After nearly a decade, we finally have a follow up to Rockstar Games’ hit open-world wild west game in the form of Red Dead Redemption 2. It was by no means a smooth ride as the game went through a delay and a scandal involving the harsh working conditions the developer allegedly put its staff through. That said, none of this would really stop the game from selling several millions of copies, but you already knew that coming into this Red Dead Redemption 2 review.
Unless you have been a coma for the past few years, you will know that Red Dead Redemption 2 is a prequel to the original game, although it still has the slow death of the wild west as its central theme. By the time 1899 came around, outlaws in the US have become an endangered species.
Putting yourself in the boots of a certain Arthur Morgan, you will experience firsthand being a member of a notorious gang led by Dutch van der Linde, whom some of you may remember as the primary antagonist from the original game. Fresh off a failed heist, the gang has been pushed back to the snowy mountains after being pursued by authorities. Stuck in a hostile environment on the brink of death, thus begins your grand adventure.
Rockstar has always been the master of the open world, and nothing was able to top Grand Theft Auto V until now. Unlike Grand Theft Auto V where the challenge was to essentially create a facsimile of Los Angeles for its setting, the developer is tasked with creating a living and breathing world that feels natural and believable. To say that Rockstar succeeded with much aplomb is simply understating it.
Without hyperbole, Red Dead Redemption 2 is by far one of the best looking game for the current generation of consoles. Instead of a drab desert environment that one would come to expect from a game set in the wild west, you will take Arthur through not only just that but also green pastures, swampy areas, snowy terrain and even modern civilisation. The variety is what makes the world feel alive and real, and the decisions you make throughout the course of the game will alter its surroundings.
Anyone unfamiliar with the original and came here expecting Grand Theft Auto with cowboys and horses will be disappointed by this slow-paced old west period piece, as you will be spending much of your time galloping through the world on your house. While there is plenty of action to be had here in terms of shootouts, high-speed chases and escapes as well as train robberies, the majority of these moments are interspersed from just being in a particular location and interacting with the environment.
Whether you like it or not, you are required to live out the world as you would in real life. As such, you will need to perform tasks as eating, sleeping and even grooming yourself. Thankfully, Rockstar takes a more middle of the ground approach to the survival aspects of this game, so you are never truly bogged down by it.
Once you leave the snowy mountain regions at the start to a warmer territory, the entire game opens up to you right away. You are free to proceed with the story or simply just interact with the world itself. It is here that Red Dead Redemption 2 introduces even more of the new mechanics, adding even greater depth than we initially expected.
The first thing you would want to do is to take care of yourself, or in this case Arthur. Like a real person, you will need to keep him fed and well-rested. Maybe even give him a shave. Next you will need to check on your gear and equipment, which in itself is an activity of its own. You will need to dress according to the weather, as wearing thick clothing in the middle of summer will not be a smart idea. After that, your trusty steed will require tending to, and much like their human counterpart, horses have the same number of needs.
Treat your horse with as much care as you possibly can, as it not only is your companion for pretty much the entire game but also your primary means of transportation. While it sounds like a lot of things that need doing, the system is so organically integrated that it never does feel an annoyance.
While the writing and storyline is praise-worthy on its own, it is the world and activities that impresses us the most. This is unlike your typical open world game where you simply follow the dots to complete a specific objective. Active missions in Red Dead Redemption 2 have markers as do core NPCs. Everything else however, you will have to discover yourself by interacting with the world.
While it may get fairly overwhelming at times, you have your trusty Eagle Eye at your disposal which helps you highlight important objects or hints. It is only through exploration where you will be able to discover the numerous side missions and activities scattered across the vast expanse. It is this very sense of discovery that sets Rockstar’s open world games apart from the rest.
The population of Red Dead Redemption 2 reacts accordingly to your actions, so if you play either as a good guy or bad guy, there are consequences. Your reputation matters a lot in this game, as it affects how quests will play out and how everyone else treats you.
The game takes it a step further by having the population remember whatever it is you have done before in the past. Be a champion of the people and you will have people greeting you and welcoming you to their abode. Shopkeepers will also give you a discount for being a model citizen. However if you have been terrorising the people before, everyone will be accordingly hostile towards you, and it will be that much more difficult to navigate the world as people are out for your blood.
In the end it is safe to say that Rockstar has managed to pull it off once again with Red Dead Redemption 2, achieving its goal of being a bit of everything, a competent shooter set in the wild west, an engaging human drama and a class on US history.