Red Dead Redemption 2 Review
After an eight year wait, Rockstar Games returns to the West with Red Dead Redemption 2. Is this game worth your time, or should you check out one of the many other games coming this holiday? Check out our review and find out.
Red Dead Redemption 2 Review
At the beginning of Red Dead Redemption 2, you and your gang are trudging through a snowstorm, trying to lose the law that is on your tail. A job went bad in Blackwater, and the group is now paying the price for it. You play as Arthur Morgan, right hand to Dutch van der Linde, the leader of the gang. After camp is set up and you are sure you aren’t being followed anymore, you and Dutch ride out in of search two other members who went to scout ahead. It is here that you learn a bit more about what went down in Blackwater, but you find out in bits and pieces. While up in the snow, you quickly learn that the law isn’t the only trouble you will find in the world.
Up in the snowy mountains, you will get an in-depth tutorial on how the mechanics of Red Dead Redemption 2 work. You will learn about hunting, tracking, camp management, shooting, and horse riding. The mountain is where you are introduced to all the members of the gang as well. If you have played the original Red Dead Redemption, some of these characters won’t be new. While traveling with them, they each tell you a bit about what happened in Blackwater and how it went wrong from their perspective. The one thing they all mention though is that near Blackwater a lot of money has been stashed. Surviving and getting that money back becomes the primary objective of Arthur and Dutch at this point. While the tutorial is excellent, it takes far too long to get to the massive open world waiting for you below the snowy hills. In total, you spend around two to three hours before you can truly explore on your own.
As with most of Rockstar Games’ titles, it is the characters that steal the show. The gang is a diverse cast of both lovable and detestable characters. Lenny is the newest member of the gang, and is always ready to prove himself. His youth makes him arrogant sometimes, but he can also be tactical and calm during tense situations. Meanwhile, Micah’s blood runs hot and can be set off at almost anything. And, of course, there is Dutch, who promises safety as long as you stick with him. The gang isn’t the only characters worthy of praise either; plenty of other NPCs you run into are memorable. Strangers make their return, and those characters turn out to be some of the funniest, sincere, and most unforgettable characters in the game.
When you are finally let loose on the world, you are given a massive map to explore. Towns, camps, treasures, caves, and animals are all waiting to be found. There are dozens of side activities to be done as well. You can go out hunting for pelts and meat, which can be sold or brought back to camp for food. Fishing is in the game, letting you take a breather next to a river or on a lake. If you are feeling particularly bold, then you can hunt down one of the legendary creatures. The legendary ones are much stronger than their average counterparts, and must be tracked to be found. The reward for defeating them in a legendary hide that can be used to craft new items or equipment.
Treasure maps are just as confusing as they were in the last game. It is just a picture of an area you have to find in the game world. Finding the treasure itself can be tricky, but the reward for doing so is always worth it. Challenges are unlocked as you do certain deeds and these will reward you with new outfit pieces or equipment as well. The challenges range from hunting certain animals and finding certain herbs to robbing folk or doing horse tricks. There are also random events that pop up as you travel. Things like someone stuck in a bear trap, people looking to race, and (of course) people trying to steal your horse. This just scratches the surface of the content in the game. Buckle up for 100+ hours if you are looking to be a completionist.
Let’s talk a little bit about the horse in the game. Your partner in crime, your danger sense, and your best friend (at times), your horse is your primary form of travel in the game. Needless to say, there is a lot of travel to be had. It is here you will choose your loadouts before going into combat. As you bond with your horse, it will level up, able to run faster and gain more stamina. If you are close to danger, it will start to freak out, alerting you to possible nearby predators you cannot see yet. Snakes, in particular, will set any horse off. After about 25 hours, I lost my first horse, which broke my heart. There are tools to bring horses back to life if you have them on you, but if not, you only have one option. Don’t take your horse for granted in this game – they are often your lifeline when you need them most.
I previously spoke about a loadout from your horse, so let me touch on that a bit more. In Red Dead Redemption 2, you don’t have all of your weapons on you at once. You can carry two side arms and two large weapons. You also have a knife, lasso, and throwable weapons. Your horse is your loadout in the game. While on horseback, you have access to all your weapons, but on foot, you only have what you bring with you. The loadout mechanic may seem limited, but when it worked, I had no issues with missions. I did run into a glitch where my guns would disappear after pressing start, and that made things difficult. Rockstar Games is currently trying to figure out why that is, so expect that to be ironed out soon.
Crafting is another thing you can quickly lose yourself in. New bags make it so you can carry more items or more ammo. Certain animal hides and skulls can be used to change the cosmetic appearance of your camp. Charms give you bonuses that you can’t find anywhere else. There are also certain outfits and hats you can only get by crafting. Even if you don’t care about the cosmetic stuff, new bullets, arrows, bombs, and healing elixirs can also be crafted. Guns are another thing you tinker with, adding color, engravings, scopes, and different stocks. The sheer amount of things you can do teeters on being overwhelming.
The game technically is nearly flawless. I have seen a couple of floating rocks and bushes that most open world games suffer from, but no frame drops. What’s more impressive is just how good the game looks. The way the light cuts through the trees, the moon reflects off a lake, and the fog effects, in particular, are impressive. I also had a couple of glitches with the AI in the game. One was unfortunately with Dutch riding a horse, and he wouldn’t dismount. We had to dismount to progress, but he just ran in circles on his horse. I had to restart the mission to progress further.
All of that I was fine with; the minor glitches and stuff didn’t annoy me. The one thing that annoyed me the most was the forced slow movement in camp. You cannot bring your horse into camp, which is understandable. You are forced to walk while moving around in the camp ,and you spend a lot of time there. It is the same thing when you go into most buildings. I get that it is for immersion, but it is just downright annoying. Considering you have to go back to camp to get missions often, you will be walking way more than you will want in the game. I really see no reason why you can’t at least jog in camp.
Surprising absolutely no one, Red Dead Redemption 2 is easily a game of the year contender, if not the winner. Rockstar Games knocks it out of the park once again, and we are eagerly awaiting Red Dead Online.
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