Rockstar Games' virtual interpretation of the Old West finally has a sequel after almost a decade so strap on your saddle and let's ride.
Red Dead Redemption 2 takes place in 1899 during a time when outlaws were becoming a rarer sight thanks to efforts in making the Wild West more tamed and civilized with the help of new laws and enforcement officers. The story stars Arthur Morgan, an outlaw who steals just to survive in the rugged lands of the West. The tale that unfolds will thoroughly test Arthur's loyalty and honour within many difficult situations. He's a part of a ragtag group known as the Van der Linde gang which is run by his dear friend Dutch. Together, they think up and execute plenty of clever schemes in order to hopefully strike it rich and avoid the strong arm of the law while doing so.
The cast of characters make the gradually unfolding plot engaging due to each individual's complexity. Even the most stereotypical NPC may have an interesting story to tell so I found that learning about everyone was a rewarding experience in itself. It's not often that a cast of characters interests me enough to stay invested so I'm glad to say that Red Dead Redemption 2 accomplishes this masterfully.
I definitely don't want to spoil anything so I'll avoid talking about the story from now on. Red Dead Redemption 2's most impressive aspect by far is its awe-inspiring open world. Not only is it gorgeous and vast with plenty of memorable locations and distinct terrain; it also features oodles of content to discover and master. You could essentially just work your way between the story mission waypoints and play through as quickly as possible but with so many interesting things to uncover, merely doing that would provide a much less satisfying experience. As you travel, you'll find yourself enhancing your gang's camp with items and finances, bonding with your horse, crafting useful items, shaking the law off your tail, hunting animals, and interacting with strangers to carry out side-quests.
Of course, I'm only scratching the surface of what you can do within the world of Red Dead Redemption 2. If I described everything you could do, you'll be reading this all day. Instead, I'll explain just how immersive this world is. As you progress through the story and master the incredible amount of extra content, you'll notice the time of day changing, your horse will become dirty, you'll get hungry, and if you leave a dead body lying around, someone may alert the authorities. It's details like these that make the world feel alive and constantly engaging. It's definitely not the sort of game that you can safely leave on unpaused and nothing will happen.
When it comes to its visuals and sound, Red Dead Redemption 2 is jaw-dropping. For starters, the huge open world is breathtaking and often photo-realistic complete with beautiful sceneries and life-like water effects while the characters are animated seamlessly. There were a few times when I noticed small visual glitches such as characters overlapping each other or falling off their stationary horse for no apparent reason but these moments were too few and far between to take me out of the engaging world.
Red Dead Redemption 2 impresses as well on the audio side of the equation. The voice cast does a phenomenal job of fleshing out each character's distinct personality. Meanwhile, the sound effects are spot-on whether you're riding your horse through a shallow river or taking part in a hectic shootout. The soundtrack is superb and provides a perfect soundscape for each situation that you find yourself within. It doesn't stand out but that's what you'd want from a game soundtrack; to elevate the atmosphere at any given moment.
Controlling Arthur is rather simple and intuitive although you will surely require at least some practice and memorization considering just how many actions he's capable of. The core gameplay involves traversing areas either on foot or via horseback, brawling, sneaking, and shooting. Each aspect of gameplay is handled well in that no matter what you're doing, it's always rewarding to succeed and advance in your journey. However, the level of challenge is quite low as I never found myself struggling in any particular mission.
With all of that being said, I can't help but feel that Red Dead Redemption 2 doesn't really offer anything new and exciting gameplay-wise. Sure, the shooting, combat, and stealth are handled capably but when there are so many open world sandbox games nowadays which provide unique gameplay mechanics that you can't get anywhere else, it's hard not to end up feeling that the core gameplay is a little flat and uninspired. In other words, gamers have been enjoying everything that Red Dead Redemption 2's gameplay has to offer in one form or another for years. I wish that it did much more and threw in a few surprises to wow audiences yet it simply doesn't.
I don't want to be too much of a bummer but another area that could have been improved is the fact that many parts of the story are drawn-out, repetitive, and downright tedious. Although some gamers may enjoy slowly driving a caravan for what seems like half an hour while listening to characters' small talk, I couldn't help but get impatient during these scenes and there are a lot of them. Even if you don't mind moments like these, many of the missions simply involve travelling between various points across the map which can be unsatisfying to say the least. That being said, whenever a brawl or shootout breaks out; it's much more exciting as a result.
Before I wrap this up, I want to mention one aspect that drove me nuts on multiple occasions. Basically, the controls and gameplay can be too sensitive at times and may result in you having to replay large stretches again even though you messed up entirely by accident. The most common example of this is that whenever I was riding a horse, I sometimes tripped on a rock or slammed into a tree which sent me and my horse tumbling to the ground while whoever I was chasing made a break for it. Another time, I had to put my binoculars away so I tapped R2 when prompted which made me shoot my gun and kill a friendly NPC. Moments like these can be super-frustrating, especially seeing as they're usually triggered due to very sensitive controls. It makes me wish there was a rewind button.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is a gorgeous and enormous open world game that you can easily get immersed in while the hours tick away. Its amazing visuals, intricate world, and realistic cast of characters make it a must-have game for this generation.
- + Amazing open world that's full of memorable locations and things to discover
- + Top-notch production value throughout
- + Engaging story with complex characters
- - Gameplay doesn't feature anything particularly new and exciting
- - Some parts are drawn-out and tedious
- - Sensitive mechanics can be frustrating