Red Dead Redemption II is the next step in open world gaming, where the world actually feels alive and the lines between story and side-quest become blurred. This cowboy adventure is a follow up to Red Dead Redemption in 2010, an incredible game that I love every second of.
RDR2 follows Arthur Morgan, a member of the Van der Linde Gang, a group of outlaws featuring folks such as John Marston or Dutch Van der Linde, who you may remember from the first game. This is a prequel, which begins the set up for the first game, so if you know how the first game goes, chances are you can see where this adventure ends.
The characters are all expertly written and I love every single one of them, even the ones you’re meant to hate like Dutch and Micah. That truly shows how much time and effort Rockstar put into the story, seeing every character, seeing how they think, how they react to love, how they react to death, how they tick, and it is all very human.
Even though I could see where it was heading towards, I knew nothing about the journey there and I was in it for the ride. Watching every twist and turn had me absolutely enthralled and when party members start dying, you feel it in every fiber of your being. I actually felt for these video game characters. I find it tough to name any other game that made me feel that way.
Now, if you played a Rockstar game before, the game might feel a bit similar to you. You, the player, jump from mission to mission, getting into combat or chase scenarios, and occasionally, there are the smaller, relax missions but, there are also the big, long ones which have set up and drastically change the story.
That basic formula is still there in RDR2, however, the ways they play with that and change it up is truly what makes this game great.
A lot of the missions throughout the game are split into parts, most of which, you can complete at your own pace. Meaning, you could start one mission, stop at a point, go do another mission, then do that one. The choice is what I love about this game. You can also randomly find missions, as well. You could waltz upon a stranger mission, which in turn, have long branching mission paths. A character at the tail end of a mission could ask you to take on an optional mission, which can greatly increase your viewpoint of the characters. While you are heading towards a mission, you could out of nowhere, be interrupted by another story mission.
This freewheeling mission structure, I absolutely love, cause it allows for choice and variety depending on how you feel, while also making you feel the game isn’t just paused while you go do something else. It feels alive because time passes in this world.
Speaking of things to do, there is a lot of it. You could go to the tavern and play card games like Poker. You could hop in a boat, and go out on the Lake and fish. You can go see a burlesque show. There is a lot of things you can do when you aren’t doing missions.
For example, one day, I decided I wanted to go to the city area of the game, Saint Dennis. However, I was still in chapter two, all the way at Horseshoe Overlook. That didn’t stop me. I went out on my horse, hunted for food, camped under the stars, and eventually, I arrived. I entered some taverns, got a delicious rib-eye steak, had a deluxe bath, a nice nap in a beautiful bed, got a haircut and beard styling, bought some stuff at the General Store, and then I got a bounty because I “accidentally” ran a guy over with my horse.
This kind of freedom in the game is almost tantalizing to me. Because at any point, I can just stop playing the game and do my own thing.
Now, you can’t just stay out in Saint Dennis and play Poker for ten days straight. In this world, you need to eat, drink, and sleep because of the core system. You have three scores in the game, Health, Stamina and Dead Eye. Health is how much damage you can take, Stamina is how long you can do activities, and Dead Eye is a mode where you can shoot specific targets. Each one has a bar and a core. The bar is the general usage; how much you have left. But, how fast it refills depends on how full your core is and sometimes, using a part too much may even eat away at your core. So, to refill that, you have to eat, drink, and sleep.
Now, the combat is interesting. It’s pretty similar to the Grand Theft Auto titles. You can hide behind cover, aim at things, and shoot, while you can also get up and personal for melee combat. However, guns are really interesting because of three reasons. One:
- Each of them have their own stats, meaning every single weapon in the game behaves differently, meaning you can pick what’s best for you and the situation.
- You actually have to clean your guns, or their effectiveness goes down over time. You don’t want to be in the middle of a gunfight with dirty guns. Trust me on that one.
- You only have so many gun slots. All your other guns are on your horse. So whenever you get off your horse, I recommend opening up your inventory and switching out your guns for the situation ahead.
Now, clothing has a lot of customization too. As well as there being several clothing options, you can also change how you wear them. Do you want your pants over or under your boots? Do you want your sleeves rolled up? That sort of thing.
While moving around the world, your character moves with weight, and while I’ve seen people complain about this, I don’t really agree. While he does take a bit, it makes it feel real, and honestly, isn’t too frustrating.
In this game, you also have horses. You can buy horses at stables or find them in the wild and each horse has different stats. As you use your horse and bond with it, it becomes better; your horse has its own cores. Meaning, you have to feed, clean, and let it rest. Your horse also becomes scared when predators are nearby. Over time, you grow attached to your horse, which makes it absolutely terrifying when you accidentally fall off a cliff, and your horse enters critical condition but, it’s okay because you have a horse revival item.
That’s the thing, horses mean something, because if a horse dies . . . it’s gone, for good. Done. All that time and effort you put into it, gone and you have to start over. When you grow attached to your horse, watching it die is heartbreaking.
Now, it may seem like I’m praising this as a perfect game but, it’s not. There are technical issues which hold it back. Whether it’s some weird glare, characters sliding across the world, or at one point hopping on your horse too fast and the game softlocks, so you have to force-fail the mission. The game has a few bugs and glitches in it. Every hour or so, I’d experience a new one, and a couple of them did affect my gaming experience but, none of them crashed my game.
Now, I want to quickly talk about the online component. As of writing this review, it’s been out for a week or two now, and I’ve had fun with what I’ve played. The economy needs some balancing issues, and it needs to fix the fact that players just keep spinning in circles because they don’t want to play the game and earn money, but every bit of gameplay I’ve had whether racing around a map or entering a gunfight has been a blast to play. Also, there’s actually a story mode. I’m not too far in it yet, I’ve been busy playing the other modes, but it seems interesting. I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes from here.
Red Dead Redemption II is an amazing game, filled with great story, great gameplay, and a few bugs which could hinder enjoyment for some. But, not for me. Every second of my time spent in Red Dead Redemption II has been great, and I can see myself returning to this world for years to come.
Rockstar has addressed and majorly fixed the online component complaints.
Developer | Rockstar Games
Publisher | Rockstar Games
Reviewed on | PS4