In 2010, Rockstar Games released the first “Red Dead Redemption.” An open-world, third-person Western tale that shared its roots with the “Grand Theft Auto” franchise but was a departure towards newer horizons. At the time, Western games weren’t trendy, and creating a sub-genre of games was a risky move that Rockstar was willing to take. There was big hype surrounding the game, sure, but being a new IP in a new world featuring a cast of fresh faces, had a lot of people on the fence. Upon its release, the game was a smashing success, loved by fans and critics alike. I think it even surpassed Rockstar’s expectations as the tale of John Marston became one to be written in history books. Everyone who played it loved it, and as is always the case in the world of video games. People wanted more. The bad news here is that the “more” took way longer than anyone wished for, but the good news is that when that “more” arrived, it blew everyone and everything away. Eight long years later, in 2018, Rockstar Games released “Red Dead Redemption 2,” a prequel to the first game with an ensemble of new characters alongside familiar faces returning like John Marston, Abigail Roberts, Jack Marston, Uncle, Dutch Van Der Linde, Javier Escuella, and Bill Williamson. Let’s dive deeper and learn what makes “Red Dead Redemption 2” special and worth playing.
I will only talk about the setup for the story and keep it spoiler-free because the story of this game is one to be experienced on your own.
‘Red Dead Redemption 2’ Premise
The events of “Red Dead Redemption 2” take place 15 years before the first game, in 1899. You play as Arthur Morgan in this game, the right-hand man of Dutch Van Der Linde and an older brother figure to John Marston. Pre-release, the reception towards Arthur was mixed, as people wanted to play as John Marston once again, but that all changed once the game was out and in the hands of the public. The game opens with your gang on the run from a job gone wrong somewhere up in the mountains in the middle of a blizzard. The job in question here was the Blackwater massacre, which was mentioned multiple times in the first game. Though we don’t get to see it again, we learn more about it. It’s freezing, and the gang needs to look for a place fast as they have women and a wounded person with them. Not long after, they found a place to call home for a while; Arthur and Dutch rode their horses further to find a cozier place for the women and Jack. They meet Micah Bell, another gang member, halfway, and he mentions he found a cabin just up the hill. They arrive there to find it occupied by the O’Driscoll boys, a rival gang, and a shootout ensues. With the O’Discrolls out of the way, they meet the owner of this abode, Mrs. Sadie Adler. Unfortunately, due to certain reasons, the house is set ablaze, and they have to return back to camp with Mrs. Adler, who was made a widow by the O’Discrolls. The next few days are spent hunting, gathering food and resources for the gang, and waiting for the blizzard to die down, and the snow starts thawing so they can move away from this dreadful place. That’s the setup for the plot of “Red Dead Redemption 2,” and though the game begins slowly, it picks up speed and goes places. It’s a massive game in every sense of the word, and the story itself is long and told very well. It all comes alive thanks to the ensemble of characters in your gang and the people you’ll meet across your journey. There are so many characters in this game that it’ll be pretty much impossible to list all of them and their traits, but know this: you’ll get to know each and every character thoroughly throughout the course of the game and develop affinities and disdain for a lot of them. Arthur Morgan, our protagonist, is one to remember in particular. Arthur is an outlaw with a heart of gold. He is endearing and knows when to get serious and when to unwind, and his rough exterior is a contrast to his soft interior. I refuse to say any more about him, as I don’t want to spoil anything. Know this, though: Rockstar Games may have created the most relatable, loveable, and potentially the best protagonist we’ve ever seen in any video game. The tale will take you across America as your gang tries to lie low while finding ways to make money so they can escape to the West. A gripping and mature tale awaits you that is one to be experienced and remembered. I can’t say much else without spoiling the game for you, so let’s move on to gameplay now.
‘Red Dead Redemption 2’ Gameplay
“Red Dead Redemption 2” is a narrative-driven, third-person, open-world action game through and through, such as Rockstar’s DNA. The game can also be experienced in first-person if you so choose, which is a much-appreciated feature. You can expect your standard shooting fair with cover mechanics, and since it’s not modern-day, there are no cars. Horses and carriages do make up for them, though. The shooting here may not be liked by everyone, but I love it nonetheless. Rockstar’s approach to everything in regard to this game was realism and authenticity, which extends to the shooting in this game too. While the lock-on is as snappy as it can be, the guns take a second to cock and steady themselves, so every shot fired takes a second before it’s dead-set onto your enemy. The guns also need to be cleaned and maintained this time around, so they don’t jam or sway too much in the middle of combat; though it’s not completely necessary, keeping them up to snuff does make encounters a tad easier. Speaking of guns, there’s a vast selection of revolvers, pistols, repeaters, rifles, and shotguns, along with a bow, that you can loot from enemies or buy from the gun store. Each gun can also be loaded with different types of ammunition that pack a punch. Other than that, you can use dynamite, molotovs, throwing knives and axes, and a variety of melee weapons like a machete, an ax, or even a sword. You also have a lasso on your person, which is always fun to use as you can catch and hogtie people or bounty hunters or even tussle with some larger animals. There’s one more feature that is tied to the shooting in the game that I’ll talk about toward the end.
That same level of authenticity goes toward everything else in the game. Take your horse, for instance. You have to bond with your horse by taking care of him or her, feeding it, and keeping it clean and tidy. The stronger your bond is with your horse, the more it’ll trust you in tense situations and be easier to control. And if your horse happens to get injured, you have to use medicine for it to recover, or else it’ll die, and you’ll have to buy or tame a new one and bond with it again. That’s not it, though; the level of authenticity and realism applies to other things too. When you go to a convenience store, you have to manually pick up each item from the shelves or use the catalog to buy them in bulk. Each item you craft by a campfire is manually crafted by Arthur. Animals you hunt are skinned in real-time with graphic animations. Shoot someone in the head with a shotgun and watch their head explode. Food needs to be cooked before eating. Coffee needs to be brewed before drinking. Caught fish can be thrown back into the water. Animals like possums play dead if you get close. Elks can get their horns tangled with each other. A pack of wolves can gang up on a bear or some other prey. Pet a dog and watch it follow you. Eating the wrong herbs can poison you. Drinks at the saloon are served one at a time. Your hair and beard grow over time, and you need specific lengths to go for specific styles. These are just a few examples, as there is so much to see and do in this game, and with how real some of the things feel, it’s mind-numbing.
Interactivity is everywhere in “Red Dead Redemption 2.” Nothing just happens; everything takes its time and happens meticulously. Help someone out in the world, and you might stumble onto them later in the nearby town; they’ll remember your help and may offer to buy you a new gun or a round at the saloon. Witness a crime happening, and the criminals will try to escape unseen or hold you at gunpoint to silence you. Kill a gang member, and his friends may ambush you when you are riding along the road alone. Bump into a mean fella, and he may challenge you to a duel. You can talk to everyone around you and greet or antagonize them; this way, confrontations can be escalated or dissolved just by talking your way. As I mentioned, interactivity is everywhere in this game, with or without your guns. And no matter where you are in the world, the world itself moves organically, even in your absence, with events happening whether you are present there to witness them or not. Speaking of the world, it’s gorgeous and is a massive open world you can explore at your leisure; I won’t be talking about it here, though, as I have already talked about the world of “Red Dead Redemption 2” that you can check on our website.
Remember a feature I mentioned tied to shooting that I said I’d talk about later? Let’s look into that now. Dead Eye. With a simple press on your right stick, you can activate Dead Eye, where your screen turns yellow, everything moves in slow motion, and you basically turn into Clint Eastwood from the old Western movies. What Dead Eye does is allow you to see vital points on your targets and mark where you want to shoot them. So, you see four guys in front of you, and you end up in a Mexican standoff with them. You may be outnumbered, but activate Dead Eye and watch the tables turn. You can mark all four of their heads or any other target you’d like to shoot and press the shoot button, then watch Arthur take them out in quick succession. Dead Eye is as Western as it can get and is a cinematic shooting experience that makes you feel like a real badass gunslinger. Alongside your health and stamina, Dead Eye comes with its own bar that can be recharged by smoking cigarettes or cigars.
The gameplay section has already stretched on long enough, and I haven’t even mentioned the light RPG mechanics like eating and bathing to keep your health, stamina, and Dead Eye points up. Or how eating a lot of food can make Arthur fat, increasing his health and decreasing his stamina, while not eating enough will make him skinny and have the opposite effects. There’s so much to see and do in this game that it’s hard to keep track of it all, but trust me when I say that you’ll learn it all naturally, and none of it is complicated. You can even unlock some new outfits that cannot be bought in stores by completing challenges. They are hidden in the menu and are 90 in total, divided into nine categories of 10 challenges each. I am sure I missed out on a lot of things, but if I tell you everything, what will be left for you to discover on your own? The things you can do in “Red Dead Redemption 2” can keep you busy for a very long time without any of it being boring, and I haven’t even mentioned “Red Dead Online” yet.
The Technical Stuff
I’m going to keep this section short and sweet. It’s a Rockstar game, it’s optimized like crazy, and it runs incredibly well no matter the platform you play on. My experience on the Xbox One X and now the Xbox Series X has been as smooth as smooth can be. 4K at 30 fps with no current-gen patch, unfortunately, and yet the game looks and plays better than most current titles despite coming out in 2018. Amazing visuals, next to no pop-in, draw distances that stretch out for miles, minimal, if any, bugs, immaculate sound design, music, and voice work, and overall momentous achievement in both art and technology. That’s “Red Dead Redemption 2” on the technical side of things.
What hasn’t been said about this game that I can say to sound different? It’s an achievement in every sense of the word. A spectacular showcase and a testament to the talent that is Rockstar Games. “Red Dead Redemption 2” is a work of pride, and it shows what a studio with incredible talent, a huge budget, and ample time on its hands can build. I am solely talking about the single-player mode here as “Red Dead Online” sure is fun, but I won’t be getting any more updates in the future, as Rockstar confirmed, and it is nothing but a free novelty in my eyes. To the people who still haven’t bought this game or to the ones who only play online and haven’t touched the campaign, please play this masterpiece.