Red Dead Redemption 2 or RDR2 from here on in, is one of the most important games ever released. For me, it is the last of a kind of game we won’t see again. A game that doesn’t pander to the player or anyone else. Like the main character Arthur Morgan, it does what it wants for good and bad.
Having played both Red Dead Revolver and Red Dead Redemption, this game was always going to be a must buy for me. What wasn’t expected was how committed this game is to being what it wants to be and telling its own tale. Starting in a hostile and slow-paced environment, many people who aren’t fans of the genre, either in gaming or film may instantly feel bored or alienated. For fans though, this start is a microcosm for the rest of the game, a brooding, harsh and foreboding tale, that explodes into violence at points and shares more in common with Zelda Breath Of The Wild than it does with GTA V.
Hipsters Hate It Already
Despite the almost universal critical acclaim, it hasn’t taken long for the ‘cool, hipster, trendy, insert whatever word you want here’ take on the game to say it isn’t all that. This began with the highlighting of terrible working conditions in Rockstar, especially during the crunch period leading up to release. Despite your views on this one way or another in today’s social media climate it has been adopted to be a binary argument against the game. Not that many will care, it has been announced as the second highest grossing game over the first 3 days behind GTA V, another game that fell foul of a few people. There are valid criticisms of the game that can be made without resorting to click-bait or going against the grain for the sake of traffic. If you weren’t a fan of the many options available in GTA San Andreas, then chances are you won’t be a fan of them here.
Irritations Or Necessities?
Rather than ruin the story it is best to talk about the game systems and mechanics that you encounter as you pass through the game. No matter what you do everything is grounded in a degree of realism and difficulty for the player. If you want to do something there will always be a degree of work involved. Even riding your horse, which you spend the majority of the game on, needs nurturing, maintaining and looking after as you traverse the map. One wrong turn off a cliff or trying to squeeze between two narrow trees can lead to a fatality for you or your trusty steed. If your horse dies and you have no means to revive them, then it is gone for good. While this leads to some amusing videos and horse riding fails, having to brush your horse, feed your horse, revive your horse and generally let them rest and recover is at odds with the modern gamer. The modern gamers want everything to be easy, streamlined and to an extent automated. RDR2 does as little of this as possible.
You need to cut your hair, you need to wash, you need to maintain a healthy weight and most importantly, you need to work and craft for your upgrades. You can buy new guns or you can find them but no matter what approach you take you need to maintain them and clean them with gun oil. You need to wash in a hotel or rented room or else Arthur will begin to resemble the worst gringo you can imagine from the Spaghetti Western Trilogy and you also need to watch your wanted level. Cause a fuss in a town when you aren’t wearing your bandit bandanna and you will have a bounty on your head for a long time unless you pay it. Everything this game does prevents you being the outlaw of your dreams unless you are willing to live with the consequences. Some people view these as irritations, but it is clearly by design. If you don’t like it, RDR2 doesn’t care. Go back to Fortnite.
The game world is huge. It is living, difficult to navigate and full of surprises and danger. There is no easy way to get around the amount of time you are going to spend traversing between points. Later on, an expensive fast travel option becomes available, but this will cause you to miss out on many of the side missions and hunting opportunities you need to progress. The game is full of clever checks and balances. Skip things and you will miss out on the full experience and rush through the game in 40-50 hours. Take your time and try to immerse yourself in the world and you will reap the rewards. From the highest peaks in the game where you have to put on winter clothing in a system similar to Zelda Breath Of the Wild to the lowlands where your energy gets sapped unless you change into lighter clothes and everywhere in between, there is a common sense running through the game that clearly aims itself at the more mature gamer.
Time Vs Enjoyment
Having put about 10 hours or more into RDR2, this clearly isn’t a review. I deeply love the game but then again I love the genre and was a huge fan of the previous game. Playing at the pace I do, I have barely scratched the surface. You really feel like you are achieving things as you meander your way through the West and slowly become more accustomed to traversing the landscape and making your way from A to B. Things still happen that annoy me. A rival gang ambushed me as I was heading to collect a debt, a wolf killed me when I was trying to find where to trade in my legendary bear pelt, I couldn’t return a horse to its owner to get some honour back and so on. But the lack of pressure and forcible min-maxing that exists in virtually all other games makes this the most relaxing experience to play. I won’t rush it and will fully explore all I can. If this approach doesn’t appeal to you then don’t buy this game, don’t get caught in the hype and just play something more suited to you. For the rest of the world play the game and enjoy it because we may never see the like of it again after the inevitable PC version.
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