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It's not every day you get to witness gaming history. 2018 has been a year of terrible releases, from Sea of Thieves to Fallout 76 to Battlefield 5. Recently, it seems developers have lost touch with what makes a game fun, opting instead to release half-assed games riddled with microtransactions or overpriced DLC. I am happy to announce that Red Dead Redemption 2 IS NOT one of those games. Red Dead Redemption 2 is fun, really freaking fun, stop-reading-now-and-go-get-it fun. I have been gaming all my life, and during that time, there have only been a handful of games that glued me to my seat: The Witcher 3, God of War (2018), Red Dead Redemption, and as the newest entrant, Red Dead Redemption 2.
From the get-go, you can tell that Rockstar meticulously crafted Red Dead Redemption 2 with love and care. If you keep your eye out, you’ll notice an insane amount of detail, such as:
Arthur gaining or losing weight based on how much you eat
Horse testicles changing size based on the temperature
A proper lunar cycle
Mud and snow altering around character movement
Shoe type affecting footstep sound
NPCs raising their voices when you’re far away
Losing (and picking up) your hat in fights
Your horse’s nostrils moving as it breathes
No doubt there are many more I haven’t noticed in my playthrough, and some might not be found by anybody for years to come. It just shows how much effort was put into the game.
The detail extends to the combat, where enemies react and fall based on where they are shot--disarm them with handshots, topple them with legshots, and of course, transform their craniums into gore filled explosions with well-placed headshots. Simply beautiful. The Deadeye mechanic makes a return, allowing you to slow down time and mark specific parts on enemies to shoot, which is especially useful for one-man-stands versus multiple enemies. There are a variety of guns to find and extensive customization options for barrel length, rifling quality, scopes, ammo types, gun engravings, the gun’s metal composition, the stock’s wood type, and so on.
The open world elements are just as diverse, easily blowing past other games in the recently crowded market. Between hunting, fishing, train-hijacking, horse-taming, bounty hunting, collectible... collecting, treasure trawling, completing the 90 optional challenges, poker, and/or sucking venom out of snake bitten strangers, you could easily get 100+ hours of gameplay without ever going through the main story. Despite my extensive playtime, I still have more to find and enter into that list. That being said, don’t actually forget about the story, despite the attractive side activities.
The story follows the adventures of Arthur and Dutch’s gang as they move from area to area trying to escape the law and make money along the way. I won’t go into too much detail to avoid spoilers, but the characters alone are unique and interesting enough to drive your interest. Much like the first Red Dead Redemption, the surrounding story does them justice. It does slow down around the halfway mark, and the droves of enemies I had to gun down en masse to complete it almost broke suspension of disbelief. How many lawmen can you slaughter before they give up? As it turns out, lots of them. Aside these hiccups, the climax is a satisfying resolution and will make up for any trouble.
There are other, similar issues scattered about. Some of the game actions are very slow, such as looting bodies, where Arthur will walk up to a corpse, pat through the corpse, take the loot, then stand back up. It might not sound like much, but you’ll give up on looting every enemy after the 4th or 5th firefight, given about 20+ enemies for each one. The game uses the same button for multiple actions depending on context, so sometimes I’d find myself accidentally tackling someone instead of getting on my horse, and transitioning from cover was finicky. Money quickly becomes a non-issue, as you run out of things to spend it on. You are limited to carrying only 1 large animal pelt on your horse at any given time despite certain upgrades requiring multiple pelts, resulting in riding all the way to a trader, selling the hide, and riding all the way back out to hunt more.
These minor faults do little to keep Red Dead Redemption 2 from being an amazing game. Rockstar has given players a glimpse of perfection amidst a sea of mediocrity and I thank them for it. You will lose yourself in this game, your friends will wonder where you’ve gone, your relationships will break down, and you will forget what sunlight looks like, but it will be worth it in the end for this 10/10 game.