Two weeks after release, these are our thoughts on Red Dead Redemption 2
It takes time to fully appreciate Red Dead Redemption 2.
In many ways they serve to make you appreciate the game for what it is; the culmination of eight years' hard work. If there is even any that have attempted it, there most certainly aren't many games to have packed half as much detail into one game.
There was of course a lot of hype and expectation for Red Dead Redemption 2, and perhaps that was what the problem was. After enjoying the first game so much and spending so much time trying to learn everything about the game, we expected to be blown away from the get-go.
Normally, you'd be able to give a fully fleshed-out synopsis of a game after a few days. With Red Dead, two weeks isn't nearly enough time to even scratch the surface of it. And they haven't even released online yet!
I won't go into the storyline too much in this article, as many of the gamers I've spoken to have been prioritising everything else Red Dead has to offer. It's a credit to the game that you don't need to touch on its incredibly well-written and well-acted storyline after two weeks of playing.
A huge accomplishment
That is the first thing that has to be said about this game. The graphics, the gameplay and sheer amount of detail are unlike anything ever attempted.
Some of the best moments of the game will just come to you naturally as you explore, it would nearly stand on its own without any storyline. Whether a gang of idiot bandits tries to rob you blind or you happen across "The Wolf Man," it's the king of random encounters.
As someone who values storylines over anything else, I've never spent so much time avoiding the main story. Catching as many kinds of fish as possible with the bait at my disposal is my latest obsession.
Has there ever been a game that made you feel like such a badass after catching your first fish that's too big to fit into your satchel? Can't say that was expected from a game based around a gang of cowboys in the Wild West...
A game of two faces
The best way to think of Red Dead Redemption 2 is as two entirely different games. One involves a well-written storyline that slowly build up its characters, the other a free-roaming survival RPG/Wild West simulator.
Both could quite possibly stand independently of the other. The storyline doesn't necessarily need you to explore every inch of the world, and you don't need the storyline to want to do your own thing.
My best piece of advice is; go out and explore. As our own writer Dave Hanratty told me, plug in a pair of headphones, and turn off the HUD. Maybe even play in first-person for a while (hopefully without the scary bears).
The horse's hooves block out the ambient sounds that only really stand out when you get out of the saddle and walk. It could be a wild turkey gobbling along, an approaching wagon, or simply Arthur Morgan's pistols knocking against him as he walks.
That kind of detail is what separates this game from the pack. Even something as simple as fishing in the lake beside your gang's camp as they sing by the campfire is unlike anything I've ever experienced.
"All I got left now is doubts. Doubts and scars"
In five years' time, you can still expect this game to still be top of the pile around Christmas. Rockstar knows how to make games that last, and by God they did it again with Red Dead Redemption 2.
What they have created is not to be sniffed at, but it most certainly is not without faults. It's important to remember these are the observations of one gamer. So 99 out of 100 might have entirely different experiences.
When tracking an animal from horseback, you can't pull the reins until you've stopped tracking, and pressed the button again. There were other times where the fiddly control system lead to mistakingly threatening someone when all I wanted to do was say "howdy."
Not being able to run in the camp becomes incredibly tiresome, especially seeing as you spend so much time there. There were a few times where I was unable to unload gear from my horse because the game inexplicably wouldn't allow me to during a mission.
Another mechanical issue I've encountered is when trying to open/pick up more than one thing in a small area. I find myself slowly walking around in circles trying to get the right prompt to come up on the screen.
This is nitpicking, but they're also basic mechanics of the game that should have been ironed out from the beginning. Many others (including Rockstar) have made things more streamlined, so I think it's a fair criticism of a game that sets the bar so high.
Head 'em up, move 'em on
Put simply, the game's faults are in absolutely no way enough to knock the game's achievements. It didn't come as naturally to me as Red Dead Redemption, but it's worth every cent of the asking price.
Buy this game if you're tired of games only lasting a few weeks, as this game is seemingly endless. Put simply, Red Dead 2 will reward those who put enough time into it with a plethora of things to do.
It's about as close to a living, breathing world as I have encountered in a video game. Not everyone wants that kind of realism in a game, so I can understand why it isn't for everyone.
The relationship you have to build with your horse is a perfect analogy for the game. Your relationship starts with untapped potential, and they improve based on how much you care for your trusty steed.
That's what you have to do in Red Dead Redemption 2; patiently put in enough time to uncover the true beauty of the game. It isn't easy and it isn't always a smooth ride, but then again the life of an outlaw ain't meant to be easy.