December 7, 2019 at 11:48 AM #619
Red Dead Redemption 2
Rating: 3.5 – Good
Finished the game and decided to write a review:
After finally finishing the game (yes there are side quests and side challenges still available), I thought I’d give a fun rundown of what I thought. I’m going to break this into 4 different segment: Graphics, Entertainment, Story, and Misc (here I’ll talk about minor things such as sound, etc).
This game can, at times, be absolutely breathtaking especially when traversing outdoors as you journey across the vast wilderness. What they’ve done with draw distance and lighting cannot be expressed as anything other than a technical marvel. However, with that being said, close up the game can get a tad ugly with faces and interiors sometimes looking a bit last gen. They offset this by putting a large emphasis on the main and side characters, especially when within set areas, as well as within cut scenes where they enhance the character models to appear as detailed as possible. That’s not to say that this game is ugly at all, but it is something that will at times pop into the game which may or may detract people’s attention from the rest of the game’s beauty.
Animations are done really well (though as we’ll cover later, this may have been at a detriment to controls) and things do seem incredibly fluid. Occasionally, you’ll come across hiccups where animations look a little awkward, or strange things with happen, but with any open-world game, these come as expected anomalies as opposed to the norm.
This is where I feel the biggest issues lay with this game. For as beautiful as it is, and as interesting as the story gets (more on that shortly), I often came back to the question of "Is this fun?". Immediately from the beginning I struggled with the clunky controls, sequences of watching rather than doing, and long segments of having controls ripped away. As I progressed, I gave in and got used to the controls, but never did I feel like I was in control which often took me out of the game, breaking the immersion this iteration so prominently touts.
Side quests do make a comeback, though not as prominent as previous R* games as each area has a limited amount of these. Wanna gamble? Well each area has one or two specific games at very set times and if you wish to play something else, better get ready to travel as the lack of fast travel means much of moving from place to place will be done on horseback. The variety of ways to make money from the original such as cattle herding, horseshoes, horse breaking, dueling, Liar’s Dice, Nightwatch, Gang Hideouts have been completely stripped with the only activities remaining being poker, blackjack, five finger fillet, and bounty hunting (of which they are limited though more cinematic and character driven). The only real new additions seem to be dominoes and fishing which, while playable, are a little bit of a letdown if I’m being honest (though I’m sure fans of fishing will no doubt enjoy the depth of what’s on display).
Hunting is quite prominent in this game and has been further fleshed out with options to set bait, follow an animal’s trail (which requires you to take note of the wind so to disguise your scent. Or just use a scent covering ointment purchasable from most shops), and many more. This game’s bread and butter side activity is hunting and with it playing such a large role in the first, there’s no surprise that they decided to flesh this out. Where it falters is in the execution. Hunting down one of the hundreds of different species available is exhilarating and I did find myself having quite a bit of fun with this at the start.
Unfortunately, being able to carry only 1 large pelt meant that I found myself traversing back and forth far more often than I was hunting (though I’d racked up 8 lesser sized pelts in one go without issue). On top of this, the requirements for any craftable clothing item in the game requires specifically perfect pelts which in turn requires you to not only find, but use the appropriate weapon and hit it in a specific kills hot area. This in effect takes a lot of the fun of hunting out as many of the pelts you get will not meet this requirement. (I would like to note that there is the buck trinket which aids to relieve this issue. Therefor, if you are keen to hunt to get the master satchel, I suggest getting this as early as possible). At no point are you able to purchase perfect pelts (which by the end of the game you will likely be flush with cash, not really having any real use for, which is a bit distracting considering the main reason for conflict in the game), nor are you able to do much with the imperfect pelts aside from donate or sell them.
Shooting can be hit or miss (literally) as guns can feel good shooting and hitting someone right in the eye with dead aim always brought a smile to my face. But (you’ll be see this word a lot unfortunately), the sluggish controls can sometimes take away from even the most action oriented moments. Most often you’ll find you’ll need to prepare (can’t use the colloquial phrase on these boards unfortunately) your gun for the next shot, but this can sometimes take way too long (odd considering he’s an old gun of the west) or will at times not require it accidentally ejecting your shot earlier than expected (perhaps that’s why his wife left lol). This can get quite aggravating as the rules of the game are inconsistent and once again make it feel like you’re not truly controlling the character, but rather guiding them throughout.
This is clearly where most of the attention was put as the script for this game is extensive and intricate. Each chapter will take you to new areas and being introduced to the local thugs which reign in their respective areas. The first chapter introduces us to our main characters for the story and introduces players to the idea that these individuals are on the run (something you’ll hear a bit too often by the end). You’ll even get an explanation as to how John got those infamous scars he’s so well known for. This is probably one of the slowest parts of the game as it sets the expectation that when the game has something to say, you’re going to sit down and listen as swathes of this game will be force fed to you and will not be interrupted by you or anyone (much like Dutch’s demeanor).
The story and its relationships are one of the biggest highlights of this game and can be very emotional with large portions pushing the gravity of the situation on you through constant dialogue and music. Unfortunately, the plot also repeats notes constantly (by the end you’ll be begging Dutch to shut up about just one more time. Even by the second chapter you’ll understand they’ve gone through this routine numerous times before and won’t be able to comprehend why they’d waited until the end to do anything about it). They could have easily cut large portions of this story out and replaced them with a better prologue explaining why Dutch is so wary of traitors and unbelievers or possibly shown the events that unfolded in blackwater which kicked off this whole tale.
However, for as much as I dislike the repetitive story structure, I enjoyed my time getting to know each individual within their group and each person’s intricate stories. Every person feels like they belong here and you understand that something in their past forced them out of traditional society and into the predicament they find themselves in. They share each other’s pain and stick together for the very reason that they couldn’t belong anywhere else. Thus they have essentially made their own family with like-minded individual’s and tolerate each individual’s faults so long as their main goal is to provide and protect the growing gypsy-esque homestead.
Lastly, I just want to discuss the sound, survival aspects, and your horse companion a bit more here as I feel they are worth mentioning. Sound, much like graphics, is incredibly done well with each bird chirp and dried leaf cracking under your foot sounding as authentic as actually walking outside (something I haven’t done much since getting this game to be honest). In full surround sound, the game nails the heavy atmospheric noise the game seems to revel in. While a minor gripe, in relation to what is displayed is a bit of a different story as not every bird chirp or animal noise is necessarily representative of what is actually being displayed however. Several times, I found that sounds would come from bushes, regardless of whether something was in them, which occasionally threw me off while hunting (I definitely showed a few bushes who’s boss from the end of my shotgun… yet they continued to chirp or croak, so they may have ultimately gotten the upper hand). Regardless, sound design for this game is utterly exquisite and one thing to hold in high regard.
Survival aspects of this game are also noticeably front and center in this game, which aim to solidify the realism the game is going for. While some may not have issue with these aspects, they may become a bit of a nuisance to others, detracting from the immersion as the notifications and icons can be a bit intrusive. While these didn’t bother me too much, I couldn’t help but wonder if this game would have benefited by having an option to turn them off.
You horse companion is supposed to be your best friend in this game. However, by halfway through the game, I wanted to shoot him in the face and leave him for dead. But with the startling realization that doing so meant I would have to trudge my way all the way back to a town to buy one or steal another from a hapless soul on the road (not to mention a cheaper less bonded and less useful one), I gritted my teeth and kept on riding. Your horse does have a mind of it’s own, and will disregard your controls, swerving into oncoming carriages to comedic moments (or at least it was funny the first couple times), jumping headlong into trees, falling over for seemingly no reason, etc. While I understand that they removed fast travel and forced you to learn to ride with your horse, it ends up with the same problem the last guardian had in that sometimes relying on an ai that you’re supposed to learn and grow with, can sometimes be infuriating to the user when they cannot comprehend why any living animal would want to smash at breakneck speeds into a massive boulder (I hated him, but treated him fair all the same). This is even acknowledged in main missions as while riding and being required to shoot, they essentially turn these sections into turret sections with the computer controlling a very specified and controlled path to allow you to shoot. Outside of these set missions, turning around to shoot can lead to catastrophic failures from your horse, simple because it can’t comprehend what to do.
Overall, I think this is a good game with design flaws that I feel could have easily been avoided. Is it a terrible game? Not by any means. It has a sense of polish and hard work which is easily apparent, though it seems at times, they were too focused on making an immersive experience and forgot that they were making a game rather than a grand western epic. I would strongly suggest, if you’re interested in picking the game up but have concerns with the issues some seem to be having, to check out streamers and ask a few questions if you have any concerns or even rent it if possible to see if it’s right for you.
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