There are very few occasions where I can honestly say I’ve been excited for a game as much as I have Red Dead Redemption 2, with good reason too it seems. There is only a small collection of games in our recent history to receive such an overwhelmingly positive critical response. So, to the question at hand: Was Red Dead Redemption 2 worth the thousands of man-hours put in by Rockstar and does it live it to its gigantic hype beast?
In short: absolutely. This is a game that is undeniably setting a precedent within the AAA development circuit. Staggering attention to detail as well as an ungodly amount of content; there is enough stuff in this game to keep you engrossed, entertained and enraptured for days, weeks or months on end. Does this game boast as thrilling an experience as the original Red Dead Redemption? Yes and more so. Imagine everything you loved about the pre-sequel; the complex storyline and character backstories, the hunting in all its glory, the sheer size and exploration capabilities of the map. Imagine them tenfold. That is Red Dead Redemption 2. Let’s dive into this masterpiece of Rootin’ Tootin’ Cowboy Shootin’.
The obvious thing to mention is just how well designed Red Dead Redemption 2 is to represent realism. Survival elements have been incorporated as we’d expected, but not to the point where you’re constantly having to satiate your needs (big thumbs up there). The snow in the mountains where the game begins is designed perfectly; the snowdrifts reflecting the light of the torches are designed perfectly. Guns degrade over time, your beard and hair grow over time, you gain and lose weight depending on how much you eat and Opossums play possum for crying out loud. The creative team has struck this game with realism to within an inch of its life but has paid attention as not to include any of the annoying things that come with making a game too realistic. People in your camp aren’t going to die if you don’t provide them with food. You’re free to play this game how you feel. There are no limitations to your play. You set the rules and you break the rules that were in place.
In fact, the gameplay is so well oiled that it’s very easy to simply lose yourself on the way to doing something. You may have set yourself a waypoint, to one of the many towns featured in Red Dead Redemption 2, to find yourself hopelessly lost within the task of hunting several boars, deer, wolves, bears or even people if you fancy it. Random encounters and bushwackery add some further spice and danger to your life whilst pushing your survival instinct to the fullest. What should also be mentioned is the strong diversity of both the story and side missions. Not once have I found that any missions are too similar to one another, even whilst holding strong to some similar core values. Thankfully, ‘Fetch’ quests aren’t simply a case of go-here-and-grab-the-thing; environments containing items for fetch quests have been uniquely designed, presumably to indicate the player of their presence and more so to keep adding to that sense of wonder. If you want a measure of how much there is to discover, I’d say I’m about 70 hours into this game with 52% story completion and 59.4% total completion. In other words, I’m barely scraping the surface.
Now, Red Dead Redemption 2 is definitely up there if not at the top of the most visually stunning games out there. Everything and I mean everything, is unbelievably detailed. The aforementioned snow is mind-blowing enough, how your footsteps and movement mould it. What’s more impressive is that there are different thicknesses to snow and mud that dictate how much the terrain is displaced and how slow you move. I’ve found that it’s rare for any two trees to look identical, which goes to show how carefully the tree cover has been monitored. Generally, every biome is designed to make you feel as though you’re actually there, experiencing it for yourself; wading through the snow to reach the summit of the stunning Mount Hagen, avoiding the alligators in the swamps of the bayou, traversing the great plains and seeing as far as your eye will let you, even walking the cobbles of the cities cloaked with the fumes of industrialization.
What needs to be said, is that this game doesn’t come without its problems, which is both the beauty and curse of playing Red Dead Redemption 2 for an extended period. From face value, this game is pretty much perfect, but underneath it all there are some details that are easy to nitpick. First and foremost, the economy is fairly stagnant. I will admit towards the start of this game, earning money was as hard as you’d expect, the people you robbed would have nary but a dime or two and you’d have to look to other means of earning more, such as robbing stagecoaches or fencing valuables. But several missions and heists down the line and you’re sitting on a handsome sum of around 2000 dollars and suddenly you can afford everything. I will say that personally, this didn’t impact me too much, but it does take a lot of the challenge out of the game. Towards the start, I saved up a lot of money to allow me to buy a high-powered rifle, but if I had waited a little bit longer I could have just bought it without having to worry about it. Moving on though, some of the challenges are downright frustrating and I’d argue are more hassle than necessary. In particular are the gambler challenges in which towards the latter end of the tree you’re relying solely on luck in order to complete them. This was especially the case for gambler challenge eight which I must have easily spent about three hours of game time trying to complete. If I wasn’t such a completionist I would have hung my hat up a long time ago on that challenge but, I will say, the sense of satisfaction on completing it was very much worth it.
That being said, I stand by my earlier claim that this game is still a masterpiece and definitely worth every pound you spend; it’s clear to see how Rockstar made $725 million in Red Dead Redemption 2’s opening weekend (nearly $500 million more than Avengers Infinity War to put that into perspective). There’s always something to do, something to see, something to hunt, something to grab your attention. At the end of it all, there will most likely still be something to do. This is a game that keeps on giving, whether with its sheer amount of content, its beautiful aesthetic design, or its wonderfully crafted stories and narrative. You’ll never find yourself bored in this game.