you will have access to this game as well as many others, making this quite a bargain even if just to try it out!

For collectors among you reading, here is an interactive map that shows the current locations of the hidden objects in the world. The map keeps up to date as the objects move daily in  a 3 day cycle.

In game pictures credited to The Ronin Legion, an online gaming community who work together to overcome and profit from all content Rockstar has to offer in Red Dead Online.

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