Game Review: Red Dead Redemption II

[Please note: Usually, for video game reviews, I wait until I have at least finished the story before writing a review. In this case, I am at (I think) roughly the end of Chapter 3, and I feel I’ve played enough.]

Release date: 2018
Version played: Playstation 4 in 2018

Developed by Rockstar games, the infamous creators of the Grand Theft Auto series and Red Dead Redemption comes Red Dead Redemption II. A prequel set in 1899, approximately 12ish years before the first game, players take control of Arthur Morgan, a member of a gang led by Dutch van der Linde following a heist gone wrong. On the run from lawmen and bounty hunters alike, and with the same open world gameplay as the previous game, players must set out to escape from their pursuers and attempt one final heist before the gang can go their separate ways and live their lives in peace. There are an almost overwhelming number of side activities to complete, and hundreds or animals to document or hunt, and in more detail than the first game, players are able to customise Arthur’s hairstyles, facial hair, clothing, horse and weapons to suit whatever play style they like.

+ the game looks fantastic. The early snow environments are claustrophobic and wild, and the slow change down the mountain to the forests with roaming rabbits and deer is all incredible to witness. The way NPCs wander around the towns or your camp on some sort of hidden schedule makes the world feel alive. The banter between Arthur and those same NPCs, based entirely on your character’s reputation were some of the few highlights for me

Red Dead Redemption 2_20181103171123
Player controlled Arthur Morgan (third from left) stands idly by as his gang mates talk around him. It’s like a really boring play.

– clunky controls, particularly with movement. I know they are mostly similar to the first RDR game, but in the eight years since, things have improved. Having to hold X to job, tap X to run, and double tap and hold X to match speed with allies while on a horse is silly, and defeats the purpose of having a stick compared to a D-pad. The default dead zones movement sticks, and the huge turning circles when on your horse are realistic, perhaps, but I found it all to be too frustrating
– the missions are all incredibly repetitive, and full of boring ‘follow along side your partners as they dump some story on you’ moments. Whatever follows, whether it be a gun fight, pointless almost-QTE brawl or otherwise is rarely exciting. In two missions, in particular, I intentionally stopped beating on an already downed opponent, yet the following cutscene showed me having to be pulled off to stop the fight
– also in the missions, and one of the main reasons I never bothered to finish GTA V, is the infuriating medal ranking system. I’d be fine with them if you were able to see the secondary objectives before you started the mission, rather than being surprised afterwards for only getting 19 of 20 required headshots. The timed missions are more infuriating, due to the aforementioned clunky controls
– the wanted/bounty systems doesn’t make sense to me, as I wandered into a new section of the map (to clarify, a section I had not been to in any missions or otherwise explored previously) only to be hunted down by bounty hunters for a supposed $125 bounty on my head
– horrible colour blindness options, meaning I spent nearly an hour hunting deer in the snow because I had no idea where I was supposed to be or go. The colour blind modes change the main colour (red) from red (default) to what I’ve been told is light red, pink and dark purple, all of which are essentially the goddamn same for me. I know this may seem like a nitpick to those of you with regular colour vision, but it has made several moments nearly unplayable for me

Should you play this game: To say my hopes were sky high beforehand would be an understatement, and this game feels like a let down in almost every single way. I am going to chip away at this when I have the desire, and there is nothing better to play, and maybe my opinion will change by the time I’m done. But for now, this is a game I simply cannot recommend at all. In one of my earlier “My Favourite Games” articles, I wrote of Red Dead Redemption:

Apparently, as of now in 2015 there are plans for a sequel to be developed. I don’t know how I feel about that, as I was very happy with the game’s world and story as it currently stands, and I think a sequel may retroactively ruin some of the appeal that this game had, but I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

I guess now I know.

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