Red Dead Redemption 2
Open plains as far as the eye can see. The occasional tumbleweed rolls silently across the soft but dry and compact sand. The wind is gushing the plants. Sounds of fast hooves approach.
The story of Red Dead Redemption 2 takes you back to before what happened in the first game of the series. Without spoiling too much, you will be meeting John Marston again. While the gameplay does not have survival elements, the story is everything about survival, on several different levels. Being chased by the law, friends or foes situations and the nature.
Survival of the fittest
Being a group of outlaws in the midst of an evolving country that moves towards industrialisation, everyone is being hunted by the law – local and national. Not to mention that you have crossed or do cross a few rich people’s boundaries for whats yours and mine, which just adds to the number of enemies.
As you progress through the story the internal disagreements gets more evident. Some characters will feel suspicious from the beginning while others will slowly reveal some agendas that you might or might not agree with.
And then there’s the environment. The wild west is a harsh place to live in, and you don’t get to settle down – you will have to keep moving. Not to mention that hunting is a must to get food on the table.
The group leader, Dutch, always have a plan for what to do next. They do not always pan out as expected and hoped for, which is one of the gangs biggest struggles. And this is where the disagreements often begin, and the camp gets diverted into two. However, with everyone being loyal to Dutch, no one actually leaves the gang.
This prequel to the highly praised game does play out close to the first, but not in the same area. You will recognise Blackwater which is on this map in the south west – it was in the north east in the first game, so the area is to the north east of the first game.
There is no dull moment
The environment is vast and varying to a huge degree. If you go to the mountains in the north, you will meet a beautiful snow covered landscape with ice, pine trees and frozen lakes. Go to the east and you will meet the sea and the city and in the middle and the west you will be running on dusty paths and meet small but growing cities.
The best part of the game, is that you never really feel truly alone. Not only will you have your trusty steed with you most of the time, you will meet fellow people on the road and there is animal life everywhere as well. Very rarely you will feel the world is empty. The occasional ruin of a house, especially if it’s burned down, will remind you of how hard it was to survive back in the day.
You have challenges, where you have to kill animals in a certain way, win certain minigames, collect certain stuff, you also have random encounters and strangers to deal with. Meeting a cart with two guys driving it and a person in the back yelling for help and innocence, your first reaction would be to set them free. You might inevitably actually help a prisoner who has been doing crime, which will impact your honor negatively.
It is all about honor – or the lack of it.
Side missions and main missions is where the story really unfolds for you. This is where you get to know your fellow members of the gang. Why they are going with the gang and why they stay for now. Most of the side missions is actually going from one place to another, shoot something and then maybe run back. There’s a few missions where you have to do other stuff, and they are a welcome change of pace.
You will spend a lot of time stopping in your tracks when you hear someone talking or yelling. And it is a good idea to do so, because you might get a good story told by someone, or if you help someone, they might gift you something a little later. On another note, if it is clear that it is a prisoner that has escaped, if you hogtie them and deliver them to a prison, there’s a small reward to grab. However, real wanted posters grabs are giving much more, and I recommend you do those when possible to get a bit of cash.
You can also buy upgrades to the camp and your friends, and refill the depleting stock of food, medicine and ammunition. You can upgrade the horse station so you can recall your stabled horses without having to run to the stables, add carpets and ornaments to the camp and upgrade your satchel and outfits.
Your trusty steed is your best friend
Horses can be stolen from strangers, or you can catch them out in the wild. They aren’t hard to catch or tame, if you’ve played Zelda Breath of The Wild its an easier system to deal with. You can buy horses from stables too, and personally I couldn’t not buy an Andalusian when I saw one mid-early in the game – and when I could buy the black Arabian, I did. And I called him Shetan as a reference to Walter Farleys books.
You can go out hunting – and if you want to upgrade your satchel and get certain outfits you have to go out hunting for prime members of different species. There’s also a handful legendary animals to go hunt for, as well as fishing. You can collect cigarette cards and a few other things that will easily keep you occupied for many many hours.
Visually the game is stunning. It is hard to describe, but there was a moment where I was walking on horseback through a dark forest in the early hours of the morning. I was hunting a panther for getting a special saddle I wanted. When the sun raised above the horizon and started to shine through the trees, I was flabbergasted. And I only have a subHD TV with no HDR – so I can’t imagine how much better this would have looked on a newer TV. I grabbed a video, but it does not make it justice.
Smell the flowers, pick herbs, suck in the fresh air
There’s lots of details all around you, and the typical small leaps that developers do to save processes and improve the performance of the game was really hard to spot. You would usually be able to see a bush or a tree being in 4 parts instead of actual branches and leaves.
The details in the horses is also amazing. There’s actual breeds and this time there’s differences in shapes and sizes and each breed has a handful of coats that will appear in the game. Horses also feels like they have a decision making skill – they spot a predator before you do and the horse might decide to buck you off and make a run for it. With a panther nearby, your horse will most likely buck you off before you can react to the horse being nervous. The only detail the horses could use would be difference in personality based on breed.
When visiting a town, depending on time of day, lots of things is happening. During the day, you will most likely spot the paperboy, stores are open, people are talking on street corners and some will even be random encounters. Come night, the life of the saloon really shows. Music, people talking and laughing, dancing and fights. Once I was about to go into the saloon when a random encounter surprised me – the guy bursts out, knocks me back and before I could even avoid getting into the fight, the encounter had rolled into melee fight mode.
Many memorable hours
With the risk of spoiling a bit here – the last half of the story playthrough, I was sick and coughed a lot. People who have played the game, know what I am talking about when I say my sickness caused me to be even more immersed into the game.
I’ve clocked in around 110 hours of playtime before writing the review and I did not collect or hunt much. I mentioned the panther saddle I wanted, and I’ve played the minigames I’ve found – maybe a bit too much. The game taught me to play Dominos, and I’ve actually played Dominos with friends since! I went for the side missions and the stranger missions when possible, but I haven’t looked for guides, and I haven’t looked for cigarette cards or gone hunting for upgrading the satchel. I, however, did go for some challenges for some hours, but realised I had to move on and get back to the story so I could write the review.
Basically the game has at least a 50 hour content heavy story to get through in the singleplayer experience. I haven’t explored the online part, but from what I’ve seen in streams, it looks fun, but the game has gotten some critique regarding the economy. Rockstar seems to have taken this to heart and tweaked it, but you still need to be good with a digital gun to keep up with fellow players.
Where’s the turd?
It’s hard to find pointers in the game to critique especially in the singleplayer stuff. A lot of people have been mentioning the game has had a slow pace or clunky feel to it, but most of that comes from the game having more natural movements when it comes to the horse and the humans. Picking something up, will make your character reach out and grab the item – and the horse will buck you off if it gets scared enough. Horse also reacts to being scared from predators – and NPCs will report any crimes they see if you commit them. One thing that bugged me is the camera angle changing when you are being chased on horseback – making it hard to focus on what’s ahead.
Red Dead – both games – is games that is part of about 20 games I’ve played in my lifetime, that has left me in awe and left me sitting for a few minutes while the credits rolled on the screen, reflecting on the story the game presented me for. I loved playing through this game, and I wish it wasn’t over. I disagreed with the ending of the first game, but the prequel that I review here and now, had a nice ring to its ending.
If you like cowboys and the wild west, this game is a MUST for you. If you like open world games, you gotta get this game. If you like a good story, I highly recommend this game. If you just like 2D platformers or match-3 games, keep walking. If you are a new gamer this game might be a little too much to take in, but there’s no reason to not take the leap. There’s a good chance you might like this game.