Xbox One9.60
Overall 9.60
I am a gameplay first guy, I take pride in it. But I love a good story in a game as well, many great games can weave the two together perfectly like TLOU. Red Dead Redemption 2 does not weave the two perfectly, it's gameplay is stuck two gens behind, it commits many sins I hate in games. Reptitive battles, no enemy variety, almost no gameplay progression. And yet I LOVE this game. The tale of Arthur Morgan and the fall of the Van Der Linde gang is as good as any game story ever told, and none ever did it with the spirit of epic old Hollywood. Rockstar proves they are still unmatched in open world design and attention to detail. It's that combination of a virtual world that is as impressive as any ever made with a story worthy of the best TV has to offer that makes RDR2 one of the most memorable games I will ever play.

I cannot praise the story enough and even more importantly how it's told. This game is massive, about 50 hours of MAIN story missions and of course tons of side content. This allows Rockstar to weave a complex tale of a man who has been a criminal most of his life, grown up in a gang and love a man who basically helped raise him. A man who watches the man he respects most slowly turn into someone he can't follow anymore and how hard it can be to break away from all that you know. Arthur Morgan is one of the most fully realized characters ever in a game. You do enter his life when he is in his prime and well established but as you play the layers of what makes Arthur the man he is start to peel back. You learn snippets about his past naturally through regular conversation where it's not just the other person learning from conversation but the player as well. It's all told in a way that's so masterful, like a brilliant old west movie with epic action sequences and the most delightful of small moments like sitting around a camp fire. Incredible original music played at just the right time to enhance the scene. I can't recall a game where my time with the controller down just watching a scene unfold lead to more smiles, gasps, laughs, and just genuine caring for what is happening to these characters. The most impressive part might be that this is a prequel so coming into the story we already have an idea of how it ends, even with that they manage to create this masterpiece that makes the original story even better.

A lot of the story works because of the realistic, impeccability detailed world it takes place in. Rockstar must hire wizards or something cause I couldn't believe some of the vistas and locations I visited. RDR2 went for realism making this the most grounded game Rockstar has ever made. In doing so the controls can be cumbersome and there are lots of time consuming animations for all tasks. When you skin an animal Arthur will skin the animal pieces by piece. When you cook the meet you will have to sit near the fire and heat it up before eating it. Every action takes time, there are very few video game shortcuts, this can make some actions tedious but it helps with the immersion. Every town is handcrafted to feel different with their own personality. Every NPC seems to have a unique voice and can be interacted with on a basic level even if they are just "extras". The sheer amount of interesting NPCs is staggering, everywhere you go there will be a person in need, or in danger, someone with a story to tell, it's a living breathing world that few games have ever been able to pull off. Witcher 3 might be the only game close in terms of its world design but that game doesn't have any gameplay systems at work with the world, RDR2 is still a dynamic Rockstar game world.

The wanted system is present but it's been overhauled to be very punishing. The more realistic feel extends to the crimes you can commit and the consequences  that come with them. Killing and generally being an asshole will place Arthur in the most wanted list which means bounty hunters will randomly appear till the end of time to kill you until you pay off a bounty. Crime just doesn't pay as it did in past Rockstar games so it's almost best to play it straight. Most of the time I did end up wanted was because of the cumbersome controls where I accidentally pulled a gun when I wanted to say hi. Yet when the shit does hit the fan it's still a blast as all sorts of chaos can occur, that's the magic of emergent games, at any moment you can make your own memorable gameplay moment.

My favorite part of the open world is actually the wildlife and the sort of Easter egg hunting exploring you can do. RDR2 also happens to be the greatest hunting game ever made, screw you Cabela!  You can spend countless hours hunting hundreds of animals or fish all over the world searching for the legendary fish. The animals are dynamic as well, they will hunt among themselves. If you kill a rodent a hawk will come down to feed off the carcass and so on. While the game world won't have well designed shires with puzzles in them, it will have oddities that are worth looking for just for the small story that might come with it. You may find a really creepy family in a cabin in the woods, you make stumble on a KKK burning, you may discover a witches den, you may come across a grizzly murder scene and end up on the trail of a serial killer. There are still many treasures to find by figuring out where the treasure maps are leading you. Many many many of my 150 hours in this game was spent just exploring, hunting or just living in this world; it did not get old for me.

Most of the story and gameplay comes from the over a hundred main missions (and loads of side missions) where the gunplay is showcased. This is the same aiming system introduced in GTA5, its serviceable but not at all interesting. Many shootouts will be so large in scale that use of dead eye is needed so most of your time will be spent in slow motion tagging enemies. Almost all shootouts end up in the most basic of hide behind cover and pop out and shoot. Enemies come in waves like an old light gun game. Every few missions there will be a big horse chase where you shoot while riding, which is almost impossible without dead aim. The freedom in the missions is even worse, cause there is none. This is one of the most restrictive games ever made, deviate slightly from the plan and it's instant fail. I can't even recall a mission where you are not with an npc that is basically guiding you. Any time there is something complicated to do in a mission an NPC is there to make sure you do exactly what the game wants you to do. Go here, press that, go there, kill him, this game never let's you go free, it's like a never ending tutorial. It's easily the worst part of the game and yet it's done with such flare that I can give it a pass.

See while these missions are boring from a gameplay perspective they are crazy impressive from a story and setpiece point of view. It's like playing mini uncharted setpieces in every mission. Crazy epic raids, railroad heists, massive town shootouts, jails exploding, just epic stuff constantly happening. And the best story moments happen right in the middle of these missions where you are in control. Rockstar found a way to take a game filled with simple shootouts and make them interesting by finding the most creative ways to have these shootouts. They use every inch of the map visiting every landmark, it's just so well done and really helps make it feel like you are on this grand adventure. Also it's fun shooting people in this game, they will loose limbs, heads will explode, the feedback is so good. There are challenges to accomplish to help flesh out the gameplay, these can be done in and out of missions and it lets you explore the gameplay far more than any mission will.

I can't defend RDR2 when it comes to its mission design and simplistic gunplay but I will defend everything else. It's a game where some people just won't get into it, that's fine, the ancient mission design deserves to be criticized because if that was fixed this would be a perfect game. From a tech point of view I think it's unmatched. The graphics, the sounds, the music, the voice acting, the artistry on display is just breathtaking. There is a whole online mode I haven't even touched which if it's anything like GTAV is probably a mess but I consider it a bonus. Sometimes games don't just have to be about how deep it's gameplay systems are but how it weaves them together with all other aspects to create an experience.  That's what Red Dead Redemption 2 was, for 150 hours I was experiencing not just an engrossing game but what felt like my favorite TV show all in one. Rockstar has made another masterpiece and set new bars for others to match in world design.

Posted by Dvader Thu, 17 Jan 2019 02:22:49
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