Red Dead Redemption II Review
It’s been a long time since the original Red Dead Redemption made its debut on the PS3 and Xbox 360. That title might not have received as much hype for the subsequent Red Dead launch, but it laid a fantastic blueprint for Red Dead Redemption 2 to be built on. But is this new title up for the challenge? We think so, so let’s chat why!
Rockstar Games has a knack for releasing fantastic titles, most notably Grand Theft Auto 5, one of the most loved game in modern video game history. Everything you’d expect from a Rockstar title is here in Red Dead Redemption, and so much more.
The world of Red Dead Redemption is huge, and there are tons of things to do, but unlike other open world experiences, these time consuming events never seem thrust down your throat. Outside of main missions – marked by yellowish circles with initials of the quest giver on the map – most everything else is completely optional. A few side quests might dot the map – white circles with initials – but they aren’t all over the place, and seem to fit into the story well.
On top of these side quests, there are also randomly generated events that happen all over the world, including captured individuals needing to be released, bounties that need to be collected, and even random bandit camps that should be cleared out. But you aren’t constantly being called for with a ‘ping’ here, or a new icon on the map there. It’s a soothing experience, with plenty to do…but not too much.
Even when you step away from the main, side, and random event quests, there is still plenty to take up your precious time. Hunting animals to supply the camp with game, playing dominoes, poker, and blackjack, and even drinking in saloons provide an alternative option to shooting up the American west.
Of course, some events in Red Dead Redemption 2 are much more fun than others. I preferred train robberies over bank heists, and prefer to play poker over everything else. But that’s what makes this title so special: there is something for everyone, but never too much to overwhelm.
The voice acting and story telling in Red Dead Redemption 2 is fantastic and was a big driving force to avoiding side missions in order to get deeper into the game. As a sequel to Red Dead Redemption, it’s fantastic to see so many of the characters I loved (or hated) from the original gang, as we grow up together under the leadership of Dutch. Bill Williamson is a prominent gang member here, as well as the young buck, John Marston, the protagonist in Red Dead Redemption.
On top of seeing the original of some of the franchises future stars, there are also places from the original game that can be visited, including Blackwater, McFarlane Ranch, and more. For those who haven’t played Red Dead Redemption, there is nothing lost not knowing these characters or these locations; but for those who have, it’s an added level of depth that makes Red Dead Redemption 2 one of the best titles of 2018.
The story telling and voice acting is matched by the games audio, including a fantastic soundtrack and great ambient noises, depending on where you happen to be at during your play through. Towns feel like towns, and walking along streams and rivers sounds like, well, walking along streams and rivers. The audio work is phenomenal, and only heightens the experience.
The mechanics in Red Dead Redemption 2 also give players more control over how they play the game, and how their characters looks while doing it. There are options to play in first or third person mode – first person mode is almost a necessity when indoors and searching for items – and if you want to customize your character, you most definitely can.
You can pick and purchase what kind of horse you want to ride, what kind of clothes you want to wear, and even what guns and items you want to tote on your adventures. Your hair and beard will grow as you play, and you can choose to style them, trim them completely, or leave it all together. But a point of caution: when you enter a town, your appearance will affect how others view you. Know one wants a dirty cowboy in their saloon, so be sure to take a bath or ride through a lake to get your self cleaned off.
This carries over to weapons as well. There is nothing worse than having your gun jam on you during an intense standoff, so making sure to keep your weapons clean and shiny is actually way more important than you might think! Shoot, taking care of your entire body – as well as your horses – is key to success. Arthur will have several cores that will drain over time, depending on your activities. Your health core, stamina core, and dead eye core will need to be refilled in order to regenerate those properties. The more full your core, the faster your health, stamina, or dead eye will regenerate. If your core is empty, you cannot regain those attributes.
And the game does a great job of teaching you how to handle your character and your horse, by slowly introducing various tonics and foods that will help reestablish cores and fill those pesky bars. Eat too much and you’ll become overweight, have more health but suffer in stamina. Eat to little, and everything will suffer. Maintaining a good weight is just one of many ‘life chores’ you’ll be required to do. At first, I thought doing all these things would be a determent to the game, but because it comes so naturally, it feels perfect!
There is a lot to love about Red Dead Redemption, and so much we haven’t even touched in this review. But this game is truly a masterpiece, and although it is not without its faults – searching for items can be a chore, and we’ve noticed a number of graphical glitches in our 60 or so hours – there is still something here that all video game fans should be playing.