RED DEAD REDEMPTION II [Review]: The Magnificent Sequel.
Red Dead Redemption II scared me. Its predecessor, 2010’s Red Dead Redemption, has always swapped spots back in forth with The Witcher 3 as my number one favorite game of all time. How could the sequel be as good? Could it live up to the hype? Once early footage and details leaked, I was so intimidated by the sheer scope of RDR2, and so fearful that it would fall flat on it’s face. My fears were groundless. My worries were absolutely made of nothing but air. Lightning has struck twice my fellow geeks, as Red Dead II not only lives up to the monumental hype, but delivers an even better experience than its older brother — something I definitely didn’t believe possible.
I could, from here, parrot what everyone has said over and over again — from the graphics to the gameplay, to the alive and breathing world Rockstar has created — it’s all true. All of it. RDR2 is a truly remarkable experience and the level of detail present in the game is truly something to applaud; even if you are not a fan of the game, it would be wrong to undersell the achievements of the developers here.
Everything, from the storms to the bristling wildlife to the rustling of grass, makes the player feel a level of immersion that I haven’t felt since CDProjekt Red’s Wild Hunt; I reference the Witcher 3 a bit here because it’s the only game (that I’ve played anyway; The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild gets some comparisons as well by other outlets) that feels close to the level of detail and care that’s been devoted to this title.
While there are almost too many virtues this game possesses to list, it’s not perfect. As with Witcher 3 and any other Rockstar game for that matter, it’s not without frustrations. The mechanics don’t always feel intuitive; there are certain points where you’re required to use certain weapons, even if the ones you have equipped are far superior. Sometimes while on horseback it feels like my trusty steed wants to fly headfirst into a tree; I can’t tell you how many times I biffed it right into a tree and then subsequently down into a crevice nearly to my doom. “Eagle Eye” and snap-to lock on aside, the aiming is exactly what you’d expect from a Rockstar title, clunky and not at all conducive to chaotic situations where you find yourself surrounded. Placement of items around the world can be super aggravating, such as in The Witcher, where the item you’re trying to pick up is immediately next to another you don’t need, and you’ll need to be in exactly the right spot to be able to grasp it.
Red Dead at times can feel like a very guided experience at times, and by that, there are sections where you aren’t afforded much freedom. Take advantage of times where you are not on a story mission, as if you’re in an instance, almost nothing else will be available to you. Shops will be locked down, outfits will not be able to be changed (unless you’ve stored them already on your horse), and if you deviate far enough from an objective, you’ll find an immediate mission failure. All these things are easily forgivable however, given the truly astounding positives the game provides for you.
I am a player that holds the original Red Dead Redemption’s story in very high regard. I consider it among the very best narratives found not only in the medium, but in entertainment in general. It took me longer than usual to complete this review, having wanted to finish this narrative proper in order to give our congregation an accurate assessment of how RDR2 holds up. For the most part, the story at best keeps pace with its predecessor until the final act, where our protagonist, Arthur Morgan cements himself as one of the greatest of all time– a man of deep complexity, both ferocity and tenderness. He is boorish and uncouth, yet insightful and sincere. Granted, the player’s choices have far reaching effects on how Arthur is perceived both by the world and his peers, and my Arthur turned out to be very similar with Marvel’s Logan: an aging warrior with a dark past trying to do the right thing while his word is burning down all around him. I can’t help but feel like the writers took some inspiration from not only 2016’s Logan, as well as Western classic Unforgiven.
As the story unfolds, the player bears witness to the back story of the fall of Dutch Van Der Linde’s gang, and it makes the story of the previous title that much more meaningful. Through Arthur’s legend, John Marston (the protagonist of RDR1) becomes even more salient and tragic. It’s stories like this that stick inside you, that make you think and ponder your own actions, at least it does with me. Arthur’s story resonated, and will resonate for a long time to come.
There’s more than enough to keep one busy for hours upon hours upon hours. My first play through was dedicated solely to story quests and any relevant side quest. I didn’t get much exploring done off the beaten path, and here, 60+ hours in, I know I’ve only scratched the surface of what the world of RDR2 holds– and multiplayer hasn’t even come out yet. In keeping with Red Dead tradition, it’s a little more serious minded than GTA, with the fabulous exception of the “Lenny Mission” (if you know, you know- one of the most entertaining segments in gaming of all time).
RDR2 takes on serious topics, like racism, imperialism, and genocide— plus if you’re lucky enough you can come upon a group of KKK members meeting in the woods at night.. enjoy the chaos and the massive honor boost for slaughtering every last one of them. It handles these topics very maturely. Ditching GTA’s satirical approach, RDR goes with the dreadful cost of these very real historical events, and handles them with defy care.
I love Red Dead Redemption II. It supplants the O.G. Red Dead as perhaps my favorite game of all time. It’s not without its limits and faults, but in 2018, it’s the best, most complete and well-rounded experience a gamer can ask for. The biggest drawback is that it continues the trend of Rockstar killing the Western genre for any other developer as they’ve set the bar way too high for almost anyone to attempt to surpass.