Screenshot by Ryan Loo ’21 | John Marston riding his horse in Red Dead Redemption 2.
By Ryan Loo ’21
Making its debut over 8 years after the release of the first Red Dead Redemption, Red Dead Redemption 2 has met, and surpassed, all expectations. Hours after Rockstar Games dropped the long-awaited sequel, it became a fan favorite, being nominated for game of the year, and going on to win The Game Awards for best narrative, score/soundtrack, audio design and performance.
My experience playing Red Dead Redemption 2 has matched the enthusiasm of other fans and I am awed at the overwhelming time and effort put into this game to make it as beautiful as it is.
Quite possibly Rockstar’s best open world game, Red Dead Redemption succeeds in creating a captivatingly emotional story and the best Wild West experience they are able to offer.
This Wild West story follows Arthur Morgan, an outlaw who is a part of Dutch’s gang, as he embarks on criminal adventures with his posse.
Arthur’s first appearance in the game is punctuated with action, as we are introduced to him as he runs from the law after a botched job in the town of Blackwater.
As I follow Arthur’s fugitive tale, I really came to love how Rockstar made Arthur so likeable and nuanced. Through the story, the player also grows a connection with Arthur’s posse.
Rockstar’s ability to craft such a realistic and loveable characters who the audience is able to connect to, showcases their talent and the greatness of this game.
Additionally, RDR2’s small attention to details goes a long way for the realism of the game. For instance, as players progress throughout the game, they can watch cities be built from scratch, logging companies slowly cutting down forests, and other small details that add to the immersiveness of the game.
Rockstar’s most impressive work is flaunted right off the bat as they showcase their superb graphics and scenery as Arthur maneuvers snowy, mountainous terrain to escape the law.
Red Dead’s graphics are one of the strongest facets of this game, as they create an immersive environment that captivates the player with hours of entertainment.
With a variety of different biomes and weather conditions, such as swamps with infested alligator waters to open plains with wild horses grazing.
These visuals are arguably superior to Rockstar’s groundbreaking Grand Theft Auto 5, which was a pioneering game for the open-world genre.
Having previously produced a titan of the gaming industry, GTA5, it should come as no surprise that Rockstar’s brought the same energy and enthusiasm to Red Dead Redemption 2.
Red Dead’s open world mechanics parallel that of GTA5’s, even despite its smaller map size. For those who are easily bored by story missions, players can easily side track from the story to enjoy various side missions or activities as they roam the spacious map.
Some pastimes available in RDR2 are fishing, foraging for herbs, talking to strangers and accepting their missions, and most importantly, robbing waggons, people, and getting into gunfights.
However, just as the player has freedom of choice, there are also consequences that accompany their actions.
RDR2 pulls from its predecessor with its morality system. Through the player’s actions, they can decide how NPC’s interact with Arthur and whether he holds strong morals or is a contemptible outlaw
Though many are naturally drawn to the violence of gunfights and robberies, these actions will lead to citizens hating Arthur and fearing him.
In contrast, if players decide to do good deeds, such as donating money to charity or beggars, their morality goes up, and citizens treat Arthur like a hero and upstanding citizen. This show of good morality and honor comes with more benefits than just that, however.
Some perks that come with good morality are discounted store rates, unique costumes, and even better loot off dead bodies.
In theory, this system sounds amazing, however, Rockstar’s implementation of this system was just about average and slightly flawed.
Due to the morality system’s flaws, it doesn’t accurately gauge how your actions, so it is possible for the player to cheat the system.
For example, players can go commit atrocious murders and robberies, then just as easily donate a dollar to charity to restore their morality, resulting in them being treated like a hero despite having just killed ten people.
However, more importantly, the morality system creates a narrative dissonance between the gameplay and the story. While someone can be a completely horrible person in their open-world actions, during the story they are portrayed in a glorified light that starkly contrasts that of their real actions.
Another mechanism that takes away from this game are its controls in gunplay and combat. On console, the mechanics are much harder to control, aim, and it will sometimes glitch, often times resulting in unfortunate deaths.
Though this sometimes takes away from the enjoyability of the game, with over 60 hours of playtime in just story alone, Red Dead Redemption 2 is a game that can entertain anyone for hours on end. Despite its flaws in the morality system and somewhat janky fighting mechanics, the overwhelming scenery, story, and freedom of choice, the positives greatly outweigh the negatives, and is a must-play game for anyone who has the time to enjoy this masterpiece of a game.