Red Dead Redemption 2 Review

With Red Dead Redemption 2, Rockstar Games delivers one of the most realistic and biggest open world games ever. As Arthur Morgan, a member of the Dutch van der Linde gang, the player struggles with his “family” to survive while on the run from the law. He roams through a huge, freely accessible world in which realism is capitalized. For example, Arthur has to pay attention to his hygiene and weight, occasionally cut his hair or clean his weapons so that he can continue to use them. It’s also up to the player whether he wants to interact with the game world and, for example, attack carriages or rescue people in need or not. Every decision influences the honor of Arthur. The story itself is told in an exciting and multifaceted way and introduces the player to new areas over time. Unfortunately, most of these areas look quite bleak, as long as the main story isn’t playing there. Basically, Red Dead Redemption 2 is a surprisingly decelerated game that invites you to linger and only gradually unfolds. But it’s this realism and the other things mentioned that make this title a gaming milestone not to be missed.

Long before Red Dead Redemption 2 was released, the title was already traded as “Game of the Year“. Fans and critics expected a masterpiece from Rockstar Games. The fact that the title received a little bad publicity in the run-up by the investigative article by Jason Schreier and various other journalists on the subject of “Working conditions at Rockstar” did apparently nothing to him. Now that I’ve spent dozens of hours in the vast world, I want to give you my opinion about the game.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a prequel to the 2010 Red Dead Redemption. As such, the title is located twelve years before the events of its predecessor. The player slips into the role of Arthur Morgan, a member of the Van der Linde Gang and close confidant of the leader Dutch van der Linde. Players of the predecessor will immediately know the name, as it is the antagonist of the 2010 game. In Red Dead Redemption 2, however, there’s hardly anything to notice. Instead of a bad guy we get to know a caring leader who, after a failed coup, only has the escape and survival of his family in mind. This is also the only goal the player has in mind and what makes this title so special. Arthur’s drive is the safety of his “family”. The attacks and the violence are only means to an end for him. He doesn’t want to become the richest gangster in America, nor does he want to bring down society. Rather, he longs for a peaceful life with the gang. But in the course of the game it quickly becomes clear that this desire is becoming more and more distant.

Endless Freedoms

Until the end of Arthur’s story is reached, about 65 hours of playing time elapse. Enough to explore many, but not all, corners of the vast world that is Red Dead Redemption 2. A world that is incredibly diverse and more realistic than many other open world titles. Once the player has completed the introductory missions, he is released into the free world to do whatever he wants. A ride into the snowy grizzlies is just as possible as visiting the marshy regions of Lemoyne. No loading times, no level limits, just a very long ride that separates the player from the target. And it’s on these long rides that the peculiarity of Red Dead Redemption 2 reveals itself. It’s an extremely decelerated game. Not only does the ride through the wilderness last extremely long, but often nothing happens at all. While the player is confronted with new things in other games from time to time, it is up to the player to find the adventures in Rockstar’s latest game. And there are plenty of them, if the player wants to.

For example, it is possible to hunt, skin and sell or process animals at any time. However, this is not necessary at any time. It can also happen that someone is attacked or attacked by wild animals at the roadside. An intervention can have positive consequences, but also here one can simply look away. Also robberies or the hunt for wanted are absolutely voluntary. As in real life: “Everything can, nothing must”. The realism that Rockstar Games has shown here is definitely unparalleled. Starting with things like Arthur’s hygiene, which should be taken care of so that it isn’t even dirty in the cutscenes, up to the horse’s testicles, which actually shrink in cold areas. The horse must also be brushed and fed and Arthur should eat something himself in between, otherwise he will lose weight and this in turn will have a negative effect on health values. Arthur’s hair is also constantly growing, so a visit to the local barber is a must from time to time if he is to look totally shaggy.

Realimus with a price

However, this realism comes with a price. Be it the many little things that have to be paid attention to or the untouched nature, sometimes it seems a bit too much. It seems a bit like Rockstar is walking on a narrow border between “full immersion” and “entertaining gameplay” and often wavers too much in the first direction. For example, I had a chance encounter with a traveler who told me that a certain mayor was involved in certain things and that I should get to the bottom of it. In many games I would have gotten a hint for a new quest or at least a note at that moment. Not so with Red Dead Redemption 2. I had to search for the mayor myself. But even after I found him, I couldn’t ask him to speak and so this thing went to waste as I preferred to do more important things. As far as immersion is concerned, that’s of course first class and I take my hat off to the developers, but occasionally I would like some support here and there as to whether a certain thing really has a background or not.

Another thing are the side missions, of which there are some. In particular, the so-called foreign missions, which are interactions with certain people who bring their own storylines and tasks into play. Instead of finding all such missions in the world from the beginning, they are linked to the progress of the game. Only after reaching a certain milestone do new missions emerge.

It seemed strange to me that I could visit the whole world from the beginning, but in many regions, except for random encounters and the hunt for animals, I had absolutely nothing to do until the main story made this possible. By the way, this story is told in a very exciting way and offers many different kinds of missions. No matter if escort missions, liberation missions, shootouts, errands or an extreme drunkenness, everything is included. For the perfectionists, there’s also the option of fulfilling these missions with separate targets to reach 100%. This offers a high replay value, as these separate targets are unknown when playing a mission for the first time. How the story unfolds, and how it is told, is one of the big highlights of the game and captivates more and more from the half onwards. Arthur’s notebook also contributes to this, in which he repeatedly writes down his personal thoughts, which not only give an insight into his character, but also illuminate what happened from his own perspective.

Weapons and Honor

Speaking of the shootouts. The combat system of Red Dead Redemption 2 is both fun and challenging. Running into firefights like Rambo leads to premature death in most cases. It is much more important to take cover and use the Deadeye effectively. This is a Bullet-Time, at which certain regions of the enemy can be targeted. Arthur then shoots automatically at the marked targets. If used skillfully, it is possible to eliminate several enemies within a very short time. Apart from this there are a variety of different weapons and other useful aids available, some of which have a high penetrating power. Rockstar has also added the element “realism” to the weapons theme. After a certain time in use, weapons must be cleaned so that they continue to function. Even the improved ammunition, which can be made by the user himself, has to be made by hand at the campfire in laborious work. But the invested time is as worthwhile as the search for the strongest weapons hidden somewhere in the country. But caution is always needed when it comes to weapons and violence.

Although the background story gives Arthur a rough moral compass, the player can still influence it. At different stations in the game, decisions have to be made that influence Arthur’s honor positively or negatively. Depending on the decision, not only the honor changes, but also the game world. If Arthur is a sincere cowboy he is rewarded with discounts for example, if he is very dishonorable he will find certain items more often when he robs people. But the decisions are not only limited to missions. A robbery, for example, causes bad honor, while rescuing a woman in distress has a positive effect on honor. But also the support of the gang provides for positive karma and in case of doubt for a positive balance of the gang finances. These, in turn, are important for upgrading the shelter and thus enabling better ammunition, the fast travel function or even a place to change horses. After all, there are all kinds of things to unlock, improve or individualize and the camp is only the tip of the iceberg.

Immersion vs. Gameplay

After all this time with Red Dead Redemption 2, it was difficult for me to make a judgment. A game like this hasn’t come before. By that I don’t mean the Open World or Outlaw aspect, but the whole work. A game that has been deliberately decelerated and is more realistic at every turn than many other games. Of course, there were games that advertised with a high percentage of realism, but Rockstar Games outbid all that once again. A world reveals itself to the player that does not take him by the hand. In which one’s own adventures have to be written, all around the main story. However, this realism also has the downside that the gameplay occasionally seems to fall by the wayside, for example due to partially sluggish controls or regions in which there are no missions to complete. At these moments it seems as if the game wants you to explore the world together with the story and not on your own. Nevertheless, it’s clear that Rockstar Games have definitely released Red Dead Redempion 2, a title that will shape the video game landscape and can be seen as a milestone. The story around Arthur and the Van der Linde gang is exciting and the open and realistic world is simply outstanding and invites you to linger and enjoy. There are also various customisation options, mini-games, improvement options, challenges and much more. Due to the aforementioned criticism, which doesn’t take much away from the title, but can’t be completely ignored, I give Red Dead Redemption 2 a 9.5, for one of the most realistic Open World experiences to date, in which I will still lose myself for a few hours after the end.

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