May 2, 2019 at 11:52 PM #595
Red Dead Redemption 2
Rating: 4.5 – Outstanding
"Outlaws for Life"
The wild west can be a place of beauty and serenity, but it can also be brutal and sadistic to those who don’t agree with the rest of civilization. These are the shoes we inhabit as Arthur Morgan in Red Dead Redemption 2. Moving across the beautiful landscapes we witness a captivating story about what it means to be alive, and the choices we decide to make.
Arthur Morgan is shown as a rough and tough outlaw who has the resolve to follow his mentor and gang leader Dutch through thick and thin. Willing to do whatever dirty work that needs to be done for the betterment of the group with little to no questions asked. This however seems to be only a surface level observation of Arthur Morgan. In reality he is one of the most introspective characters we have ever gotten in a video game to date. He is a man who wrestles with the morality of what they do as a gang. And seems to be very concerned about what place he fits in this ever spreading age of civilization. This characterization only shines through even more thanks to one of the most well developed voice performances we have had in gaming. Every shred of dialogue feels purposeful; every plot details is doled out through conversations that feel authentic. I never felt like there was a time where a character was just giving me an info dump in order to keep me up to date with what was going on in the story.
Other characters in the story other than Arthur manage to be just as endearing as the main protagonist himself. Whether its listening to Dutch monologue about his latest plan, or enjoying a fun game of poker at your camp none of your interpersonal interactions ever feel like a waste of time. Every connection you make and relationship you build does nothing more than help flesh out the world to make it more believable. While gang member may seem like generic archetypes on the surface, each member of your camp gets their turn to shine as well and receive a good bit of characterization that makes them feel alive. Some members you might rob a stagecoach with, some you might go fishing with, and some you might just sit around the campfire and tell stories about lost loves. By the end of the game I felt like I had some sort of bond, either good or bad, with every person that was a part of my dysfunctional gang family.
A place where this game definitely stands out is your interactions with random inhabitants of local towns and camps. Plan on getting in a bar fight with someone at the local saloon? Well then be prepared to receive dirty looks and scoffs from those barflies for the rest of the game. Decide to kill and rob someone in cold blood in the middle of the day? Be prepared for their widow to come across you and curse you for taking their husband. It also can go the other way. Help a character that got bit by a snake in the outdoors? Then he just might help you out with some free goods and a thank you once you see him again in town. This game manages to make every action you make with another person memorable and important. It adds a sense of weight to whatever you decide to do, because you know somehow this could come back to bite you in the long run. It also adds to the world to make it feel like it’s an actually alive. You don’t have to be present in order for things to happen. You can move away and the world keep on moving along with its time. It’s an interesting feeling playing as someone that the world doesn’t revolve around. Having a world that feels this alive, leaves you with no shortage of fun activities to partake in. I spent several days with Arthur just living in the wilderness and hunting the wildlife. Coming back to my camp with plenty of meat to donate to my camp to help keep everyone motivated. I spent several real world hours cleaning house at the poker table. Then took all my money to upgrade my games and buy me a fancy new outfit. Few games manage to give me the feeling of purposeful involvement to every activity I partake in.
From a technical aspect the game shines just as bright as ever. There was an enumerable amount of times that I would stop what I was doing just to take in the picturesque landscape around me. See the plains and mountains in the sunshine constantly made me do a double take, because it looked like something out of a fine art painting. At night as you watch the moonlight peek through the trees above you, you can’t help but feel like a predator is watching you from the darkness. Carrying lanterns through the swamp, and seeing the light reflect off of the murky waters surface keeps you on your toes at all times. All the environments are just varied enough to keep you intrigued, but believable enough that you can see how they are all connected. The scope of the world is something to be awestruck in. Wide open spaces that you can move freely in, and the sense of distance really gives you the feeling of adventure and exploration in the wild west.
The combat is actually one of the lower points of the game overall. Aim assist is already turned on at the beginning of the game, and I can’t help but think this is because Rockstar is aware of how lackluster the fundamental shooting mechanics are. Without aim assist you don’t feel very precise with your shooting, and more like you’re just trying to get close enough to hope you hit them. Being on horseback only increases this feeling. Shooting with aim assist makes the fighting feel a bit like you’re playing a game of western wack-a-mole, but that doesn’t mean there is no enjoyment in fighting at all. Thanks to phenomenal sound design every bullet you fire packs a wallop. Hearing the boom of rounds flying out of my revolver, or the crack of my repeater lever loading the next bullet was a constant flood of dopamine to my brain. While the actual handling of the shooting isn’t great on a technical aspect, there is a tactile feeling and sound that your weapons have that always left me with some enjoyment.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is a game of biblical proportions. They managed to nail both the beauty and savagery that inhabited the Wild West. This is everything a great prequel should be. It tells a wonderfully melancholy story, that keeps you enthralled from beginning to end. While retroactively making the first Red Dead Redemption an incredibly poignant and sad game. This is a game that everyone should at least give a try if you enjoy beautifully told stories in games, or just want to role play as man roaming the wild west trying to survive. The characterization and beautiful visuals are worth it for the ticket price alone.
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