Rootin’ Tootin’ Cowboy Shootin’: A Red Dead Redemption 2 review

Writing this review has been hard for me. But not for the normal reasons. I beat this game only this past week, and was overcome with emotions. This is a piece of art, and I am a (not that great) video game critic. It seems like I’m doing something above my pay grade, like I should be looking for someone’s guidance just so I don’t screw this up. There is no one like that here, I’m just going to have to bumble around telling you why I love this game and why I think you might too, so without further ado, let’s get started.

Developer: Rockstar Games

Name: Red Dead Redemption 2

Console: PS4 Pro, Xbox One X

Reviewed On: PS4 Pro

Release date: October 26

First thing I want to say is that I will be covering some minor early game spoilers, nothing that takes place after chapter two that is, so if you haven’t played it yet (which I find doubtful seeing as it made so much gosh dang money) that I find it hard to think you haven’t at least seen some of it. I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning. You start the game running from the law into the deep snow of the mountains, a set piece truly showing how far we’ve come graphically in 8 years. You are introduced to the Van Der Linde gang. The same gang of people you eventually hunt down in the original red dead redemption. This really helps add to the game, because if you’ve never played the first one? Your safe to jump in here. But if you have played the previous game. This takes on new meanings. You see the characters in their hay day, when they loved and bled for each other. This helps humanize them, making you feel the love that bill and Javier share amongst themselves. This also is helped by one of the more controversial points, this games pacing. The time between chapters can vary from 20-80 hours. Seriously. I spent all my free time for two weeks straight just playing the game. And getting from chapter 3-4 took 5 days. This game isn’t afraid to pull you down to its level, and make you play at its pace. This I imagine is for gameplay reasons, there is so much in this game that if it dumped it all on you right away, you’d be far to overwhelmed. Not to say you already aren’t to overwhelmed, you very much are. I always felt like I was missing out on something. Whether it be a random collectible my friends were telling me about. Or the gang hideouts and legendary hunts. This does tie into how I had to just run through the game. But even now as I start my second play through, knowing what I know , it’s still so much to take in, and speaking of gameplay…

This is the one major fault of Red Dead Redemption 2. The controls, to quote a fellow Connor, feel like soup in your hands. Okay, during the opening few hours of the game it requires you to rob a train, and as you might imagine things don’t go as planned. You are then forced to get into a gunfight on a train, making you rely on the games awful cover mechanic. I can’t tell you how many times i would tap the cover button, Arthur would run to a wall and completely miss it putting right in front of a double barrel shotgun. Seriously, This happened so much in the early game that I just started to walk around and stay moving. I found it easier and more enjoyable in the long run, walking towards the enemy wildly shooting my rifle. This is big game, like I’ve said previously, and as a player we need to be able to have agency in this world while not having a thousand buttons to press. They  did the best they could, and I don’t think anyone could do better. What Rockstar also does better than anyone else, is bugs. Rockstar games are always full of game breaking bugs, from the swing set that sent you into outer space in GTA IV, all the way to the original Red Dead Redemption, when a dog could take you through a bandit camp. Read Dead Redemption 2 is just as full of them. I had a few minor bugs (not including the weird animations and cycling you would do between sets) ranging from losing a gun out of my inventory early game, to the wackier glitches like characters floating in the air. Despite all the goofs, even under the most strenuous of sessions I’d do for this review, I got a surprising lack of bugs. Considering how much is in here, it’s a small miracle some would say.

The variety of activities in Red Dead Redemption 2 is astonishing. The first game was known for its complexity, to get a 100% completion rating (I’m looking at the fight a bear with a knife challenge specifically) and this game is no joke. You can almost literally start running in any direction and you’ll find random encounters, story missions, collectibles, stranger missions, hunting, fishing, hell you can even get stuck playing poker. I spent a whole night of my life just playing the in game poker just because i could. This is a game that will not leave you lacking of content from sure, you can see how people were killing themselves to make it. It would be impossible to do this review without at least acknowledging the elephant in the room. Now obviously I’m no expert on the matter, and my opinion might not matter. BUT, for what it’s worth. You can see all the blood, sweat, and tears that went into this game. From the cool rock carvings scattered throughout the west, to the personal hunting missions you can do with your fellow gang members. Add the most beautiful engine rockstar has ever used. This game starts to become something beautiful. The god rays you get wherever you go through the bayou make it one of my favourite environments to mess around in. The game knows that it’s map is a character in the story, slowly of the course of the whole game you are guided from snow capped mountains, to the bustling city of Saint Denis (pronounced SAN DENNY in  your best French accent) you slowly begin to fill out your map, gradually adding the the satisfaction of exploring, and conquering the world around you.

As immaculate as the map, and how expansive the story is, the best moments in this game are the ones you end up creating yourself. The time you stumble up to a campfire and find out a kind old man will make you food. Or the opposite, where you walk up to a similar fire, only for it to be populated with rival gang members forcing you to creatively get yourself out of there. I personally like to use my civil war knife. The game also has a oddly dated morality system, nothing overly complicated about it. You can range from sociopath Arthur Morgan robbing people on his way to any given mission, to good guy Arthur helping a dude on the side of the road who’s been poisoned. The game also knows while you’re doing stuff like this you can see some wild things, from cool Easter eggs to interesting landscape, and Arthur knows this, usually pulling out his journal to sketch a picture or write something. On top of that you’ll also see the sketches on your map when you pull it up, along with wildlife locations, debts, bounties, etc…

The amount of intuitive game systems that stack, and work on top of each other is astonishing. This truly is a one of a kind game. The type of of media that comes around once every decade. This is a game that others will now have to compare themselves to as the industry standard. This is why I’m giving Red Dead Redemption 2, five out of a possible five stars.

    • Immersive story full of thrills, wonder, and heartbreak all at a steady pace
    • Intricately designed world for you to explore
    • Deep weapon and character customization
    • Amazing looking game
    • slightly buggy controls

I truly do believe this is one of the best games ever made, not just this generations, but only time will tell. For the foreseeable future multiplayer is just on the horizon for us. I really do hope to see you out there. Only so I can try and hit you with a tomahawk from the other side of Valentine.

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