Red Dead Redemption 2 lets too much realism get in the way of having too much fun
"I have to pick them up individually? Every single time??"
From the very first time we open a crate or a cupboard, that is probably the question you've been asking yourself over and over.
"Seriously? Each and every item, one by one? Why? WHY??"
It is a microcosm of Red Dead Redemption 2's biggest strength and most staggering weakness: slavery to reality.
Let us get everything else out of the way first...
Yes, RDR2 is a beautiful game to look at, set in an incredibly immersive world and filled with charismatic characters, who are drawn with some wonderful dialogue and story arcs.
There is a lot to love here, but it is the kind of love that is born out of being impressed, not out of actual enjoyment.
You can't help but be impressed by the wealth of things to do in this world, by the sheer vastness of its scale, and the microscopic level of detail. It is a level of realism that can be at times breath-taking... and yawn inducing.
Within the first few hours, after the initial thrill of beauty had somewhat faded, and the horse testicle physics were no longer as impressive, the little niggles began to pile up...
Clip via Rockstar Games
Whenever the game tries to help out and give you a tip on what to do next, the text appears in top left corner of the screen, but if you try to pause to read that text, guess what? You're brought away from that screen entirely!
Are there checkpoints? Some of these missions are SUPER long and the game doesn't seem to allow you to save your progress just anywhere. If you're approaching the end of a mission and turn it off for whatever reason, you have to restart the entire mission.
A lot of the same buttons get multi-tasked, which resulted in more than one occasion where what should have been the beginning of a conversation actually resulted in guns being drawn by accident.
Do the NPCs really have to keep talking at Arthur while he's trying to read stuff that is already on the screen?
Everything is tied to your horse, including the majority of your weapons, so if you wander into a mission (not knowing it is a mission), you'd better hope your were lucky enough to be clairvoyant to have brought the right weapons, otherwise you have to check out of the mission, go to your horse, get the right stuff, and then restart the mission again.
ARTHUR'S HAT KEEPS FLYING OFF HIS HEAD!
These aren't all of the problems, but they are the small cuts that will eventually lead to bleeding out all the enjoyment entirely, and again, the game's weapon of choice is realism.
One of the best reactions of the game so far perfectly nails the fun-sapping realism on the head:
If Red Dead Redemption 2 is any indication in the next Grand Theft Auto your character will have to fill out their own tax returns and they will have to be correct.
— kevinbiegel (@kbiegel) October 27, 2018
One of the messages coming through from those who have waded beyond the murky opening few dozen of hours is that things start to get better around Hour 35.
That is a long way to go to wait for something to get good. That is dating someone (albeit, a beautiful someone) for six months before you start to realise that you actually like them.
We're not sure if that constitutes as some form of Stockholm Syndrome, and that RDR2 doesn't simply bludgeon you around the head with realism until you're almost brainwashed into convincing yourself that it is, in fact, amazing.
Is it possible for something to be both a masterpiece and a little bit boring? Yeah, it seems like it. Red Dead Redemption 2 is a landmark moment in videogames, both in terms of technological achievement, and in terms of what a player has to endure in order to claim they're now playing a masterpiece.