After around seventy-five hours of Red Dead Redemption 2 gameplay under my belt, I can say for sure that I have no business writing a review for this massive game right now. The following contains some very minor spoilers that you really shouldn’t worry about. With that being said, here’s my boneless review of RDR2.
Let’s start first with the gameplay mechanics that make this game one of the most immersive (and tedious.. In a good way?) games Rockstar Games has ever let out into the world. The most obvious place to start is with the driving force behind almost everything you do in Red Dead… your horse! After about five hours of playing the story, I lost my first horse to a tragic accident during an attempted robbery. I had left my horse (his name was Gunnar) on the side of the road while I pointed my gun at an oncoming carriage. As I began to exchange shots with the coach operator, their horses became panicked and went off the road in a craze. The carriage barreled through Gunnar killing him instantly. This was the first time I had felt a genuine connection to a horse in a video game and it’s something that should be noted and applauded. RDR2 allows you to bond with your steed overtime unlocking abilities gradually. The longer you spend with it the more it hurts when they inevitably meet their fate whether it be in a gunfight or during an accident on a mountain excursion.
The combat in RDR2 isn’t a system that attempts to overcomplicate in any way. Similar to GTA V, you have the option to play with aim assist or take on the bad guys (or good guys?) with no help at all. In a way, shooting a repeater brings me more satisfaction than riddling cop cars with an MP5 in GTA V. I think it has to do with the way RDR2 makes every shot feel heavy. Bodies in RDR2 react to your bullets in unique ways depending on where the wound is inflicted. This allows you to strategically place shots depending on your intentions with the encounter. Place a shot in the hand and you’ve disabled your opponent from firing back while allowing you to subdue them in a non-lethal manner.
One of the things that RDR2 hopes you’ll use while in your combat situations is its Dead Eye system. However, after playing the game for a month, I haven’t used it unless prompted to by the game. For me, it takes me out of the moment and doesn’t make me feel like any more of a badass than if I pop somebody in real time. Billy the Kid didn’t have Dead Eye.
RDR2’s story and character writing deserve to be analyzed and praised on a whole separate level than its gameplay. I want to preface this by saying I’m writing this having played maybe two hours of the original Red Dead Redemption. I don’t have the nostalgic connection that most RDR2 players have with John Marston, Bill Williamson, and Dutch van der Linde. I think that fact makes the connections I’ve made with them more impressive. Arthur Morgan is the picture perfect western game main character. He’s rugged, strong, and he has a great beard (if you put the time an effort into growing it as I have). He also doesn’t express his emotions very well. This makes the interactions with other gang members more meaningful when they do occur. Your gang members will remember things you’ve done for them in what can feel like the distant past while you’re in-game. After saving Reverend Swanson from getting himself run over by a train while drunk, he repeatedly thanked me and tried to make it up to me while I walked around camp eating, or observing the other gang members. It’s things like this that make the decisions you make and the things you do feel like they’re important.
In conclusion, I’ve had this game since the week it came out and I’ve played close to half of the story. Much of the beauty of the game comes in its ability to let players craft their own game speed. Red Dead Redemption 2 allows you to live in its world at your own pace as you build relationships with your diverse cast of gang members and cause havoc in the various towns on your way to racking up hefty bounties across the map. I found myself exploring the same questions Arthur has about life as an outlaw and whether he could’ve had it better as an honest man. I laughed at the jokes my friends made at the campfire at night and I felt sad when I lost friends in gunfights. I asked myself if their lives were really worth all of the stealing, fighting, and running. I never thought I was the good guy but that didn’t mean I wasn’t wholeheartedly behind my gang of ruffians. RDR2 paints a beautiful world that truly feels like it’s playing the game with you; a truly refreshing feeling in contrast to open world games that feel dead.
If you’re a sucker for those big open worlds and a (literally) old-fashioned action-adventure story, don’t hesitate to pick up this instant classic from Rockstar Games