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Red Dead Redemption 2 Review

Should you BUY, WAIT or AVOID?

It has been nearly a decade since Rockstar released Red Dead Redemption, having purchased Angel Studios and saved the Red Dead Revolver franchise.  Red Dead Redemption wasn’t just another sequel; it was a reimagining of the series that was so successful that previous entries have rarely been referred to since its release.

With that being said, 8 years in a long time to wait between sequels.  You’ve no doubt read some Red Dead Redemption 2 reviews since the game was released but our review will present the most current state of the game, following patches, improvements and tweaks to the game that was released back on 26 October 2018.

So, fellow grown gamers, should you BUY Red Dead Redemption 2, WAIT for a sale or further patches, or AVOID it entirely?  Read on…

1. GRAPHICS

This is an extremely impressive game visually. In many instances, I would use the word stunning to convey my impressions. There are mesmerising points within Red Dead Redemption 2, for example – when riding through the plains with the sun graces the horizon in an almost photo-realistic manner. Walking or riding at night with your lantern swaying back and forth shows off the games impressive lighting engine. Snow effects at the start of the game genuinely gave me a chill and caused me to reach for a blanket or hooded sweatshirt. I will mention this later on in the review but the realism within this game is insane and the graphics MAKE it come to life. The colour palette is impressive without being out of the ordinary. Games like horizon zero dawn and god of war due to the fantasy elements lend themselves to more vivid colours. The realistic effect of the game means the colour tends to be a little dreary. Certain missions, of course, use the colour palette more and this is where the game can really show its visual prowess. A mission during chapter 5 takes you to an island near Cuba and the old forts and general dilapidated look of everything with the sun beating down on it is something to be praised to the highest degree. The fire effects during the game are also impressive and as you can imagine there are a number of missions where they are in effect.

This game is rife with photorealism and due to the nature of the game, the visuals and story meld extremely well together to create a world that is not too far from the actual reality. Truly excellent visuals.

SCORE: 10 / 10

2. SOUND

Sound is excellent in this game, the little things all culminate into creating a superb and rich world. From walking through snow or gravel, to the creak of the shutters as you walk into a saloon, no stone is unturned here. The weapon sounds are also excellent and really give a sense of satisfaction when you get involved in a gunfight, knife fight or fist fight. The crack of a fist, or the slicing sound when you slice a few bad guys with your knife is almost blood-curdling. The skinning of hunted animals is also a particularly gut-wrenching inclusion to the soundscape and very much reminded me of the sound used in Far Cry 3.

The firearm sounds are very good with an authenticity that really fit the time period.  All firearms have a particular bite to them, the shotgun being my personal favourite with the bolt action rifle coming a close second. Furthermore, the animal sounds are all unique and give great audio cues for when hunt is available. If hunting is not your thing then the sounds certainly mesh to give a great experience. Superb sound and with headphones on it really does improve the immersion factor.

SCORE: 10 / 10

3. VOICE ACTING

With over 500,000 lines of dialogue (GamesRadar) recorded for this game and the delivery being absolutely outstanding I’d say the voice acting is some of the best you will ever hear in a video game. To Arthur’s gravelly husky honkytonk southern accent to Dutch’s somewhat scene-stealing performance, they really have pushed the envelope in terms of voice acting. The sheer volume of conversation that takes place in this game is astounding and really contributes to the overall feel they are trying to achieve. One example of such is a moment at the start of the game where your fearless leader Dutch has a break or strain in his voice most likely due to the harsh cold weather or the fact he has been shouting for too long. In addition, I have since found out that a large proportion of the dialogue was recorded twice using different levels and volumes of voice. For example, many lines were recorded spoken but also a lot louder to appear as if the characters were far apart, for example on horseback when a shout would have been required. It is this type of attention to detail that really makes the performances superb and a cut above what is usually on offer in the gaming world.

10 / 10

4. MUSIC / SCORE

The music is exactly what you would expect from a Wild West game. Plenty of acoustic guitars, fiddles, banjos, harmonicas, etc. All of which culminates in a feel that gives this game life. The score itself I’d say is excellent and if you take the time to close your eyes and listen you could easily imagine yourself riding shotgun in the old west with a bottle of bourbon in one hand and a sawn-off in the other. Woody Jackson is the man responsible for the score and has been on the books, so to speak, with rockstar for a while providing the scores for GTA 5 and the first Red Dead Redemption.

SCORE: 10 / 10

5. GAMEPLAY

Red Dead Redemption 2 is more about the immersion and story than how you actually go about it in my opinion. The best way I can fully describe the experience of RDR2 would be a simulation of the old west. Harkening back to my younger days playing the unforgiving Microsoft flight simulator with all its bells and whistles is in part what this game reminds me of.

Don’t get me wrong this game is fun but is let down, in parts, by a somewhat pedestrian or clunky pace when merely walking around the world itself. Why Arthur has to walk at ALL TIMES in the camp is beyond me but the function is there and can be annoying. In addition, a sizeable number of the missions have a fairly lengthy lead-in or set up, meaning if you want to bash on ahead with a mission you need to skip the LENGTHY backstory if you are allowed to skip it at all that is. Lack of a fairly sharp and slick fast travel system is also a HUGE negative in my opinion as the world is so vast. There is a system to speak of but can only be accessed from your camp. Most games these days, once you have discovered an area, allow for the fast travel aspect. Horizon Zero Dawn did a particularly good job implementing fast travel as you needed resources to do it. For RDR2 the fast travel system should have been more tailored with the word ” Fast ” in mind.

I found the missions themselves to be mainly enjoyable overall, some of which are some of the best gaming experiences I have ever had. I’m not giving too much away when I say that there is a mission where you need to rescue someone who is being held captive at a large mansion connected to a tobacco plantation. This mission in overall feel and look is straight out of the sensational Oscar-winning movie Django Unchained. A thoroughly superb mission that is very exciting and satisfying.

The only downside I can see in regards to the missions apart from the fairly long lead, for some of them, is the need to follow a linear path to the letter. There is not much scope here to change it up and perform missions a different way like, for example in, the Hitman games. Yes, those are completely different games as I imagine you would say but it would have been nice to stray from the path laid out from time to time.

There are many other side elements to Red Dead Redemption 2, all of which have levels of enjoyment. Hunting, fishing, gambling, drinking, crafting etc, are all here to be enjoyed and most of them made me want to come back for more. Apart from the issues I have mentioned my one final gripe would be the crafting element and gun/weapon improvement. If you enter a gun shop you can upgrade your weapons in certain ways. Plenty of cosmetics are on offer here and some improvements to power and accuracy. My issue is that this doesn’t really matter. I used weapons which were upgraded fully and weapons that were standard. There wasn’t enough of a difference to really make me “shoot” for the more expensive upgrades. In relation to the crafting, you have to hunt certain animals to procure the skins required for different upgrades. None of these upgrades really affected my playthrough and I essentially got through the entire story mode without feeling the NEED to upgrade anything. I, of course, chose to upgrade a few things but it just seemed like an unnecessary element that didn’t have a great deal of weight to it.

SCORE: 7 / 10

6. CONTROLS

I have a sizeable issue with the control set up in this game. Your finger will be constantly glued to the walk button and it will feel like an age has passed before your character actually starts moving in any direction. The shooting / drawing your weapon (skinning the smoke wagon 😉) mechanic is not always as crisp as it should be for a game of this calibre. If they are going for realism here I am not a fan. It is a game after all. I want to be able to draw my weapon, aim precisely and squeeze off a good few rounds into whoever’s butt I fancy. Sadly this is not always the case and it took me a bit of time to acclimate. The weapon selection wheel was also an annoyance for me and could have been implemented in a more simple way. I understand that there are a lot of elements that the game has to give options for. You, your horse all have needs but the menus could have been simplified in my opinion.

Once I grew confident with the controls they still were a focus of irritation but the other aspects of the game kept it from stealing my attention for too long. Of course, my frustration led me to “Tweak” certain aspects of the control system within the options menu, such as responsiveness of movement etc. I feel for a triple A title that went through a huge number of man hours it is something that could have been improved upon.

SCORE: 6 / 10

7. NARRATIVE

The story in red dead redemption is essentially a single story following the exploits of the Van Der Linde Gang in the Old West. I was very much looking forward to something in the vein of GTA 5 where there would be a number of interwoven stories taking place simultaneously all culminating in a perfectly executed finale that would completely blow my proverbial socks off. Alas, this was not the case.

Don’t take my disappointment as a cue for the overall story being poor. Far from it. Red Dead Redemption 2 has a fantastically rich story that really pulls the emotional heartstrings. I was and am impressed by the scope of the story but was just not overly impressed with its originality. I am a veteran Western movie and TV show enthusiast, this type of narrative has been done before many times. If I’m being truly honest I preferred the narrative in Red Dead Redemption Part 1 but I may be suffering from sequel syndrome here, or is it prequel syndrome haha.

Upon reading back my previous comments it would sound like I did not enjoy my experience with the story of Red Dead Redemption 2, but this is, of course, is far from the truth. As games go these days, not many if any, have the same scope and scale of Red Dead Redemption 2 It is a thoroughly worthwhile experience playing through the main story. The characters are exceptionally well crafted and it does provide some genuine moments filled with emotion. Sadness, anger, affection, sentiment etc are all feelings I experienced during my time with the game. It is a sad, bleak and somewhat harrowing tale in many respects but is of course tempered with hope. Anyone who has seen some of the more brutal western movies in the past such as Unforgiven (Clint Eastwood) or even Wyatt Earp (Kevin Costner), will know that you had a be one tough dude to survive that era of history and the story lends itself to those types of movies paralleling them extremely well.

Needless to say, there are plenty of robberies, shootouts, betrayals, jailbreaks and deaths that really make this a superb single player story-driven experience.

SCORE: 10 / 10

8. OPTIMISATION / BUGS

Red Dead Redemption is a well put together game in many aspects and one stood out to me from the very beginning. There is very little lag during the game, or at least in my experience, there wasn’t. I didn’t notice many segments where slow down occurred and it was something that happened sparsely throughout my 50 or so hours with the game.

Glitches, on the other hand, were fairly commonplace but not to an effect where they damaged your ability to complete missions…most of the time. As always some of the glitches can be fairly funny and some can be a pain in the saddlebags. Upon completing a mission involving a train, my horse who was following decided to ride ahead on its own volition and essentially jump in front of the train subsequently killing itself. Picking up my saddle and walking to a near town for another horse was not something I enjoyed as I was in the middle of nowhere. Sticking with the horse theme, when riding there were numerous occasions where I would be approaching a jump and the horse would not detect it, thus throwing me from my horse causing death or injury for myself or horse. Overall I’d say the game is well optimised but could be frustrating at times when encountering glitches.

SCORE: 8 / 10

9. LOADING TIMES

Loading times apart from the initial boot up were fairly quick. Upon death / fast travel the load screen was around the 30-second mark and, for a game of this size, I’d say they have performed well here in this regard.

SCORE: 8 / 10

10. FUN

This game is definitely fun. There are many areas which gave me genuine pleasure. The story is, of course, extremely well written and performed. The gameplay is enjoyable if a little pedestrian but the whole experience, in my opinion, is based on immersion and this is something they achieve with bucket loads to spare. A downside to my experience is the fact that probably around 75% of the game is spent listening to cut scenes and travelling from point A to point B. This does mean the game suffers and can, on occasions, become frustrating and even a little boring.

If you are looking for fast-paced action that you can jump into for a 30-minute spell now and then this is NOT the game for you. If you are looking for a rich story-driven experience with great characters and dialogue, in conjunction with some very memorable moments then this is right in your wheelhouse.

SCORE: 7 / 10

BUY/WAIT/AVOID: BUY

OVERALL SCORE: 86%

I hope you have enjoyed my critique of the game and take something from it. Of course, this is merely one opinion and like most games these days they can be a genuine time and money commitment. Before you “pull the trigger on” RDR2 I would suggest you consult other reviews and make your mind up from there.

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