In Rockstar’s last outing the studio broke new ground in the open world genre, stitching together a 3 faced narrative which revolved around the modern American Dream. 5 years after their last full game, and 8 years after the last Red Dead Redemption, Rockstar is here again with Red Dead Redemption 2. But does the open-world Wild Wild West reinvent the wheel, or is it another clog in the wheel. Let’s find out.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is an action-adventure game developed and published by Rockstar Games. The game is a prequel to the 2010 game Red Dead Redemption, and the third entry in the Western-themed Red Dead series. The game released on 26 October 2018, for the PS4, and the Xbox One.
RED DEAD REDEMPTION 2
Story & Narrative
Red Dead Redemption 2 follows a group of outlaws as they move from place to place running from the law and in search of their next big heist, and in the search of their permanent haven. Plus as you would expect from a great open world game (Witcher 3 for example), there are a plethora of side-plots that you can explore at different points in the game which range from duelling with other legendary gunslingers, or capturing fellow outlaws with a bounty on their heads, or hunting that extremely rare animal for its pelt. Every mission/activity in the game has a detailed and elaborate backstory, which gives them context.
Unlike other Open World Games though, Rockstar have succeeded in creating a much more detailed living world than I have ever encountered IN ANY GAME EVER.
Sample this, I walk out of a bar, and there is a drunk man who follows me outside. He is tipsy and if you listen closely he is trying to get to his home, he knows the general directions, but can’t do himself. If you help him along (which by the way is never asked of you, there is no prompt, no quest activation, it just your choice without any repercussions) or if you just follow him, the drunkard will finally reach his house, drunk and muddy. His wife would then berate him and then refuse him entry into the house, upon which the man just collapses on the porch and goes off to sleep in a muddy sad heap. There was no quest, no choice to make, these 2 NPCs are just living their lives with or without Arthur Morgan in it. NPC are not static life forms with a sole purpose of offering you quests, they have lives, and they are affecting the world of Red Dead Redemption 2 just like you are. It’s an insane amount of detail to put into a game, but Rockstar has done it nevertheless.
Rockstar does RPG better than most RPG and it’s not even an RPG.
The most impressive thing that Red Dead Redemption 2 does though is stay in character. Well you see, Arthur Morgan is an outlaw, so beating, shooting and looting are second nature to him. But there is also an honor system implemented in the game, which basically paints a good/bad picture of you in front of everyone in town. But even when Arthur does something kind, even though its completely contrary to his nature, Arthur would come up with an excuse on why did what he did, and reinforce the idea that at heart he is still a criminal, and would have reacted in a completely different way if it had caught his fancy. It’s a small little thing to put in, but it adds volumes of immersion, because irrespective of what you are doing, you are still Arthur Morgan, the outlaw.
Gameplay & Mechanics
Immersion & Realism. These are the 2 pillars that Red Dead Redemption is based on. Want to buy a weapon, walk into a gun store, browse the guns on display or go through their catalog as a normal person would.
Want to skin an animal, you just can’t go into the wild, fill him with bullets and loot its body. You need to stalk your prey, study it, and then use the right kind of arrows to hunt it down, so that when you pelt it (which by the way has an entire animation which involves you personally skinning the animal) you get clean undamaged leather.
Want to sit around and enjoy the sky turn from amber to white to light blue and then black, well prepared to get hungry and lose health just by existing. Want to take your horse for a spin and try out crazy moves, well you need to build up a relationship with your horse first, so it can trust you enough.
Red Dead Redemption 2 does not care if it takes time. They care if it’s as close to real life as possible.
While Red Dead Redemption excels at making most gameplay elements as realistic as possible, they also end up making them overtly tedious and time-consuming at some point. There is no speed running through Red Dead Redemption 2, you HAVE to take your time.
Plus, there are so many gameplay elements and mechanics in Red Dead Redemption 2 that it’s impossible to list them all out. As a side effect, not all the control schemes implemented are intuitive and easy to use. Even the aiming reticule when during combat (the basic core mechanic of the game) isn’t the easiest to use. Horse riding (another activity that you will frequently do in the game) isn’t simple either, there are like 4 different types in which your horse can run, and they are all dependent on how long and how many times you press the ‘X’ button.
The biggest collateral damage of having a confusing control scheme though is the overlapping of the R2 button. I can count the number of times, I have accidentally shot someone when I just wanted to talk to him and made myself a Wanted criminal in town.
While Red Dead Redemption is both Realistic and Immersive. It’s also open.
And when I say open, I mean OPEN. You are free to explore the world at your leisure (which is huge), and its filled with secrets, easter eggs and places to explore, irrespective of whether Rockstar intended you to find them or not. And in true Rockstar fashion, Red Dead Redemption also allows for cheats like spawning horses at your location, giving you max health, max ammo, and even different weapons, which facilitate this exploration further, and boy have the community used these tools to analyze every nook and cranny of Red Dead Redemption 2.
While some have been obsessed with various Easter eggs in the game. Others have been pushing the boundaries and trying to explore the edge of the Red Dead Redemption World. Just reading and learning about this open detailed world is exhausting, imagine having to do all of that yourself.
But maybe you are not that concerned with all of that, maybe you just want to tie up people and throw them off a waterfall, or put your victim in front of a train, or dash into a tree on your horse head first, spend a night in the wild, under a canyon next to a stream. Maybe you just want to live the outlaw life. So yes, you can do that too.
Performance Graphics & Sound
Another recurring theme when we discuss Red Dead Redemption 2 is, “Attention To Details”. And that theme follows through in the visuals and the score of Red Dead Redemption 2.
Red Dead Redemption 2 looks stunning. I mean Assassin’s Creed Odyssey looked good, but Red Dead Redemption looks stunning. The trees, the animals, the towns, the horse, the NPC, the skyboxes, and the mud.
OH MY GOD, THE MUD.
Visit the town after a rainy evening, and there would be mud puddles all over the place, walk over them and new ones would form with your footprints in them. Red Dead Redemption is so beautiful it can make your eyes bleed. In fact, I would put it into the same bracket as God Of War in terms of visual fidelity this year.
And that visual fidelity is complimented by this soothing western soundtrack which is unobtrusive and yet are an integral part of the Red Dead Redemption 2 experience. And it’s not every day that voice acting is better than the soundtrack, but like in every department Red Dead Redemption 2 stands out as an exception in this department too. The southern accent, the Mexican accent, the New York accent are all on display during your time with Red Dead Redemption 2, and it’s marvelous.
All of this then ties together into the cinematic mode. A mode which you can activate at any time (except when you are in combat) and let Rockstar take care of presenting you with the best camera angle to show off Red Dead Redemption 2, putting all of this visual and audible technical marvel into the spotlight.
And don’t get me wrong, like many other Open World games, Red Dead Redemption does have its share of bugs. And I am sure as time goes on, even more, will make them known. But the achievement here is that when Red Dead Redemption 2 works, it works brilliantly, and it works 9.5 times out of 10.
Open, Immersive, Realistic and Complicated. Red Dead Redemption 2 wants to put you into the shoes of a cowboy, and nothing comes close to doing it better. It’s not a game to speed run through, instead, it’s a game to immerse yourself in for days, weeks and even months. It can be a little difficult to understand sometimes, but the experience offered is barring none at the moment. GOTY material for sure.