Red Dead Redemption 2 Review
You think you got what it takes to be an outlaw, partner? You’ll be living rougher than you can think, but if you can hack it, then this family led by Dutch is the one for you.
Red Dead Redemption 2, Rockstar Games’s latest masterpiece, is a western action-adventure game acting as the prequel to the release of 2010’s Red Dead Redemption. It has been released for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on the 26th of October 2018, and has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from critics and players alike, praising many aspects of the game’s mechanics, story, environments, open-world, etc. We play as a different character, Arthur Morgan, who is a member of the Van der Linde gang, and even get to see John Marston’s experience in the gang before the fall thereof. The game brings back and refines mechanics from the previous game, like the combat, gunfights, honour system, hunting, etc. and also introduces new features, like swimming and dual-wielding.
Wilder Than You Know
The story goes like this; After a ferry heist goes wrong in Blackwater, Dutch van der Linde and his gang, of which Arthur Morgan and a young John Marston are a part of at this point, are forced to flee and find a new hideout whilst evading the law. Their only way is to go over the mountains, but they need funds in order to relocate to a safe spot and survive. The heist was meant to secure their freedom by allowing them to travel away from this new world brought by advancing technology. After Dutch, Micah, and Arthur go on a short trip to survey the area, in the snowy Grizzlies, the gang find out about a train, thanks to interrogating one of Colm O’Driscoll’s boys, that will be passing near them, belonging to a wealthy man named Leviticus Cornwall, and Dutch decides to rob it. After the success thereof, the group relocate to a campsite in New Hanover, close to a town called Valentine.
Things go well for a time, as the people settle in and get closer to the townsfolk, and John and Arthur run their own robbery operation, alongside a pair of other gang members, to work up some more money for the group. Unfortunately, as a result of the previous train-robbery, Leviticus had hired the Pinkerton Detective Agency to find and apprehend the culprits, and it doesn’t take long before Agents Milton and Ross find Arthur, who then try to convince Arthur to give Dutch up in exchange for his freedom. Arthur recommends to Dutch that the group relocate before their hideout is discovered, but Dutch decides against it, fearing that another “stupid action” will cause another irrecoverable mistake. It’s not long after this encounter when Leviticus Cornwall himself takes some of your friends hostage outside the Valentine saloon, which leads to a major gunfight in Valentine, once again forcing the group to make a run for it to another location in Rhodes.
The group do their best to survive until they get their chance to escape from this rapidly changing land, but it’s clear that there is something else afoot, and it’s up to Arthur and a few other trusted gang members to get to the bottom of some strange developments that keep getting in the way of the group’s attempts at gaining their freedom, all while watching the slow deterioration of Dutch’s mind.
Fight for Survival
The above explanation of the plot seems very much like it revolves around gaining money, but I can only reveal so much of the plot without giving away spoilers. The story is so tightly woven into many important evolving aspects that if I say too much, it would spoil the experience of finding out first-hand, which is so much more satisfying. I have, admittedly, not played the first Red Dead Redemption, so this review is coming from a fresh “Red Dead” player’s perspective. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the way the game progress, watching the story unfold. We see Dutch as he was before his mind had gotten to the point it did in the first Red Dead Redemption, a man who believed in “honour” – to an extent – and could be thought of as the “Robin Hood” of the Wild West, taking from people who have too much for their own good, and giving to the people who are in need, sometimes even welcoming them into his gang. It is here where you see what it took to wear down his mind to the point it did, which leads to the events of John Marston’s story.
Throughout the events of the game, you’re shown tutorials on how to do the multitudes of things at your disposal. There were still tutorials being thrown at me from 25% story progression, and it kept coming after that as well. It all fit in with the story and the mission as well, so it didn’t feel out of place to be shown “how to fish” while going out with the boys for a bit of fun, or “how to hunt” when your camp was in desperate need of food. And speaking of hunting; I was shocked at how much I enjoyed this mechanic. There are many reasons to hunt, which the game explains from the beginning, namely; Food for the camp to boost morale, as well as food for yourself while out in the wilds, and also gathering parts or skins for camp upgrades or satchel upgrades. Hunting will also help you gain points to level up your Health Meter (more on that later). And all aside from those things, it’s incredibly satisfying being able to ride up on a deer and lasso it for a clean kill, or using Dead Eye with a bow to get a headshot. You’ll find a myriad of different animals to hunt, over 30 species if I have it right, and some more challenging than others. (On a side note – skinning is horrifying!)
Another part of the fun are the mini-games within the game. At the hideout, or other locations in the game, you will be able to play games with NPCs. A few that I can name is Dominoes, Texas Hold ‘Em Poker, and Five Finger Fillet (this one made me cringe a lot). There is a lot more you can do in your free time inbetween missions, which encourages you to explore the game to its fullest, and some missions are more for fun than for a specific purpose, one in particular has you going to the saloon with a buddy, and it’s still one of my most memorable times in this game. Some missions have different routes that can be taken to complete an objective, or even different endings, which is something I haven’t seen yet in a game like this. When you finish a mission, you’ll be given a rating of either bronze, silver, or gold, based on the amount of challenges you were able to complete within the mission, like finishing it within a certain time or getting a certain amount of headshots.
Reload Your Revolvers!
The game also features degradation of certain items, for example, you’ll often need to clean and oil your guns to make sure they perform as they should, and I really like this because it adds even further to the immersion of the life in the Wild West. You’re also able to change Arthur’s outfits, and they’ve really put a lot of effort into all these mundane elements of life, but there is a purpose to it in the game. There are sections in the world that are hotter or colder than other sections, so you need to carefully choose an outfit based on where you will be, otherwise Arthur will suffer a temperature debuff which will slowly deteriorate his Health Core and make him more susceptible to damage. There are other things that will affect your Health Core as well as your Stamina Core and Dead Eye Core. You’re able to choose from your hat, to the coat, to suspenders, and the colours thereof, all the way down to the spurs on your boots. Talk about customisable!
I briefly mentioned the Health Bars and Cores, etc. earlier. The Cores serve as a baseline for the Bars, so, for example, if your Stamina Core has been damaged, it will affect the rate at which your Stamina Bar drains when you run or aim with the bow, etc. You are able to restore the Cores and the Bars with consumable items, either food, tonics, alcohol, etc. and proceed as you were, but the best way to restore everything is through sleep. When you start, the Bar, which surrounds the Core, is quite small, and with time as your progress through the game, the Bars around the Core will level up and get longer through certain actions that you do, eg. I mentioned Hunting before, or getting headshots outside of Dead Eye. There are many ways to gain points in order to level up the Bars, and the longer the Bars are, the more resilient your Cores will be in the end.
What I found really amusing as well was the fact that Arthur also needs to take care of his facial hair. Over time, Arthur’s beard will grow longer and longer, and you are tasked with either letting it grow wild, or shaving it, and you can do so yourself at camp, but I tend to prefer going to the Barber for this, as they leave a cleaner look than Arthur does. You can even choose how long you want to leave the beard, choosing to either just trim it slightly, go for different levels of cuts, or shaving it off entirely. The Barber is also able to change your hairstyle, because Arthur’s hair also grows over a realistic span of time. The styles available that the Barber can give you is dependent on how long your hair has grown. The longer your hair is, the more styles are available. Arthur is even able to gain or lose weight, and you gain certain stat debuffs (and buffs) depending on whether you are overweight or underweight.
Here is something that might annoy some of you folks; There is no fast-travel system to get you to important locations in a dash. If I had to say I was totally unhappy with this route, I’d be lying. In all honesty, yes, I could often have done with a “few-second” loading screen instead of the long trek to and fro between locations, but I have to say that despite all of that, this allowed me to be more immersed in the game than I ever have been in any other open-world game. It allowed me to appreciate the astonishing surroundings, experience random encounters that I would never have been able to enjoy if I had simply fast-traveled, and more often than not, on my way back from a mission, I would encounter a couple of animals and decide, “let’s have a quick hunt”, either for provisions or materials for upgrades. Going this way could possibly be one of the best things that Rockstar had decided on for this game. As someone who hasn’t had a lot of time to spend the past few weeks, you can be certain that I mean this wholeheartedly. I’ve probably spent more time out in the open-world than on the main missions.
The Honour system is mostly still the same, though your interaction with NPCs has been improved, and you can even gain honour depending on how you converse with the NPCs. You can either have friendly chats, or antagonise for your personal enjoyment. This can often lead to brawls, which could cause issue with the law in town. There is a lot that can be done in the world made in Red Dead Redemption 2, and interestingly enough, Rockstar Games is also working on an online multiplayer portion of the game, called Red Dead Online, which we will be able to see more of in its beta version this November.
Red Dead Redemption 2 has been, and still is, an incredible game, and is possibly one of the best games released this year. It wouldn’t surprise me if it wins Game of the Year without much competition. The story is gripping and each mission you play with different members of the gang gets you attached to some and disgusted with one or two others, and knowing what’s awaiting in the future as a result of the first Red Dead Redemption gives you an understanding of why John was so passionate in his pursuit. The graphics is phenomenal, and even though I played this on the standard PS4, I was still able to enjoy the magnificent environments no matter where I went. The masterfully orchestrated music ties in with every aspect of the game, especially a certain saloon scene that I will forever hold dear. I have never seen this attention to detail in a game before, and I have enjoyed every moment playing this masterpiece, being more immersed than I expected. I would not hesitate to recommend this game, where you will be able to spend over more than 70 hours on the story alone. You can get your own copy from BTGames on both PS4 and Xbox One for R915.00