Red Dead Redemption 2 Review

It’s been an interesting year for video games, and when I say interesting I’m really saying it’s been a kick-ass year for video games across the board. We’ve had great multi-platform releases that have made their way to the Video Game Awards’ best games of the year nominations (and I’ve actually played some of them!) which have been truly some of the best games of this console generation. However, we’ve finally received the game that’s been talked about (and delayed) for far too long, which also got a well-deserved nod during the awards ceremony. Red Dead Redemption 2.

Everyone was pleased to hear about a concrete release date of October 26 this year and happily dumped money into the pre-order pot even before an official release date was set. Then we all waited ever so patiently for the teaser trailer back in October 2016 to come to fruition and blow us away. As we inched closer and closer during the month of October we started hearing some controversial news regarding the concerning amount of time the developers have put into the game at the last few weeks to get it just right for us hard-to-please gamers. I won’t get into it too much since Jason Schreier covered it pretty well in the Kotaku article linked above, but basically those crazy bastards worked more than double a normal work week would be just to produce the great game we have today. All that being said, let’s get into it. Please note: there will be small spoilers regarding the timeline the game takes place in but the overall story will not be spoiled. If you want to avoid any spoilers, skip the first paragraph of the Overview section.

Overview

Rockstar did a spectacular job with providing us with an amazing game we don’t deserve. Plain and simple. End of the review.

Just kidding…

RDR2 exceeded my expectations on what I wanted the next game in the the series and left me wanting more and more. *Spoiler* You’re going to see some familiar faces in the game that will tip their hat (he he, get it? Cowboys?) to letting the player know that this isn’t a sequel, but a prequel to Red Dead Redemption. *End Spoiler* Thankfully, the game has so much to do outside of the main story, the sub-story, and the side missions, that one can easily spend dozens of hours just wandering around the world while being a gun-slingin’ badass cowboy.

You’ll get to experience the great outdoors, including haulin’ ass on your horse, fishing in the many rivers and lakes, hunting the large amount of wildlife such as coyotes, elk, moose, bears, etc., gathering herbs for medicines and recipes, pitching a tent and preparing food and crafting materials at any given time, and that’s only scratching the surface of the many things the game has to offer as far as content outside of the main story. Even the extracurricular activities have challenges associated with them to encourage the player to master the different skills you’re taught to further the experience of the game. It’s incredible the amount of small details that the developers put into RDR2 to make it a game a user can play for 100+ hours before seeing everything there is to see. I will admit, I haven’t played the online mode yet because I’m having too much fun playing solo but I plan to at least try it out very soon.

What To Look Forward To

I’m normally the type of player who can only play for a couple of hours at a time due to work schedule, personal life, and sometimes just a simple lack of interest in a game after trying it out. This isn’t one of those games. I put in easily 60 hours of gameplay and counting since I got the game which was actually a week after it launched and I’m still hooked as of mid-December. I’ve got a stack of new games in shrink wrap from some Black Friday sales that I haven’t even considered putting in my disk tray right now. It’s absolutely addicting to gallop around on my horse hunting for the legendary animals, robbing stage coaches, upgrading my weapons, and even giving myself a damn haircut. Let me repeat that: I’m enjoying my time giving my character a haircut.

I’m sounding like a broken record by saying the game has an incredible amount of things to do and to look for, so I’ll stop saying that (for now, I’m sure). I feel that the story was put together pretty well and the dialogue and interactions between all the characters involved was what really got me hooked and kept my attention throughout the entire game. They all have great personalities, from a rescued widow turned tougher-than-nails to the drunken lazy no-good freeloader that spends the majority of his time at camp until he’s dragged into a robbery or something of the sort. One thing about the characters involved in the story, and this is NOT a spoiler, is that they really keep you guessing who’s the good guy and who’s the bad guy. It’s a truly exceptional western genre game with a story that takes charge and doesn’t give you that “well I’ll play a few missions of the story and then play as much as I can before I need to play more story missions” feeling. I wanted to play through the story just as much as I wanted to play any other side missions or free roam.

What To Be Careful Of

What’s the catch, right? What a glowing review so far, but rather than what the game has going for it, what’s the game lacking or what is it doing wrong? I’m going to say the one thing that not only takes some getting used to but is something that you never really get used to, and that’s the damn controls. I’m playing on PS4, and I can’t imagine it’s much better on Xbox One, Xbox One X, or PS4 Pro. I can’t stress enough how frustrating it is to try to pick up a container of pomade from your camp but you have to get your character to stand in front of it in just the right spot in order to pick it up. I’ve said the following more times (out loud, mind you) than I want to admit: “no, the pomade, not the picture frame. NO, THE F**KING POMADE. NOOOOO, NOT THE LETTER EITHER, ARTHUR!” and so on. I promise you that you’ll come across a similar scenario in such random circumstances that you will just give up on the item you tried to get. You say “whatever, I’ll just buy one from the general store.” Again, the controls are clunky. You’ll find that out within the first half hour of the game.

In the game you’ll be collecting a lot of resources from food to weapons to tonics and more. Another thing you’ll do with some of these resources is create cures and cook food to stay alive and to keep your horse alive as well. However, aside from teaching you how to make a camp to craft things and roast different meats and fish, you aren’t taught how to make anything really special with the ingredients you’ve gathered. In fact, you aren’t really told outright that you can make special recipes. I’ve killed my fair share of elk and caught plenty of species of fish but I didn’t know any recipes to do anything with it instead of simply heating it up at my camp. This also applies to creating special weapons or ammo; there’s not much guidance on how to really take advantage of this feature. You can purchase recipes at certain locations but some of them get to be pretty expensive for something that you aren’t constantly using. This feature seems almost like an afterthought, but I think if the developers made it a little more straight-forward on how to properly craft and cook and maybe make the recipes easier to understand.

When you’re at camp you’re going to have opportunities to interact with people and different “shops” you can purchase essentials and extras from. In the camp you’ll find the camp deposit box which is where members of the gang (primarily yourself) contribute to the camp’s funds to upgrade certain features of the camp, such as better medications or the ability to have a camp member craft items for you out of skins and other materials. First off, upgrading some features of the camp doesn’t seem to bring any sort of benefit other than being able to say “I upgraded everything there is to upgrade for the camp! Go me!” I did just that, and didn’t notice any difference in my experience with others or any major extra perks. I did get a rowboat… Cool, yeah? I will say there are some upgrades I mentioned above that can really help you when in a pinch. However, you have to pay to have the supply stands restocked, which kind of sucks if you rode all the way from a town with a general store to camp to get some tonics only to found out you have to pay money anyway.

These are all such nit-picky cons that I felt kind of silly for bringing them up at all, but I feel that they needed to be brought up because I know that others will take these into consideration when making a decision on whether or not to buy the game or even to proceed to put 100+ hours into the game.

Final Verdict: 9/10

If you made it past my wordy, bitchy opinion on the minor issues with the game then I’m glad you made it this far, because despite those hard feelings I still say this game is a must-have for any gamer. It’s not flawless, but damn is it close. If you liked Grand Theft Auto 5, you’re going to find a lot of similarities that will make you feel right at home with the gameplay and story-telling elements that we love from Rockstar. If we’re talking a monetary value of the game, $60 is a fair price. Even just for the single-player experience. Again, I haven’t played the online mode, but I’ve heard that they’ve worked out some of the big kinks it had and a lot of people are really enjoying it compared to the story mode, which only adds to the value of the game. No matter how you decide to play it, do yourself a favor and add this game to your collection.

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